Southport is in the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton which stretches from the suburbs of Liverpool to the famous golfing town. Liverpool and Everton football clubs and Aintree Racecourse are just outside Sefton so the area is a sporting Mecca. The British Masters is taking place at Hillside Golf Club this week which is next door to Royal Birkdale on the best run of links courses in England. This week’s event on the European Tour is hosted by Tommy Fleetwood but compatriot Oliver Wilson is a better betting prospect. He has winning form on a links golf course and Hillside lies alongside the Irish Sea.
The US PGA Championship has moved from its traditional August date to May. The second major of the season takes place next week so the field for the AT & T Bryon Nelson has very little depth. The leading contenders in the betting are Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth who have both won three major championships so may not be totally focused for the job in hand. Marc Leishman has contended in majors in the past but he has a better chance of winning this week after five top 10s this season. The host course is at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas which stages the tournament for just the second time so there is not a great deal of course form to assess.
The British Masters was not played from 2009 to 2014 but then Sky Sports got involved and over the last three years the tournament has been hosted by a leading English golfer. Sky Sports ended their involvement and the event was under threat before Betfred became the title sponsors and Fleetwood became the host on a course in his home town. He is number 16 in the world rankings, not missed a cut this season and has finished in the top 10 in almost one third of his starts. Fleetwood played Hillside as a boy but hosting duties may get in the way of contending this week.
Wilson won his last event on the European Tour on a links course. He won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2014 but that is his only Tour win. However, Wilson played in the winning Walker Cup team for Europe in 2003 at Ganton Golf Club that has similar demands to Hillside. He has recorded three top fives this season including this March in Qatar on a course that is affected by local winds. Hillside is subject to sea breezes which means Wilson, the world number 35, has the game and temperament suited to the playing conditions in Southport this week. The course is in a sporting hotbed which includes four Premier League clubs within 50 miles.
The PGA Championship is being played at Bethpage State Park in New York State where Tiger Woods won the US Open in 2002. He won his 15th major and fifth US Masters last month so is the only player who can win the calendar year Grand Slam. No player has won all four majors in the same season and Woods is preparing for the second leg so is not in the field this week. The host course in Dallas is relatively easy in still conditions and its main defence is the wind which may or may not be absent this week. Last year’s winner, Aaron Wise, was ninth for driving distance and second in strokes gained putting. The field averaged less than 70 shots.
Leishman finished second behind Wise in 2018 after leading at the end of round one and two and tieing for the lead at the end of the third round. The Australian combines current form with course form and has a decent skills’ profile. Leishman can build some confidence for the PGA Championship by getting in the mix this week.