Following dominant displays from South Africans at the Canary Island Swing, the European Tour heads back to England for the British Masters.
First staged in 1946, the British Masters was originally known as the Dunlop Masters. It has enjoyed a slightly rollercoaster ride since then, disappearing from the circuit altogether after Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano won at this week’s venue in 2008. But the general consensus was that the British Masters felt like an essential part of the tour. It thus returned in 2015, with Ian Poulter hosting the event at Woburn (a recent trend in the event has seen hosting duties parcelled out amongst the premier English players). The likes of Rose and Westwood have since hosted this event. This year will be the chance of 2016 US Masters Champion Danny Willett.
We move from the picturesque resort courses of Tenerife to the iconic Belfry, home of four previous Ryder Cups. It actually also hosted last year’s UK Championship as part of the pandemic-powered UK swing. The heavily tree-lined fairways are a stark contrast to some of the conditions in recent weeks. The Belfry is relatively flat and has water in play on seven holes. The well-bunkered poa annua greens are smaller than average and there will be a premium placed on scrambling this week (distance off the tee is also a plus). But perhaps the most critical stat this week will be Greens in Regulation. Many of the approaches are pretty tight and require pinpoint iron play. This iconic venue should give the European Tour a dash of panache following the fairly benign events of recent weeks.
This year’s event will start on Wednesday, giving the precious few participating in next week’s PGA the chance to adequately prepare. That being said, the field isn’t drastically improved this week. Last year’s UK Championship winner Rasmus Hojgaard is an exciting prospect and will be looking to make it a Belfry double this week. Martin Kaymer and Bernd Wiesberger give proceedings a modicum of respectability. Robert Macintyre leads the markets after an encouraging recent performance at the Masters. Elsewhere, the likes of Schwab and Horsfield will look to succeed from the younger contingent. You also can’t discount the more seasoned pros like Andy Sullivan and Jamie Donaldson.
Past Winners (and past courses)
2020: Renato Paratore (-18) *Close House
2019: Marcus Kinhult (-16) *Hillside
2018: Eddie Pepperell (-9) *Walton Heath
2017: Paul Dunne (-20) *Close House
2016: Alex Noren (-18) *The Grove
To Win Outright:
Robert Macintyre 14/1 | Rasmus Hojgaard 18/1 | Martin Kaymer 18/1 | Bernd Wiesberger 18/1 | Sam Horsfield 20/1
Sam Horsfield: To Win 20/1 |To Place 44/10
Sam Horsfield is a birdie machine and he also has huge power off the tee. He returned from back problems recently to record and 8th in the Kenya Open. He followed that up with a 3rd at the Savannah Classic. He also finished 15th at the Austrian Open and 4th at the Gran Canaria Open. The Manchester-born bomber has played his best golf in Britain (both of his previous victories have come in Britain). One of those victories was at the Forest of Arden, which is just a 20-minute drive from the Belfry.
Benjamin Herbert- To Win 175/1 | To Place 38/1
This is one that screams value, despite Herbert’s poor form. The Frenchman is in abject form, missing the cut in his last two European Tour events. But this week’s field isn’t exactly an elite one. Herbert was exceptional when the ISPS HANDA UK Championship was played here last year. He finished in a tie for 3rd alongside Martin Kaymer. That’s the one and only reason I’m backing Herbert. It’s surely worth a gander in the place markets. The Belfry is a unique test that familiarity rewards.
The Man to Beat: Rasmus Hojgaard- To Win 18/1 | To Place 39/10
The talented 20-year-old won on this very course last year, claiming the ISPS Handa UK Championship in brilliant fashion. That was his maiden European Tour victory (though he did win the Mauritius Open in 2019). He had a healthy Middle East Swing to start the star. He finished 6th in Saudi Arabia and 9th in the Dubai Desert Classic. He was also 12th in the Austrian Open a few weeks back, which augers well for this event. He is also one of the longer hitters on tour, which should give him plenty of opportunities on this scorable course.