British Masters Preview
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
IT WAS just 12 months ago that Matt Fitzpatrick emerged to win the British Masters, fulfilling the promise he had consistently demonstrated throughout a brilliant rookie season. He has since gone on to win again and make his Ryder Cup debut. It all goes to prove that dreams really can still come true.
It was the first time the tournament had been staged since 2008, but it is now re-established as one of the most prestigious events of the year, as confirmed by this year's star-studded field and the fact that it was attended by nearly 60,000 spectators in 2015.
Fitzpatrick is a former US Amateur champion and although he will want to forget a disappointing Ryder Cup, he has already proved at just 22 years of age that he belongs at this level. He is not a big hitter but he finds most fairways, is a brilliant iron player and one of the best putters on the European Tour.
He will head to the Grove determined to make a successful defence of his title. The Grove previously hosted the WGC – American Express Championship in 2006, which was won by Tiger Woods. This year's event is hosted by Luke Donald, who was bitterly disappointed not to make the team to Hazeltine. Donald has had an encouraging season after a couple of years in the doldrums, and he would love nothing better than to win again in front of his home fans.
In a serious blow to the tournament organisers, Justin Rose, the Olympic champion, has withdrawn. He is suffering from a back injury and has decided to sit out the rest of the season. He will also miss the climax to the Race to Dubai. "I have decided to take eight weeks off for rest and recovery. At this point in my career, it's important to invest in my body," he said. “This time off is crucial for me to return to peak performance.”
However, the man to keep an eye on is Tyrrell Hatton, a young Englishman who is so reminiscent of Fitzpatrick and has now finally won his first tournament. He had a fabulous summer, finishing second in the Scottish Open and fourth at The Open, albeit a long way behind Henrik Stenson, who won the event.
Hatton has no weaknesses other than a temperament that lets him down sometimes. He is often too hard on himself and is a perfectionist. Having landed the Dunhill Links Championship, he will not be afraid to win again.
Shane Lowry is emerging from a mini-slump, and is one of those golfers who can win anywhere. Even if he isn't striking the ball well, he has a world-class short game and that is certain to stand him in good stead at the Grove. The likeable Irishman would be a popular winner.
There will also be a spotlight on Andrew "Beef" Johnston, the 27-year-old who flew to the United States to play on the Web.com Tour and, incredibly, secured his playing rights to compete on the PGA Tour. Beef may be seen as something of a figure of fun in certain quarters but make no mistake - this guy can play, and is hugely ambitious. He has already won once this season and could well be ready to do so again.
Tyrrell Hatton. One win down, so why not two?
Shane Lowry. A class act
Andrew Johnston. Time to take him seriously
Tyrrell Hatton. Ready to join the big time, cooking on gas
Shane Lowry. Short game to die for
Andrew Johnston. Make the most of him
Matt Fitzpatrick. Determined to make proper title defence
Luke Donald. Longs to win again
Lee Westwood. Needs a good week, and needs it soon
Chris Wood. Loves playing in England
Joost Luiten. In great form
Brandon Stone. Time to recover his early-season form
Alex Levy. Bounce is back in his step
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