UK Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis
AND SO, all too soon, the UK Swing reaches its dramatic conclusion with the UK Championship at The Belfry, the scene of so much Ryder Cup drama.
It has been quite a ride, a six-week spell that Sam Horsfield in particular will never forget. The Englishman won twice, qualified for the US Open and finds himself inside the world’s top 100 for the first time in his fledgling career. Horsfield’s spectacular form should come as no surprise. He has spent most of his life in the United States, moving there with his family when he was just five years old. He was selected for the 2015 Walker Cup when he was just 18 years old but didn’t play, citing visa issues.
He was runner-up in the 2016 Western Amateur and turned professional in May 2017. He won the European Tour qualifying school in 2017, earning full playing rights for the 2017-18 season. It is largely forgotten that he made a hugely impressive start to his career on tour, finishing fourth at the World Super 6 in Perth, second at the Tshwana Open and fifth in the British Masters, ending his debut season in 52nd place in the Race to Dubai. But there was no hint of what was to come this season. He won the Hero Open at the beginning of August, beating Thomas Detry by a shot, and two weeks later he repeated the feat at the Celtic Classic at Celtic Manor, once again fighting off the challenge of Detry, this time by two shots.
The UK Championship features the strongest field to date, with Danny Willett, Matt Wallace and Martin Kaymer back in action after failing to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs and both feeling they have a point to prove.
Willett lost his way after winning The Masters in 2016 but, to his eternal credit, has battled back with victories in the Dubai World Championship in 2018 and the BMW PGA Championship last year. One thing you have to say about Willett is that he only seems to specialise in winning big tournaments. Two-time major champion Kaymer continues to struggle to find his best form but there have been some encouraging signs recently and when you watch him swing a golf club it is difficult to understand why he has gone so long without a win.
So what happens next? The tour is scheduled to head to Spain and Portugal before heading to Northern Ireland for the Irish Open, the Scottish Open and then to Wentworth for the BMW PGA Championship in October. But one man who will almost certainly be missing is Jon Rahm, the current Irish Open and Dubai World Tour champion.
The reigning Race to Dubai champion will be playing in the BMW Championship and Tour Championship on the PGA Tour and then the US Open from September 17-20 before deciding his schedule for the rest of the season.
Rahm had been due to defend three European Tour titles this season, including the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in December, although the global travel situation has left the Spaniard unsure about his plans.
"I think it's going to be something I'm going to think about after the US Open and see how the COVID guidelines are around the world," Rahm said. "That's going to be my first concern, how safe it's going to be and how things are going to be run. I don't know my plans yet. I really don't. With rumours of the CJ Cup happening on US soil; that's very enticing to me because from what I heard, it might happen in Vegas. I live in Phoenix, which is a short flight.
"It is a tournament I wanted to play and it wouldn't be bad to get some FedExCup points before showing up in Maui [for the Tournament of Champions] and being already a thousand points behind. Hopefully if I can, I will.
"Right now, I just don't see myself going to Europe. It's rough flying public and having to have a mask on for ten-plus hours just doesn't sound very good to me and doesn't sound healthy at all, so I don't know what I'm going to be doing.
"My main thought is I don't know if I'm going to be able to go to Spain and see my family at Christmas. That's my bigger thing right now. What I can say is that if it comes to a choice between going to Spain and seeing my family and playing a golf tournament, I'm not playing golf."
The Irish Open, which Rahm won for a second time in 2019, has been rearranged for September 24-27 - the week after the US Open - while this year's Open de Espana has been cancelled and the DP World Tour Championship is now being staged from December 10-13.
Bernd Wiesberger. Ready to win again
Danny Willett. A true survivor
Bernd Wiesberger. Serial winner
Danny Willett. Fit and raring to go
Lee Westwood. Hasn’t enjoyed the best of form during the UK Swing
Victor Perez. Looking to find last year’s form
Martin Kaymer. Too good to keep struggling
Matt Wallace. Still smarting from failing to make FedEx Playoffs
Thomas Pieters. World class
Andy Sullivan. Back with a bang
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