British Masters Preview, Picks & Analysis
ROBERT MacINTYRE - or Bob as he now seems to be called - hopes to end a wait of more than 20 years for a Scottish victory at the Betfred British Masters hosted by Danny Willett at The Belfry.
MacIntyre is riding the crest of a wave after encouraging debut performances at both the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where he reached the Round of 16, and the Masters Tournament, finishing in a share of 12th and booking a return to Augusta National in 2022 in the process.
The 24-year-old finished joint runner up in the 2019 British Masters at Hillside – the first year of Betfred’s title sponsorship of the popular tournament which returned to the European Tour’s schedule in 2015 after an eight-year absence.
He is now hoping to go one better and follow in the footsteps of Bernard Gallacher, Sandy Lyle, Colin Montgomerie, Gary Orr and Sam Torrance as Scottish winners of the British Masters since the Tour’s inception in 1972, as he aims for a second European Tour victory, adding to the maiden title he won at the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown last November.
“I’m really excited to play at The Belfry for the first time in my career,” said MacIntyre, who moved inside the Top 50 in the World for the first time in February. “It’s an iconic venue and one that is steeped in history with its Ryder Cup and European Tour heritage.
“Some of the most iconic names in Scottish golf have won the British Masters and I’d love to add my name to that list. I came close to winning this event two years ago at Hillside and I feel as though I learned a lot from that experience of being in contention down the home stretch.”
Also joining MacIntyre and tournament host Willett at The Belfry are British Ryder Cup players Jamie Donaldson, Stephen Gallacher, David Howell, Andy Sullivan, Oliver Wilson and Chris Wood.
“I’m really looking forward to defending my British Masters title,” said Renato Paratore. “I’m very proud of the way I played at Close House, especially after returning from the break in the middle of the season. I had worked really hard on my game last year and in the build up to the tournament, so it was very rewarding to see that pay off.”
This was a big tournament last year as it marked the return of European Tour action after the pandemic brought everything to a halt. Paratore shot a final-round 69 to cruise to a three-shot win over teenage sensation Rasmus Højgaard. Justin Harding finished alone in third, while tournament host Lee Westwood finished 70th out of the 70 players to make the cut.
The Italian held a one-shot lead heading into the fourth round and continued his bogey-free run - which finally came to an end after 62 holes - to hold off Hojgaard. The event was the first of six tournaments to be staged in Britain without spectators amid strict protocols to guard against the threat of COVID-19.
With no crowd to celebrate Paratore's victory, his fellow competitors gave him a guard of honour as he walked off the green at the 18th while organisers also arranged for his mother to congratulate him via a video call. "I didn't expect that from my friends here on Tour and it was a really good sensation and these are the moments I love," he added. "To see my mama was a big surprise and I was really, really happy."
The British Masters marks the latest stage in European Ryder Cup Qualification where all points earned on the European and World Points Lists will be multiplied by two, as the race to be part of Captain Pádraig Harrington’s team continues. MacIntyre is currently just outside the automatic qualification spots as he bids for a debut Ryder Cup appearance at Whistling Straits in September.
Willett says he is looking forward to hosting the event.
The 33-year-old Englishman, who won the 2016 Masters, takes over hosting duties from reigning European Number One Lee Westwood as the tournament returns to one of European golf’s most historic venues for the first time in 13 years.
Since the tournament was restored to the schedule in 2015 it has been hosted by some of British golf’s leading players, starting with Ian Poulter at Woburn, Luke Donald at The Grove (2016), Westwood twice at Close House (2017 and 2020), Justin Rose at Walton Heath (2018) and Tommy Fleetwood at Hillside (2019).
Willett continues that trend with the seven-time European Tour winner having already added some of golf’s most prestigious titles to his impressive CV, including the DP World Tour Championship in 2018 and the BMW PGA Championship in 2019.
“I’m very excited to be hosting the British Masters at such an iconic European venue in The Belfry. It’ll be a real honour.” said Willett. “We’ve had some great hosts and some great golf courses, it’s nice to see some of the best courses in Britain that people may not have had the chance to play on.
“I’ve wanted to do it ever since the first one in 2015. I thought the guys hosting it and having their say on a few things was a great idea. I am probably one of the ‘older’ players on Tour having been here for 11 years, so it’s a real honour to be able to host an event.
If you are looking for horses for courses, keep an eye on Rasmus Hojgaard, who won the ISPS Handa UK Championship at The Belfry last August.
The British Masters returns to The Belfry after a 13-year absence, with the Sutton Coldfield venue last hosting the event in 2008 after a run of three consecutive years. It has hosted 17 European Tour events since 1979 and welcomed the Tour back for the first time in 12 years with the staging of the ISPS Handa UK Championship in August 2020, won by Denmark’s Rasmus Højgaard.
The Belfry is also a four-time host venue of The Ryder Cup, including in 1985 when a combined European team famously defeated the United States for the first time, as well as 1989, 1993 and most recently in 2002.
“The Belfry is only an hour away from me, in terms of where I’m from it’s relatively local,” added Willett. “I played here in the UK Swing when the European Tour restarted in August and it was a great host venue for the UK Championship. It really is an iconic venue for the European Tour and for Europe and The Ryder Cup.
“We’ve seen some great matches over the years and some great finishes on that 18th hole, and I’m sure we’ll have another exciting finale next year.”
It is a very different course from the one that hosted the Ryder Cup. Back then there were hundreds of saplings - these are now mature trees which have changed the nature of the course, with a greater premium on accuracy.
It was won in 2015 by Matt Fitzpatrick, in 2016 by Alex Noren, in 2017 by Paul Dunne, in 2018 by Eddie Pepperell, in 2019 by Marcus Kinhult and last year by Paratore.
Rasmus Hojgaard. Knows what it takes to win here
Rasmus Højgaard. Looking to secure Ryder Cup berth
Danny Willett. Fit, well and confident
Robert MacIntrye. Desperate for another win
Outsiders to Watch:
Thorbjorn Olesen. On the way back
Matthias Schwab. Has been grinding out lots of top 25 finishes
Jamie Donaldson. Showing flashes of his 2014 form
Adri Arnaus. Underrated Spaniard
David Horsey. A four-time Tour winner in need of a decent week
Be part of the action with a selection of unique golf tournament experiences, from playing in a pro-am with the stars to watching the action at golf’s most illustrious events. Whether it’s the Masters or The Open, The Ryder Cup or WM Phoenix Open, build your own bespoke package with the experts at Golfbreaks.com.
What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)