It’s been a while since Alex Noren claimed the BMW PGA Championship on English soil earlier in the year, and this week the European Tour returns to domestic shores with the British Masters.
It’s customary for an English star to host the event, and following in the footsteps of Ian Poulter and Luke Donald to take the reins is Lee Westwood, with the tournament actually being played at the Close House course he is affiliated to up in Northumberland.
Westwood will be hoping to cap a fine week of golf off with a first tour victory in quite some time, but boy does he face some stiff competition.
After a dismal season by his standards, Rory McIlroy will be looking to end the campaign with a bang, while in contrast Sergio Garcia – who will be happy to replay 2017 over and over again after winning the Masters and getting married – will be looking to cap his perfect year in fine style.
A top notch support cast includes Noren himself, Matt Fitzpatrick – the European Masters champion, Bernd Wiesberger and Tyrrell Hatton in what should be an outstanding tournament despite the rather mixed weather forecast.
With the action shown live from Thursday-Sunday on Sky Sports, who are the players to watch this week?
There are contrasting cases to oppose McIlroy and Garcia, who at odds of 8/1 and 11/1 respectively really do hold minimal appeal in such a quality field.
Alex Noren has won four times professionally on British soil, and if he was a tad longer than the 16/1 quoted then there would be plenty to get excited about a Swede who has won five times worldwide since the start of 2016.
Matt Fitzpatrick, despite being a proven winner at the age of 23, is also a fraction short at 22/1. Again, if we’d been quoted 30s there would have been interest for sure.
Which means that we’re looking for lengthier each way plays, and the English pair of Hatton (33/1) and Chris Wood (40/1).
Hatton has long threatened to win a big event, and in the first part of this year played some sublime golf across the pond to record three consecutive top-10s on the PGA Tour. The summer has not gone quite as well, but he finished tied for third at the European Masters a fortnight ago and that was a timely reminder of his quality.
And Chris Wood is the sort of player who you feel can win at will when’s he in good spirits. He’s a three-time European Tour winner, including at a Wentworth course that is thought to be similar to this ‘Lee Westwood Colt’ stretch at Close House, and in his last start he recorded a top-10 at the KLM Open with a final round of 65. That’s a nice upside to the lanky Englishman.
Middle of the Pack
There’s plenty of quality in the middle of the field, and the two that really stand out for our money are Haotong Li (55/1) and Graeme Storm (100/1).
The Chinaman has recorded a pair of top-10s in his last five starts, and not just any old events: seventh at the French Open and third at the Open Championship in an unbelievable showing from the young man. You sense that Li will make a huge breakthrough on tour soon enough.
Storm, meanwhile, is born and bred in the north east of England, and he will love it if conditions get rather squally this week. He has won this season at the South African Open, and in his last start recorded a third place finish at the Portugal Masters.
With so much quality in the field the chances of an outsider triumphing are seemingly slim, but if Jorge Campillo can gatecrash the top six at 200/1 then punters are in for an each way treat.
The Spaniard is incredibly consistent and often tends to give his backers a decent run for their money with eleven top-25 finishes in the past calendar year and 18/25 cuts made.
Campillo has done the business on UK soil before with an eighth-place finish at the Scottish Open and eighteenth at the British Masters in 2015, and form-wise five of his last eight rounds have been in the 60s.