Top class golf returns to British shores here with the revamped British Masters. When Sky Sports pulled out of their title sponsorship agreement there were fears the British Masters would drop off the schedule again but Betfred stepped in to keep the tournament alive which is great news for British golf fans.
Since 2015 the event has been hosted by a different British player each year, who chooses the course where the tournament will be played. It was Tommy Fleetwood who got the chance to do so in 2019, selecting the Hillside Golf Club links course in Southport.
He followed in the footsteps of Ian Poulter at Woburn in Buckinghamshire, Justin Rose at Walton Heath in Surrey, Lee Westwood at Close House in Northumberland and Luke Donald at The Grove in Hertfordshire.
|Close House Golf Club||Newcastle, UK||6,872 Yards||€1,250,000|
Close House is the first golf course to have hosted two editions of the new look British Masters. Back in 2017 the tournament at Close House was hosted by Lee Westwood and the former world number one is cast back in that role again. Westwood is more than just an event host though, he also had a major hand in changing around the original Scott Macpherson design of both courses at Close House.
The tournament is held on the 6,872 yard Colt Course. By the standards of a European Tour course that is a fairly modest yardage but there is more to it than meets the eye. Close House is set on some very hilly ground so the effective yardage of many holes is very different to what it says on the scorecard. Therefore, scoring well at Close House requires excellent distance control whilst the importance of an experienced caddie cannot be overemphasised.
The fairways are generally wide but the rough and foliage that surrounds them is punishing enough to ensure that players who stray too far off line will have a job on to save par. Taking advantage of the two par fives on the layout is a must but in general it is par four scoring that will have the most say at Close House. Specifically, players will need to pick and choose when to attack and when to settle for par.
British Masters Recent Winners
|Year||Winner||Course||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2020||Renato Paratore||Close House GC||-18||3 Strokes|
|2019||Marcus Kinhult||Hillside GC||-16||1 Stroke|
|2018||Eddie Pepperell||Walton Heath GC||-9||2 Strokes|
|2017||Paul Dunne||Close House GC||-20||3 Strokes|
|2016||Alex Noren||The Grove||-18||2 Strokes|
|2015||Matthew Fitzpatrick||Woburn G&CC||-9||1 Stoke|
|Between 2009 and 2014 no British Masters tournament was held|
|2008||Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño||The Belfry||-12||Playoff|
|2007||Lee Westwood||The Belfry||-15||5 Strokes|
|2006||Johan Edfors||The Belfry||11-||1 Stroke|
|2005||Thomas Bjorn||Forest of Arden CC||-6||Playoff|
About the British Masters
The British Masters – known as the Betfred British Masters at the time of writing due to sponsorship reasons – has become one of the most prestigious golf tournaments on the European Tour. The first British Masters took place way back in 1946, which was a tie between Bobby Locke and Jimmy Adams.
Dunlop were the first sponsors of the event and had a long association until there sponsorship ended in 1982, with tobacco brand Silk Cut taking over for a year before it became the Dunhill British Masters. The likes of phone network One2One, bookie Victor Chandler, the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Quinn Insurance and broadcaster Sky Sports have also sponsored the event. Currently, leading betting company Betfred are the sponsors of the British Masters tournament.
As mentioned, the first British Masters, which took place at Stoneham Golf Club way back in 1946, was a tie between Scotsman Jimmy Adams and South African Bobby Locke. Locke went on to win again, this time outright, in 1954, making him one of a number of players to have won the tournament twice (details of which will come later). The second year, Englishman Arthur Lees came out on top at Little Aston, while one of Australia’s first professional golfers, Norman Von Nida, won at Sunningdale the following year.
There was no tournament from 2009 to 2014, but the British Masters returned with a bang in 2015, with Matthew Fitzpatrick securing a two-stroke victory over Soren Kjeldsen, Shane Lowry and Fabrizio Zanotti at Woburn Golf and Country Club. Since its comeback, the tournament has grown stronger and more popular each year and is becoming a firm favourite of British golf fans in particular.
The Beginning of the British Hosts
When the tournament returned in 2015, a leading British golfer was allowed to choose the course and host the event. Since then, home-grown golf stars Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood have all hosted the event. The British Masters has taken place at various prestigious locations in the British Isles, including The Grove and Hillside Golf Club.
In 2017, Westwood hosted the event at Close House Golf Club which is situated on a picturesque estate near the village of Heddon-on-the-Wall in Northumberland (the “wall” in question is Hadrian’s Wall, incidentally). Westwood is scheduled to be the host for the 2020 British Maters, with the Close House Golf Club set to be Westwood’s choice once again.
First Televised Hole-in-one
Tony Jacklin’s three-stroke victory at Royal St George’s Golf Club in 1967, which was the first of his two British Masters wins, will always be one of British golf’s most memorable moments.
Back in those days, only the final few holes of various tournaments were broadcast live.
So it was something of a delight to golf fans when Jacklin hit a hole-in-one on the 16th hole, which was the first ever televised ace on British TV. The ball took a single bounce on the par-three green before slotting into the hole. History was made with just one swing of a golf club and though it is not too uncommon to see a hole-in-one with today’s blanket golf coverage, it those days it was certainly something of a novelty.
Seve’s Sensational Season
1986 was a year to remember for Spanish great – and one of the all-time greats of the game – Seve Ballesteros. The super Spaniard had an unmatched year in terms of championship success, as Seve picked up a staggering six tournament victories that year, with the first of those being the British Masters.
Ballesteros had a brilliant tournament at Woburn, securing a memorable two-stroke victory over Gordon Brand Jnr. Seve, who remains the record holder of European Tour wins with 50 to his name, also won the Irish Open, the Monte Carlo Open, the Open de France, the Dutch Open and the Lancome Trophy (tied with Bernhard Langer) in 1986.
Seve’s Year to Remember in Europe
|Date||Ballesteros’s Six European Tour Wins in 1986|
|June 1986||Dunhill British Open|
|June 1986||Carroll’s Irish Open|
|June 1986||Johnnie Walker Monte Carlo Open|
|July 1986||Peugeot Open de France|
|July 1986||KLM Dutch Open|
|October 1986||Lancome Trophy|
Multiple British Masters Winners
Seve Ballesteros picked up two British Masters titles during his outstanding career. Alongside his victory in 1986, the Spaniard also won in 1991, winning by three strokes at Woburn.
No player has won it more than twice, with Harry Bradshaw, Bernard Gallacher, Bernard Hunt, Tony Jacklin, Cobie Legrange, the aforementioned Bobby Locke, Greg Norman, Christy O’Connor Snr, Dai Rees, Peter Thomson, Harry Weetman and Ian Woosnam also picking up two victories each.
Multiple British Masters Winners
|Years||Multiple British Masters Winners|
|1986, 1991||Seve Ballesteros|
|1953, 1955||Harry Bradshaw|
|1974, 1975||Bernard Gallacher|
|1963, 1965||Bernard Hunt|
|1967, 1973||Tony Jacklin|
|1964, 1969||Cobie Legrange|
|1946, 1954||Bobby Locke|
|1981, 1982||Greg Norman|
|1956, 1959||Christy O’Connor Snr|
|1950, 1962||Dai Rees|
|1961, 1968||Peter Thompson|
|1952, 1958||Harry Weetman|
|1983, 1994||Ian Woosnam|
Gonzalo Gets the Better of Westwood
The final British Masters before its seven-year break was another that will live long in the memories of golf fans. Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and England’s Lee Westwood were involved in a thriller at The Belfry in Warwickshire in 2008.
The Spaniard had a final round to remember, pulling off some fantastic shots to take Westwood to a playoff. A third successive par at the 18th proved to be enough for Gonzalo. Out of his seven European Tour wins, the victory in England remains one of the Madrid man’s most memorable successes.
Baker’s Brilliant Moment of Magic in 1993
Peter Baker’s somewhat surprise victory in 1993 will always be remembered. Baker played some scintillating stuff at Woburn, beating Carl Mason by a whopping seven strokes. Baker hit 64 in the second round and 63 in the closing to finish with a 22 under par, which remains one of the best scores in the tournament’s history.
After his stunning victory at the British Masters in 1993, Baker said, “I had one of those weeks where it all went very well. I played some great golf and it just all came together. My wife and my youngest daughter were there with me as well, which also helped to make it such a magical week.” The win at Woburn was the second of three European Tour victories for the Shropshire-born man.