The European Tour heads for England and The Belfry this week, as Danny Willett hosts the British Masters. Here is all you need to know, including the six Aussies teeing it up and TV times.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Italy’s Renato Paratore captured the title at Close House in 2020. Paratore’s 18-under-par total was good enough for a three shot win over rising Danish star Rasmus Hojgaard.tle.
COURSE: The Befry’s Brabazon Course will be a familiar one to avid golf watchers, having hosted the Ryder Cup on four occasions, more than any other single course.
Designed by Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas, the course features water as a significant hazard across its 7,232 yard journey. And the back nine is built for excitement and potentially round crushing bogeys and worse.
The short par-4 10th warrants a mention, if only for Seve Ballesteros driving the green in 1985, and at just 284 metres this week will surely see plenty of birdies from those brave enough to follow in the Spaniards footsteps.
Water poses much of the challenge at the much longer par-4 18th, which also features a three tiered green and was the site of Christy O’Connor Jr’s famous 2-iron in the Ryder Cup. At 433 metres, no player will consider the tournament won until the ball is safely in the hole at the last.
PLAYERS TO WATCH …
Hosting duties will add some serious time constraints to the week for Danny Willett, but that doesn’t mean he should be counted out as a chance to claim his first win since the 2019 BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Willett’s form so far this year has been very up and down, perhaps most evident in his missed cut at Augusta, where he is of course a previous winner, followed by a T18 at the RBC Heritage in nearby South Carolina.
Willett is dangerously close to dropping out of the top-100 on the world rankings having once been inside the top-10 and The Belfry will suit his game perfectly.
If he can balance the extra work of welcoming a stronger European Tour field for the first time in a number of months and his own play, Willett wouldn’t surprise as a contender on Sunday afternoon.
RIGHT: Renato Paratore took home his second European Tour win at this event in 2020 when Lee Westwood hosted at Close House. PHOTO: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
Of the Aussie contingent, Maverick Antcliff sets up as the primary player to keep an eye on this week.
Antcliff has missed just one cut (and withdrawn once) so far in 2021 and recorded his best finish of the year and best European Tour result last week as the three week Canary Islands swing concluded.
The Queenslander was a distant second to Garrick Higgo at the Canary Islands Championship last week, and went a long way towards securing improved status in Europe courtesy of the result that came about after a Sunday 65.
Antcliff is a proven winner in China and an ever improving player who should have the sort of game to have success at The Belfry. This is a significantly better field than last week, but the 27-year-old continues to rise to the occasion as he takes on new challenges in his burgeoning career.
72-HOLE RECORD: Ireland’s Paul Dunne set the aggregate record in 2017 when he needed just 260 shots to win the title, while Peter Baker’s 22-under in 1993 is the best score in relation to par.
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: Robert Allenby (1996), Greg Norman (1981 & ’82), Graham Marsh (1979), Peter Thomson (1961 & ’68) and Norman Von Nida (1948).
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Maverick Antcliff, Scott Hend, Min Woo Lee, Jake McLeod, Wade Ormsby and Jason Scrivener.
Round 1: Wednesday Fox Sports 503 LIVE 10:30pm – 2:30am)
Round 2: Thursday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 7:30pm – 10:30pm & 12:30am – 2:30am)
Round 3: Friday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 10pm – 2:30am)
Round 4: Saturday (Fox Sports 507 LIVE 7:30pm – 12am)
*AEST, check local guides