Fleetwood Early Favorite at The British Masters

By Wes Reynolds  () 

The British Masters event history dates all the way back to 1946 well before the European Tour was founded in 1972. The tournament took a six-year hiatus when it was removed from the tour schedule from 2009-2014 due to a lack of sponsorship. Nonetheless it returned in 2015 with a sponsorship from Sky Sports. The deal with Sky expired last year but U.K.-based bookmaker Betfred stepped up to help underwrite this year’s event in Southport.

The current favorite is Tommy Fleetwood, who was born and raised in Southport, at 8/1. Fleetwood will also serve in the capacity of tournament host, which has been a role for this event since its return in 2015. However, that role has proven difficult for the players whom serve in that capacity.

2018: Justin Rose - Walton Heath GC - 8th

2017: Lee Westwood - Close House GC - 15th

2016: Luke Donald - The Grove - MC

2015: Ian Poulter - Woburn G& CC - 33rd

Fleetwood, currently No. 16 in the OWGR, is capable of winning any given week but seems a big ask for a hometown guy having to serve as host to win this event at such a short price with the PGA Championship on deck. Other shorter prices behind him include Tyrell Hatton at 16/1, last year’s champion Eddie Pepperell at 20/1 and yet another Brit, Matt Wallace, also at 20/1.

THE COURSE

Hillside Golf Club in Southport, Merseyside, UK is about a 45-minute drive north of Liverpool. It will play as a Par 72 at just under 7,000 yards (6,953). Hillside is built on the same land as the links of Royal Lytham & St. Annes and Royal Birkdale, which hosted the 2017 Open Championship. The back nine is historically tougher than the front side. There will be scoring opportunities as the Par 5s are all 550 yards or less and the Par 4s are all right at or near 400 yards. However, the wind can blow hard here and there are plenty of sand dunes and pot bunkers (especially on the back side) and thick rough that will penalize wayward tee shots. Bombers off the tee really don’t have a huge edge on this shorter course due to many dogleg holes. Driving accuracy and GIR are the most important statistics here. There aren’t many course form angles here considering Hillside hasn’t hosted a European Tour event since 1982, but it was a regular Open Championship qualifying site from 2014-2017. Basically you are looking for strong and experienced links players this week.

RECENT HISTORY/WINNERS

2018: Eddie Pepperell -9 (30/1)

2017: Paul Dunne -20 (66/1)

2016: Alexander Noren -18 (18/1)

2015: Matthew Fitzpatrick -15 (33/1)

PICKS

Jordan Smith 25/1

Smith finished 3rd in this event last fall at Walton Heath. He comes in with form of 5/14/7 in his last three starts and led the field last week in China with a 90.3% GIR mark leading to a T-5th. A couple of young Englishmen have won this event in recent years including Matthew Fitzpatrick and Eddie Pepperell, so this event is a big deal to U.K. players. Would expect a highly motivated player here whose ball-striking is in peak form.

Victor Dubuisson 40/1

The former Ryder Cupper has his eyes on making the team for next year considering he missed the event in his native France last year. He only played one event in 2018 due to a perforated eardrum but is on the comeback trail with a respectable form of 11/30/10 in his last three events. He’s always seemed to have a bit of a laissez-faire approach to his career but he seems to be more inspired to get back to the form of 2014 where he clinched the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and finished Top 10 in the last two majors of the season.

Tom Lewis 50/1

In 2011, he looked destined for stardom when he led after the first round of the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s. However, like many young players, it might’ve been too much, too soon. Nonetheless, his game had a resurgence last season winning the Bridgestone Challenge on the Challenge Tour and then winning the Portugal Masters two weeks later on the European Tour. With recent finishes of 3rd in Saudi Arabia, 9th in Dubai and 7th at last year’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship, he looks to have found some confidence. Also has plenty of links accomplishments as the 2009 Boys Amateur Champion (Royal St. George’s) and the 2011 St. Andrews Links Trophy winner.

Lucas Herbert 80/1

The Aussie finished 3rd in this event last year at Walton Heath and finished runner-up last year in Portugal to the player tipped above, Tom Lewis.

Callum Shinkwin 80/1

Another Englishman down the board who takes to links golf. He should’ve won the Scottish Open in 2017 but bogeyed the 72nd hole and lost the playoff to Rafael Cabrera-Bello.

Lee Slattery 175/1

Not quite the class of fellow local Tommy Fleetwood but was born in Southport and has made his last three cuts. A very deep longshot that could hit the board come Sunday.

ADDITIONAL TOURNAMENT PICKS

Regions Tradition (PGA Tour Champions Major)

• Jerry Kelly 18/1

• Kenny Perry 30/1

• Gene Sauers 50/1

AT&T Byron Nelson

• Hideki Matsuyama 16/1

• Branden Grace 30/1

• Rafael Cabrera-Bello 40/1

• Alexander Noren 50/1

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