Lee Westwood will become the first player to host the Betfred British Masters on two occasions when the tournament returns to Close House, near Newcastle upon Tyne, next week, marking the start of the European Tour’s new six event UK Swing.
The former World Number One was host the last time the Betfred British Masters was played at the North East venue in 2017, and he’ll be joined in the field by the last three winners as he aims to clinch the title for the second time, following his 2007 victory at The Belfry.
Westwood enjoyed an impressive start to 2020, before the season was suspended in March due to the global coronavirus pandemic, winning the season’s first Rolex Series event, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA in January to claim his 25th European Tour title. He currently sits second in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex.
The Betfred British Masters marks the full resumption of the European Tour’s 2020 season, following two dual-ranking events in Austria. All tournaments in the reshaped 2020 season will be subject to stringent safety and testing protocols set out in the Tour’s comprehensive Health Strategy which will continue to evolve, aligned with international Government guidance and health guidelines.
“I’m delighted to be hosting again,” said ten-time Ryder Cup player Westwood. “I did it in 2017, three years ago here at Close House, and I really enjoyed it. I learnt a lot about what goes in to running a golf tournament, so it was interesting to see things from a different perspective.
“It’s a tough job and a tiring one at that. It was tough to do it that week and play golf too, I sort of ran out of steam towards the end, but it is going to be different this year. No crowds, a little less media and things like that, which will allow me to focus more time on trying to win the golf tournament this time round.
“It’s great that the Betfred British Masters is the first event to kick off the UK Swing. Betfred have been an incredible sponsor, they have stuck with us all though it, and they are very excited to be involved again this year.
“My preparation has gone well. The first few weeks we were in lockdown and we weren’t allowed to play golf, so I had a big break from it then but since golf courses have opened up again and we are able to get back out on the golf course, I have played most days, probably three or four times a week. I have played a lot of golf of late and certainly no one will have played the golf course as much as I have.”
One man aiming to derail Westwood’s bid to lift the trophy again is defending champion Marcus Kinhult. The Swede birdied the final two holes at Hillside Golf Club last season to finish one shot ahead of a group of players including 2018 champion Eddie Pepperell – who is also in the field this week.
Also bidding for a second Betfred British Masters title is Irishman Paul Dunne, who triumphed in style at Close House in 2017, producing a fantastic closing round of 61 to hold off a late charge from Rory McIlroy and win his first European Tour title.
Close House will also witness a historic moment next week, with the legendary Miguel Ángel Jiménez set to make his 706th European Tour appearance, equalling Sam Torrance’s all-time record.
The Sir Graham Wylie Foundation has once again been appointed as the Official Charity Partner of the Betfred British Masters, with Westwood – a Patron of the Foundation – once again throwing his support behind the Foundation and founder Sir Graham Wylie, one of the North East’s best-known entrepreneurs and philanthropists.
The European Tour launches its ‘Golf for Good’ initiative at Close House and, across the six-week UK Swing, there will be £500,000 distributed by the Tour to charities local to the tournament venues – including the Sir Graham Wylie Foundation – and charities chosen by the leading ten players in a mini Order of Merit which will run across the tournaments.
The ‘Golf for Good’ initiative is a narrative which will underpin the season and aims to give back in three key areas:
▪ Supporting the Communities where the European Tour plays.
▪ Rewarding the true heroes, such as the front line workers.
▪ Promoting the many health benefits that golf offers.