The British Masters and the Belfry. Two names that are synonymous with some iconic Irish golfing moments. Perhaps the glory days of yesteryear at this venue can inspire our struggling Irish cohort this week.
Christy O’Connor Jnr and Paul McGinley will be in Ryder Cup folklore at The Belfry forever while Paul Dunne became just the fourth Irish winner of this event after Christy O’Connor Snr and Jnr, and Harry Bradshaw when he lifted the title at Close House.
A proud Irish history with this event and also this venue, O’Connor Jnr’s two-iron to the 18th at the 1989 Ryder Cup is arguably the greatest shot in the competition’s history.
Paul McGinley became a Ryder Cup legend when he sunk the winning putt for Sam Torrance’s European charges here in 2002, a clip that is shown much more frequently than O’Connor Jnr’s shot.
Paul Dunne became the first Irish winner in 25 years when he downed Rory McIlroy in 2017 with a final round 61 to win by three. Dunne fittingly chipped in from the front of the green to seal his only DP World Tour win to date in style.
The British Masters is one of the only constants during what has been another season of struggle for the DP World Tour so far.
The Greystones native is in the field this week on past champion status, joined by Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin while there are also places in the field for PGA playoff winner Greig Hutcheon and Adam Keogh both of whom came through 54-holes at PGA National Slieve Russell last week.
For Dunne, it’s a case of hoping a return to an event he has such fond memories of can spark an upturn in form. The Wicklow man made the cut at The Belfry last year so he has course form although it remains to be seen what shape his game is in after going a month without competitive action.
Handed just his second DP World Tour start of the season, Dunne is in a grouping of former champions alongside Spanish veteran Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Swedish ace Marcus Kinhult.
Clandeboye’s Caldwell arrives after playing all four rounds at the Catalunya Championship although successive rounds of 75 over the weekend saw him slip to 71st place on Sunday.
It has been a slow season for the 37-year-old so far but with the defence of his Scandinavian Mixed title on the horizon, he will be keen to build up a head of steam heading into the summer.
The Northern Irishman had a rollercoaster week at The Belfry last year. After opening with a 76, he responded with aplomb to make the weekend with a second round of 69. A Saturday 80 sent him tumbling down the leaderboard but he came roaring back with a final round 65 to finish 65th.
Caldwell has drawn an interesting group alongside Italy’s 2023 Ryder Cup hopeful Guido Migliozzi and South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence.
Ardglass native Sharvin rounds off the Irish contingent alongside experienced Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin and Dutchman Daan Huizing.
It’s been one big struggle for Sharvin who arrives 232nd in the Race to Dubai after three missed cuts in a row. Sharvin has made just one cut so far this season, with double and triple bogeys a constant eyesore on scorecards that frustratingly contain a plethora of birdies.
The Northern Irishman finished in a share of 43rd place last year which included a final round of 69.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Richard Bland sunk that putt to overcome Migliozzi and the Englishman is here to defend his crown on his landmark 500th DP World Tour appearance.
The Southampton fan finally entered the winner’s enclosure at the 478th time of asking at 48-years young and that has teed up a renaissance in the veteran’s career.
Not only was his win the moment of the year but ‘Blandy’ has put in a series of notable performances including holding the halfway lead at the US Open at Torrey Pines.
Bland has had an excellent 2022 campaign, losing to Viktor Hovland in a playoff at the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic before reaching the last-16 of the WFC Dell matchplay on his debut which saw him break into the top-50 on the OWGR for the first time.
Other standout names include Lee Westwood, Thorbjorn Olesen, the Hojgaard twins and Rafael Cabrera Bello.
- Full tee-times HERE