Mine host Rose could land the cham­pagne

Wal­ton Heath GC Sur­rey

The Racing Paper - - Golf Formula One - by Mitchell Platts

JUSTIN Rose as­sumes the du­ties of host for the Sky Sports Bri­tish Mas­ters this week and he can suc­ceed where his pre­de­ces­sors have failed by win­ning at the out­stand­ing Wal­ton Heath Golf Club.

The 66th edi­tion of the Bri­tish Mas­ters, first played in 1946, is the fourth since the tour­na­ment’s ‘home­com­ing’ in 2015 fol­low­ing a seven year hia­tus with play­ers now tak­ing on the role of hosts.

But the pres­sure of do­ing so ap­peared to in­hibit Ian Poul­ter at Woburn in 2015 where he fin­ished 33rd, Luke Don­ald in 2016 when he missed the cut at The Grove and Lee West­wood who fared slightly bet­ter in fin­ish­ing 15th at Close House last year.

Rose chose the tra­di­tional 7,394 yards Old Course at Wal­ton Heath for his year as host be­cause: “It’s a course I re­ally en­joy play­ing – in fact I love it!

“I played it in the sum­mer and I’d for­got­ten how good a course it is be­cause it’s tra­di­tional and it’s got teeth.”

The 38-year-old English­man might have cho­sen Woburn if his good friend Poul­ter had not done so be­cause it was there in 2002, watched by his fa­ther, Ken, who soon af­ter sadly passed away, he won the Bri­tish Mas­ters which re­mains his only Euro­pean Tour win on English soil.

This is hardly sur­pris­ing as Rose mostly plies his trade on the PGA Tour where a month ago, af­ter a sparkling se­quence of 2-2-4 in the last three Play-Off events, he cap­tured the $10 mil­lion Fed ExCup top prize.

Rose, who has notched no fewer than 14 top tens this sea­son, does not un­der­stand the mean­ing of pres­sure which is sim­ply an­other rea­son for supporting him to be­come the first host to be able to toast him­self as cham­pion of the Bri­tish Mas­ters.

Ire­land’s Paul Dunne claimed the ti­tle 12 months ago with a mag­nif­i­cent clos­ing 61 to fin­ish three shots ahead of Rory McIl­roy and he is look­ing for­ward to his de­fence on a course which is fa­mil­iar to him.

The 25-year-old Dubliner, how­ever, would need to be­come the first player to win two Bri­tish Mas­ters in suc­ces­sion since Greg Nor­man in 1982 and Rose might face a stronger chal­lenge from Euro­pean Ry­der Cup col­leagues Tommy Fleet­wood, Francesco Moli­nari and Thor­b­jorn Ole­sen.

Fleet­wood has played 24 tour­na­ments with­out ad­ding to his win in Abu Dhabi at the start of the year and he might, un­der­stand­ably, be ex­hausted af­ter such a long cam­paign, and London-based Ital­ian Moli­nari, his ‘MoliWood’ Ry­der Cup part­ner, ap­pears a stronger con­tender this time.

Vic­to­ries in The Open Cham­pi­onship, BMW PGA Cham­pi­onship and Quicken Loans Na­tional have un­der­lined Moli­nari’s pedi­gree this sum­mer and Wal­ton Heath is tai­lor­made for the tech­ni­cal bril­liance of his game.

Matt Fitz­patrick be­came, at 24 years and eight days, the youngest English­man to win five Euro­pean Tour events – the first just hap­pened to be the 2015 Bri­tish Mas­ters – when he won the Omega Euro­pean Mas­ters last month.

That tri­umph came too late for Fitz­patrick to re­tain his Euro­pean Ry­der Cup place but the Sh­effield man is the real deal and, like fel­low English­men Andy Sul­li­van, Matt Wal­lace, Danny Wil­lett, Chris Wood and Fleet­wood, he looks likely to be in the mix.

Spain’s Pablo Lar­raz­a­bal took two months out fol­low­ing a wrist in­jury ear­lier in the sea­son and, af­ter fin­ish­ing 16th in the Omega Euro­pean Mas­ters and 11th in the KLM Open, he played well enough in the Por­tu­gal Mas­ters so looks primed to chal­lenge at a big price.

Loves the course: Justin Rose

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