Mine host Rose could land the champagne
Walton Heath GC Surrey
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