This week’s Quinn Direct British Masters has an unmistakable Ryder Cup flavour, with many of The European Tour’s most formidable names looking to cement their places on the European Ryder Cup Team at the venue of four past Ryder Cups, including Europe’s last home victory in 2002.
There will be a special Ryder Cup resonance for defending champion Thomas Björn of Denmark, the Irish trio of Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley, Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, Welshman Phillip Price and England’s Lee Westwood, all of whom played their part in the 15 ½ - 12 ½ victory over the USA at The Belfry almost four years ago.
The impressive field for the first event of the season in Britain also contains the English trio of Paul Casey, European Tour Order of Merit leader David Howell and Ian Poulter, plus Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez, who, along with Clarke, Harrington, McGinley, Montgomerie and Westwood, formed part of the record breaking European Team that triumphed so spectacularly at Oakland Hills Country Club in 2004.
Ian Woosnam, who will captain Europe in this September's Ryder Cup at The K Club will also be at The Belfry. The Welshman is twice a winner of The Quinn Direct British Masters (in 1983 and 1994) and was also Vice-Captain to Sam Torrance in The 2002 Ryder Cup victory at The Belfry.
Last year, victory went to an emotional Björn, who clinched his first won for nearly three years when he held off the English pair of Brian Davis and Howell in a sudden-death play-off at the Marriott Forest of Arden. Michael Campbell, who a month later would go on to win the US Open Championship, finished fourth that day and returns returns this year as a reigning Major Champion.
Casey, meanwhile, is back at the scene of one of his most impressive five victories having won the last of Benson and Hedges International Opens in 2003 on the Tour’s last visit to famous Brabazon Course.
Along with those established Ryder Cup players, many of The European Tour’s new breed of champions who have a chance to star at The K Club this coming September will be in action at The Belfry.
Of the many candidates that come into that category, Henrik Stenson of Sweden stands out as one man likely to feature prominently in Woosnam’s Team. Since winning the European Challenge Tour in 2000, Stenson has confirmed his status as one of the game’s most exciting talents with three European Tour victories – including his maiden title in the 2001 Benson and Hedges International Open at The Belfry – and a series of top ten finishes that have propelled him to Number 12 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Stenson is also the current Number One on The European Ryder Cup Team’s World Points List, following his outstanding form since the qualifying race began on September 1, 2005.