The European Tour returns to the North East of England for the first time in 15 years as former World Number One Lee Westwood hosts the British Masters supported by Sky Sports at Close House...
Luke Donald was the British Masters host following Ian Poulter’s stint at Woburn the previous year, but the tournament belonged to Alex Noren, who sealed his third European Tour title of the season on a dramatic final day.
The Swede had already tasted victory at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and Omega European Masters in 2016 and produced a closing round of 69 at The Grove to finish on 18 under par, two strokes ahead of nearest challenger, Bernd Wiesberger of Austria.
Home favourite Westwood finished third after posting a superb final round 67 to reach 15 under.
Beginning the day with a three-shot lead, Noren made the perfect start to his fourth round, notching up birdies at each of his first two holes to climb to 18 under par.
After dropping a shot at the eighth he saw his advantage reduced to a single shot when he carded another bogey at the 11th, and he dropped into a share of the lead when Wiesberger holed his 12-foot birdie at the long 15th to join him at 16 under.
But Noren regained the lead immediately with a birdie at the 17th, and after safely parring the next two holes, he finished with a tap-in birdie at the last to clinch his seventh European Tour title overall.
He wasn’t finished there - another victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player in November saw him become the first player from Sweden to win four European Tour titles in a single season.
A stellar field will join 23-time European Tour winner Westwood at Close House, including two fellow former World Number Ones, seven Major Champions, and a total of 86 European Tour winners.
Nine of the top 20 in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex will tee it up at Close House, including defending champion Noren, Masters Tournament winner Sergio Garcia and four-time time Major winner Rory McIlroy, alongside Ross Fisher, Bernd Wiesberger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Haotong Li, Jordan Smith, and Alexander Levy.
World Number 14 Noren is targeting a second victory on British soil this season after winning the BMW PGA Championship in May – the launch event of the European Tour’s new Rolex Series – courtesy of a stunning final round 62 at Wentworth Club.
Ryder Cup Legend Poulter returns to the British Masters after hosting the event in 2015, with Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez, Scotland’s Russell Knox, Shane Lowry of Ireland and two-time Major winner Martin Kaymer of Germany also confirmed.
They will be joined by the European Tour’s most recent winner, as Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard arrives in the North East fresh from securing his maiden title at the Portugal Masters on Sunday.
Close House is a 360-acre privately owned venue which boasts the world’s first and only Lee Westwood golf courses and a state-of-the-art No19 contemporary clubhouse.
The 250-year-old Close House estate grounds are set in the beautiful and serene Tyne Valley, minutes from Newcastle and nestled between the banks of the River Tyne and the ancient remains of Hadrian’s Wall. This is this first European Tour event to be held at Close House, which previously hosted the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship in 2015.
The par-71 Championship Lee Westwood Colt Course - named after English Golf architect Harry Colt - is designed by Edinburgh based golf course architect Scott Macpherson. The British Masters host course measures 6,813 yards over 160 acres of land and gained entry to the UK Top 100 courses club almost as soon as it opened. It remains the only course in North East England to hold that accolade.
The theme of the Colt Course is ‘Old English’, with highlights including the ancient forest to the left of the first hole, the old Roman fort to the left of the 11th hole, the lake by the 15th tees, and the Ha-Ha wall and Ice-Lake on the final hole.
Close House is also home the Lee Westwood Filly Course, the North East’s official PGA Academy, including five-star practice facilities, and the recently developed par-3 Yearling Golf Course.
DID YOU KNOW – BRITISH MASTERS SUPPORTED BY SKY SPORTS
• Tournament host Westwood is the second former World Number One following Donald to host the British Masters. There are three former World Number Ones in the field with Westwood joined by McIlroy and Kaymer.
• The British Masters returns to the North East of England for the first time in 45 years at Close House, where Westwood has been the Touring Professional since 2011. Europe’s leading golfers are descending upon Newcastle for the first time in 15 years.
• Westwood won the British Masters in the tournament’s first spell on the European Tour, claiming the title at The Belfry in 2007 and then narrowly missing out on successfully defending it 12 months later when he lost in a play-off to Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño at the same venue.
• Two months after winning the Masters at Augusta National in 1988, Sandy Lyle completed a unique double with victory in the British Masters. Current Masters Champion Garcia will have the opportunity to repeat this feat at Close House.
• As a result of claiming the £41,660 first prize in 1988, Lyle became the first British player to pass £1 million in European Tour Official Career Earnings.
• A total of 13 different Major Champions have claimed the British Masters crown. They are: Bobby Locke (1946 and 1954), Max Faulkner (1951), Peter Thomson (1961 and 1968), Tony Jacklin (1967 and 1973), Bob Charles (1972), Bernhard Langer (1980), Greg Norman (1981 and 1982), Ian Woosnam (1983 and 1994), Lee Trevino (1985), Seve Ballesteros (1986 and 1991), Sandy Lyle (1988), Sir Nick Faldo (1989) and Justin Rose (2002).