The European Tour’s new six event UK Swing begins this week with the Betfred British Masters hosted by Lee Westwood at Close House. Here, we take a look at five things you need to know ahead of the 2020 edition.
Westwood resumes hosting duties
Lee Westwood will become the first player to host the Betfred British Masters on two occasions this week as the tournament returns to Close House, near Newcastle upon Tyne, marking the start of the European Tour’s new six event UK Swing.
The former World Number One was host the last time the Betfred British Masters was played at the North East venue in 2017, and he’ll be joined in the field by the last three winners as he aims to clinch the title for the second time, following his 2007 victory at The Belfry.
“I’m delighted to be hosting again,” said ten-time Ryder Cup player Westwood. “I did it in 2017, three years ago here at Close House, and I really enjoyed it. I learnt a lot about what goes in to running a golf tournament, so it was interesting to see things from a different perspective.
“It’s a tough job and a tiring one at that. It was tough to do it that week and play golf too, I sort of ran out of steam towards the end, but it is going to be different this year. No crowds, a little less media and things like that, which will allow me to focus more time on trying to win the golf tournament this time round.”
Start of the UK Swing
After two dual-ranking events in Austria, the European Tour’s reshaped 2020 season continues with the UK Swing, a six-event series that begins this week at the Betfred British Masters.
As part of the new Golf for Good initiative, a mini Order of Merit will run for all six events in the UK Swing, with the top ten sharing an additional £250,000 to donate to charities of their choice.
Meanwhile, the USGA has confirmed that the top 10 aggregate points earners in the mini Order of Merit that are otherwise not exempt at the conclusion of the fifth event – the Wales Open at Celtic Manor - will be exempt for the rescheduled U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club on September 17-20.
The Betfred British Masters will be followed by the Hero Open at the Forest of Arden Marriott Hotel & Country Club and the English Championship at Hanbury Manor Marriott Hotel & Country Club, before The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport hosts back-to-back European Tour tournaments – the Celtic Classic and the Wales Open. The UK Swing then concludes with the UK Championship at The Belfry.
Launch of Golf for Good
In addition to adhering to the European Tour’s comprehensive Health Strategy, all tournaments from July until December will also be part of the new ‘Golf for Good’ initiative, a narrative which will underpin the season and one which aims to give back in three key areas:
▪ Supporting the Communities where the European Tour plays.
▪ Rewarding the true heroes, such as the front line workers.
▪ Promoting the many health benefits that golf offers.
Across the six-week UK Swing there will be £500,000 distributed by the Tour to charities local to the tournament venues and charities chosen by the leading ten players in a mini Order of Merit which will run across the tournaments.
This week, tournament host Lee Westwood has thrown his support behind the Sir Graham Wylie Foundation and founder Sir Graham Wylie, one of the North East’s best-known entrepreneurs and philanthropists.
The Sir Graham Wylie Foundation will receive £50,000 as part of the Golf for Good initiative with many more activities implemented during the tournament week, including an Online Silent Auction, plus charitable donations from Betfred (£50,000) and Hero MotoCorp (£20,000 split evenly between professional and the Sir Graham Wylie Foundation) to the first Tour professionals to make a hole-in-one during the tournament on their allocated holes.
Inside the field
The Betfred British Masters marks the restart of the season for many of Europe’s elite – including the three most recent winners of the event.
Defending champion Marcus Kinhult birdied the final two holes at Hillside Golf Club last season to earn his maiden Tour win, and he is joined in the field by former champion Eddie Pepperell, who followed up his British Masters victory in 2018 with a runner-up finish to the Swede last year.
Also bidding for a second Betfred British Masters title is Irishman Paul Dunne, who triumphed in style at Close House in 2017, producing a fantastic closing round of 61 to hold off a late charge from Rory McIlroy and win his first European Tour title. He is making his first start of the 2020 season, having been side-lined with a wrist injury.
They’ll have to hold off Westwood , who won this event at The Belfry in 2007 and has a big advantage in terms of course knowledge. The former World Number One, who earned his 25th European Tour title in Abu Dhabi in January, has been playing at Close House three or four times a week since the golf course reopened.
Westwood said: “I have played a lot of golf of late and certainly no one will have played the golf course as much as I have.”
Westwood is one of seven European Tour winners from this season competing this week, joining Pablo Larrazabal, Rasmus Højgaard, Sami Välimäki, Lucas Herbert, Min Woo Lee and recent Austrian Open winner Marc Warren.
Miguel Ángel Jiménez is set to make history this week as he tees up in his 706th event, which will see him tie Sam Torrance’s record for appearances on the European Tour.
The Spaniard recently recorded a seven under par 65 during the second round of the Austrian Open, which was his lowest round on the European Tour since the 2018 Italian Open. Speaking at the event, Jiménez said he was excited by the prospect of breaking the record soon.
“You never know what’s going to happen in July, but I’m getting close to the record for appearances,” he said. “I’m excited for that.”
Jiménez, who has won 21 European Tour titles, already holds a number of records on Tour. He broke his own record during the 2014 Open de España to become the oldest winner at 50 years, 133 days, and surpassed Colin Montgomerie when he recorded his tenth hole in one on the 148 yard par three second hole during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.