Lee Westwood says Close House is in excellent condition as he prepares to host this week's 2020 Betfred British Masters.
The 47-year-old, who sits second in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, admits that his hosting duties look very different to when the tournament was last staged in north east England three years ago.
“The golf course is in great condition once again, probably better than the last time we hosted the British Masters,” he said.
“It's a better time in the calendar for the golf course. I don't think any of the players have had any complaints. The greens are quicker, fairways are immaculate. As long as the weather co-operates, we should have a great week.
“The crowds are a big loss. They provide the atmosphere and the noise. You can feed off that as a player and obviously lots of people came to the event and we could have sold more tickets, and everyone enjoyed themselves on the golf course and in the tented village.
“Hopefully having it this time without crowds, in the near future Close House might get it again and people will be able to make it a great event for the surrounding area as they did in 2017.”
Westwood's excellent start to the season, which included victory in Abu Dhabi, saw him return to the Official World Golf Ranking's top 50 for the first time since 2017.
His win in the Middle East came after a seven-week break and Westwood is hoping to repeat the trick following an enforced absence during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I would like to get off to another good start this year,” he added. “The last time I had a long break and played was in Abu Dhabi, so the break didn't do me too much harm there. Got straight back into it with regards to scoring and being game fit. Hopefully this time it won't take me long.
“I've played this golf course a lot, especially over the last three or four months. When the courses opened up myself and my son Sam were our here nearly every day either practising or playing.
“You're never entirely sure until you get started. I would say I would be over golfed rather than under golfed coming here. I've been playing a lot and I'm certainly fitter than when I started the year.
“I used the lockdown to get fitter, lose a few pounds. I've been doing a lot of weights and flexibility work. Feeling very healthy and looking forward to the second half of the season. Getting going again and see if this fitness can pay off. I feel like I'm swinging the club well, doing everything as well as I was when we closed down. Hopefully I'll pick up where we left off.”