It once again proved to be a brilliant tournament, but it can't be ignored that the star names were missing


How To Improve The British Masters

The British Masters returned last week with Tommy Fleetwood hosting at Hillside.

A brilliant host on a superb golf course made the tournament look a very strong one, although an odd place on the schedule eventually led to a weaker field than we may have hoped for.

Matt Wallace, who finished T2nd, called the strength of field “a massive shame” and many fans would have agreed with him.

One thing worth mentioning is that we all should be happy that the tournament was even taking place, as it did look doubtful after Sky Sports ended their sponsorship last year.

Thankfully Betfred stepped in for an initial two years, although that does mean that the 2020 tournament at Close House hosted by Lee Westwood may be the betting company’s last.

Going back to last year, the tournament was hosted by Justin Rose and headlined by him plus his fellow Ryder Cup stars Francesco Molinari, Tommy Fleetwood and Thorbjorn Olesen.

Other big names included Eddie Pepperell, Matt Wallace and Haotong Li.

This time around, just two of the 2018 Ryder Cup side turned up with host Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton, whilst other big European Tour names decided to either play on the PGA Tour or take the week off.

So, how can the British Masters return to its former glory?

Let’s not forget that the tournament has been around since 1946 (known as the Dunlop Masters then) and its past champions list is a who’s who of golf, including Ballesteros, Faldo, Jacklin, Lyle, Norman, Langer, Trevino, Montgomerie, Westwood etc.

Rolex Series

Wallace suggested it and that is perhaps the only option the tournament now has if it wants to start attracting the names that it should.

“I think if we can try to carry on the British Masters, it’s such a big event, then maybe make it a Rolex Series event or something and get people back,” he said.

The four-time European Tour winner also said that he sees the tournament just below the BMW PGA Championship which is a Rolex Series event itself.

The European Tour has given great backing to the tournaments currently on the Rolex Series, which offers prize pools of $7m (compared to the British Masters’ £3m), and that would certainly help get some bigger names over.

It simply could not compete with the PGA Tour’s AT&T Byron Nelson ($7.9m) financially and will continue to struggle until the prize fund gets a boost.

Get a better date in the schedule

Sure, there are dozens and dozens of tournaments throughout the season which all want the best dates in the schedule, but this year’s event was really hit by a poor date.

Again I don’t want to be too harsh because we were worried the British Masters wouldn’t return, but it was not an appealing prospect for Tour players.

Imagine you’re a world’s top 50 player and you have three options –

  • Take a week off before the USPGA Championship
  • Play at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Texas which has a purse of $7.9m – 1hr time difference to Bethpage, 3hr 30 flight
  • Play in British Masters for a purse of £3m – 5hr time difference to Bethpage, 8hr flight

Which option would you choose?

Quite simply, the event had little appeal to anyone inside the world’s top 50, and the likes of Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Wallace and Eddie Pepperell who did turn up need to be applauded for supporting the event.

It also should be said that Tommy Fleetwood did a fantastic job as host and is proving to be a huge star with a lot of class both on and off the golf course.

Next year’s tournament returns to Close House with Lee Westwood and is scheduled for the end of July/start of August, two weeks after the Open Championship.

That is good news and a much better date than this year’s as all of the Majors will have been and gone by then.

Betfred only signed on for two years so it still remains to be seen what happens with the event in 2021.

Here are possible suggestions for the British Masters’ place in the schedule –

  • Put it before the Irish and Scottish Opens – Create a links swing of 4 weeks so: British, Irish, Scottish, Open Championship
  • Move back to original date in October before the Finals Series
  • Move it to the week before or after BMW PGA Championship in September, creating a British fortnight or three-week stretch with the Dunhill Links

Where the tournament should be

With a good date, perhaps near the Open Championship or BMW PGA Championship, and the backing of the Rolex Series, the British Masters could really become a great event again.

European Ryder Cuppers like Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Jon Rahm, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and co. could possibly be persuaded to play a double Rolex Series swing with the British Masters and BMW PGA or if it was near the Open.

Either way, the British Masters is a brilliant tournament that needs to be supported by the Tour, sponsors and the players, as our fans and golf courses really are some of the best in the world.

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