Comment: No need for Scotland to host British Masters

Last weeks British Masters at Close House attracted the biggest crowds since the event was restored in 2015
Last weeks British Masters at Close House attracted the biggest crowds since the event was restored in 2015
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It is brilliant to see it back on the European Tour and well done to Lee Westwood in joining Ian Poulter and Luke Donald in embracing the role of host. But there is no need whatsoever of even entertaining a thought about bringing the British Masters to Scotland in the foreseeable future.

Why? Because we’ve already got enough top-class events here every single year and, at a time when those tournaments aren’t being supported nearly as well as they should be, the last thing we need is another one added to the mix.

Last week’s British Masters, the event’s third staging since it was re-instated in a partnership involving the European Tour and Sky Sports, attracted a crowd of 60,180 over the four tournament days, beating the totals of 57,047 and 53,066 at Woburn and The Grove respectively the previous two years.

Even taking into account the fact that 10,000 people had taken advantage of a free ticket offer for the first round, that was an impressive 
figure, with the total for the week, which included the latest Hero Shoot-out Challenge under floodlights on Tuesday night, being around 68,000.

It was a perfect example of why such events should be spread around the country and not just held in Scotland or close to London, as has become the norm on the European Tour in respect of tournaments in the British Isles.

The North-East of England had been starved of top-class golf for more than a decade. The last notable event in that neck of the woods had been the Seve Trophy in 2005, three years after the Great North Open ended its run at Slaley Hall.

That’s why, despite factors such as the weather not being brilliant and the Close House course being far from friendly in terms of walking due to its hilly nature, so many people supported an event that had four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and Masters champion Sergio Garcia as its star attractions.

“Nearly 70,000. I think that’s brilliant,” said Westwood as he reflected on the event at a venue he’s attached to. “It’s the best attendance since we’ve brought the tournament back and I’m delighted with that. But I had a funny feeling 
people in the North-East would support it well.” Of the event having high-profile hosts, he added: “I think it’s a good initiative. I like it when an established player hosts a tournament. I think it brings a bit more to that tournament.”

If the original plan unveiled in 2015 is still in place, it will be Justin Rose’s turn next year, with Walton Heath rumoured to have been lined up to host his event. That should be another success on the attendance front given Rose hails from nearby Hampshire, coupled, of course, with the fact he’s the Olympic champion and a major winner, too.

Who knows what lies in store for the event thereafter, but there 
really is nothing to be gained by it coming to Scotland, even though it was staged at St Andrews in 1949 then Prestwick seven years later before England predominantly became its home. Which is why English Masters rather than British Masters might be a more appropriate title.

Yes, of course, it would be entirely appropriate for the likes of Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher to take on the role of host given the respect both have earned from their peers over the years on the European Tour, but the fact of the matter is that the British Masters has more to gain from continuing to move around England and even, perhaps, making a visit to Wales.

Let’s see it hosted somewhere like Ganton, a brilliant golf course in Yorkshire, by Danny Willett or Matt Fitzpatrick. Or Hillside or Formby with local lad Tommy Fleetwood as the host. What about Chris Wood filling that role at St Mellion or Andy Sullivan at The Belfry or Forest Arden? Jamie Donaldson, the 2014 Ryder Cup hero, could be just be the man for the job in Wales, where Royal Porthcawl or Celtic Manor would be potential venues.

British golf can gain more out of any of those scenarios than the event coming to Scotland and shame on the individual who claimed on social media over the weekend that Lawrie should “step up” by bringing it to the home of golf. Really? The Aberdonian has stepped up already, yet one of the reasons the Paul Lawrie Match Play, having been staged for the last three years, is missing from the newly-released 2018 European Tour schedule is because it was poorly supported by Scottish fans. Enough said.