He’s the British Masters host with the most so far. After two rounds at Close House, Lee Westwood is faring better in combining an ambassadorial role with playing than either Ian Poulter or Luke Donald managed at Woburn and The Grove respectively over the past two years. On nine-under-par, the former world No 1 is lying joint second, three shots behind compatriot Tyrrell Hatton. “I like my position going into the weekend,” admitted Westwood after shooting a 65.
The Edinburgh-based player is not only attached to this week’s venue in Northumberland but was also tasked by its owner, Graeme Wylie, to suggest some design tweaks with an event like this in mind. Westwood feels it has been “toughened up in a fair way” and doesn’t mind in the slightest that plenty of birdies have been made so far this week.
“I don’t mind everybody [fans] coming out and seeing the lads hitting it close as that’s what golf is all about,” said Westwood. “I see too many tournaments where the pros are miserable and they have got their heads down because they are grinding away. I don’t mind a tournament like that, but I’d much rather come out and see birdies.”
As well as making his own share so far, the 44-year-old is bogey-free for 36 holes. It’s a praiseworthy feat bearing in mind the extra duties he’s taking on this week. “I actually feel like I should have my own ticket line,” said Westwood, smiling, in reply to being asked how many requests he’d received in that respect. “I’ve been very busy with this event for a year, basically, and extremely busy for the last three days. So, when I slipped my spikes on yesterday afternoon, it was a bit of a relief to be a golfer again.”
Led by Hatton, who backed up his opening 63 with a 65 to sit on 12-under, seven of the top nine at the halfway stage are English. They include Poulter, who was on the other side of the Atlantic from his wife on their tenth wedding anniversary as he signed for a 65 to sit alongside Westwood, as well as two other compatriots, Ashley Chesters and Chris Hanson, and also the Swede, Robert Karlsson. “Yes, I have remembered our anniversary,” said Poulter, who, like Hatton, Westwood and Chesters, carded his score in heavy morning rain before conditions improved significantly for a second-day crowd totalling 12,873. “I’ve sent a large bunch of flowers, lots of roses. That’s what happens when you have a decent PA. That’s why you pay her the big bucks to remind you on all the right days. I remembered actually. I have a calendar on my phone and I do put alerts on there.”
Hatton is developing a knack of producing his best golf late in the season. The 25-year-old Marlow man won the Dunhill Links Championship last autumn and now has another coveted title in his sights before defending that crown on Scottish soil next week. “After a bad summer, it feels good to be back in form for a big run of events coming up,” he said. “I’m really happy about how I’ve played the first two days, but there’s a hell of a lot of golf still to be played.”
Just inside the cut after a stuttering start, Rory McIlroy eventually made it through to the weekend with two shots to spare following a 69 but sits eight off the lead. The event’s other star attraction, Masters champion Sergio Garcia, missed the cut, though, as did Russell Knox, the only member of a seven-strong Scottish contingent to bow out early.
Richie Ramsay, who finished by holing a 45-foot birdie putt at the par-3 18th, sits joint tenth on six-under, two ahead of Scott Jamieson (68), while Marc Warren (67) is a shot further back. Helped by eagles late on in their rounds, Duncan Stewart (67) and Stephen Gallacher (69) both made it on two-under, as did David Drysdale (67).