The European Tour returns to the Forest of Arden for the first time since 2005. Words and stats by Andy Swales...
"Two other pros who posted top-10s on Saturday, in their first outings since early March, were Englishman Andy Sullivan and New Zealander Ryan Fox."
The European Tour has journeyed 200 miles south for this week's Hero Open in leafy Warwickshire.
Tournament No 2, in the six-week summer dash around Britain, takes the pros to the Forest of Arden Country Club which stages its first European Tour event in 15 years.
Situated approximately midway between Nuneaton and the centre of Birmingham, Forest of Arden was a regular fixture on Tour during the 1990s and early years of the new millennium.
This Heart of England venue is a typical lush parkland layout which will host the second event of the UK Swing.
The club's championship course was designed by well-known British architect Donald Steel, and opened in the early 1990s, and has water coming into play on 11 holes.
Although prize money is less than what would normally be available at this time of year on the European Tour, there is still plenty of incentive for those taking part.
A special UK Swing 'Order of Merit' has been installed, with the leading 10 points scorers after the fifth event earning qualification to September's US Open in New York State.
For one season only, this mini 'Order of Merit' replaces the US Open qualifier which normally takes place at Walton Heath but has had to be cancelled in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This means there will be plenty to aim for through to the completion of the Wales Open at Celtic Manor on August 23rd, with the top 10 pros in the points table qualifying to compete in the rescheduled US Open at Winged Foot (September 17-20).
All but one of those who finished in the top-10 at Close House last week are teeing-up in the Midlands.
These include South African Justin Harding who finished third in what was his first start for 20 weeks.
Check out the latest betting ahead of this week's Hero Open
Harding, who was ranked inside the world's top 50 during the early part of last summer, is now 106.
Two other pros who posted top-10s on Saturday, in their first outings since early March, were Englishman Andy Sullivan and New Zealander Ryan Fox.
Sullivan, without a victory since October 2015, was born in Nuneaton and will certainly be keen to perform well on home soil - even though there won't be any spectators there to support him.
In last week's British Masters, 12 of the top 20 finishers were from the UK, although none of these dozen managed to stand on the podium.
And it would be no surprise if home golfers populated the leaderboard again this weekend.
With the Forest of Arden last hosting a European Tour event in 2005, fewer than 20 of those taking part have competed here previously.
Three golfers who enjoyed top-four finishes over this layout 15 years ago were winner Thomas Bjorn, runner-up David Howell and Michael Campbell (T-4th).
But with all three currently ranked outside the top 800, it is highly unlikely they will come close to lifting the trophy on Sunday.
One player who will fancy his chances, however, is Robert Rock who hails from nearby Lichfield.
The 43-year-old tied-for-fourth at the course 17 years ago and, on Saturday at Close House, occupied an identical position in the British Masters.
Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive
Table below shows current tournament form
MC* - Missed Additional 54-Hole Cut
Note: List Contains Leading Reserves
|Min Woo Lee||MC||MC||MC|
|Joachim B Hansen||47||MC||MC|
|Darius Van Driel||MC||4||MC||36|
|Louis De Jager||MC||36||30|
|Sebastian Rodriguez Garcia||MC||4||MC||MC|
|Lars Van Meijel||53||MC||28||62|
|Emilio Cuartero Blanco||MC||MC|
|Miguel Angel Jimenez||38||8|
|Nicolai Von Dellingshausen||28||15|