The British Masters makes a welcome return to the European Tour on Thursday this week, with Ian Poulter hosting. Steve takes a detailed look at the tournament here...
“Visually, the Marquess Course looks very similar to Wentworth – home of the BMW PGA Championship in May – and players that play well at Surrey’s finest have also fared well here.”
The British Masters, originally known as the Dunlop Masters, was first played in 1946. There was no edition in 1984 and the event was lost from the schedule after Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano ousted Lee Westwood in a play-off at The Belfry in 2008.
With Ian Poulter hosting, at the course he represents, a reasonably strong field will assemble on Thursday but there's no Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson or Sergio Garcia, and Justin Rose is a surprising absentee also.
The Marquess Course, Woburn Golf Club, Buckinghamshire, England
Par 72, 7,214 yards
Woburn Golf Club was first used for this event 36 years ago but that was on the Dukes Course. The Marquess Course - designed by Peter Alliss and Clive Clark - only opened in 2000 but it was the host venue for this event in 2001 and 2002.
The Marquess has also been used for Open Championship qualification in each of the last two years. I can't locate the 2014 leaderboard but here's this year's.
It's a tight, tree-lined, parkland course that should reward accuracy over power. This is what Lee Westwood had to say about it. "I remember it being quite tight off the tee, so while it's quite short and therefore scorable, you've got to drive the ball well to go low there."
For more on the course, please see the hole-by-hole guide linked below.
Live on Sky Sports all four days beginning on Thursday at 9:00. Sky are supporting the event so there's lots of coverage and there's even a live preview show on Wednesday afternoon at 14:30.
Last Five Winners
2009 - 2014 No Tournament
2008 - Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Playoff)
2007 - Lee Westwood
2006 - Johan Edfors
2005 - Thomas Bjorn
What Will it Take to Win The British Masters?
When Thomas Levet won here in 2001 he ranked third for Driving Accuracy and first for Greens In Regulation and Justin Rose took the title 12 months later ranking seventh for DA and fifth for GIR.
This is not going to be a week to side with the inaccurate big-hitters - it's tight off the tee and there are trees everywhere. Look to the accurate plotters and to those high up on the Driving Accuracy stats.
Is There an Angle In?
Visually, the Marquess Course looks very similar to Wentworth - home of the BMW PGA Championship in May - and players that play well at Surrey's finest have also fared well here.
David Howell, who has a great record at Wentworth (won the PGA in 2006), led this event going into the final round in 2001, and the man that won the event, Thomas Levet, has finished inside the top-ten at Wentworth three times. The 2002 winner here, Justin Rose, has twice finished runner-up in the PGA and there are a number of others that have contented at both venues.
I don't have any hole averages from the two editions in 2001 and 2002 and the position of the main contenders after each round is a confusing picture but for the record, here are the details.
Ian Poulter was never outside the front three in 2002 when he finished second to his mate Rose, and Rose himself was only three off the lead after round one but he was six strokes adrift at halfway before a pair of 65s at the weekend saw him edge past Poulter by a stroke.
The four play-off protagonists in 2001 - Levet, Howell, Mathias Gronberg and Robert Karlsson - were all inside the top-ten after round one. Howell and Karlsson were never outside the top-three all week but Levet trailed by five at halfway and Gronberg was six back.
Shane Lowry heads the market and rightly so. He only finished 19th at the Alfred Dunhill Championship last week but that was after he'd opened up the event with a very disappointing 74 that left him far too much to do. That slow start was understandable given he'd had such a long break since missing the cut in the USPGA Championship but he finished with rounds of 69, 66 and 67 and he looks primed to challenge on a course that should really suit him.
His record at Wentworth is excellent (three top-six finishes from five starts) and even when trees come into play, he seems to have the guile and imagination to work his way round them. See the below video of his victory in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational just three starts ago.
An accurate test is right up Francesco Molinari's street but as I highlighted on Sunday in the De-Brief, he has just three victories from over 300 starts and he doesn't even get close to representing value at around 20/1.
Ian Poulter comes to life at around this time of the year, although it might still be a bit early for him. Incredibly, five of his last six wins have been in November and the odd one out came in December! He clearly knows the course intimately and he has tournament form in the book too but hosting the event could take up a lot of his energy and he hasn't won for getting on for three years. He's simply too short for my liking.
Like Lowry, I fancy Danny Willett will love the course and will improve for last week's pipe opener but I'm happy to leave him out too and Jamie Donaldson reminds me of Molinari in that he's always too short given how irregularly he wins.
With so much guesswork involved, at a venue unused for so long, I'm taking it very easy from the off and I've had only modest wagers on just three before the off.
Having led the Open Championship at St Andrews with a round to go last July and having led last week's event after round one, it's quite clear that brand new pro, Paul Dunne, has a bright future. He comfortably won the two Open Championship qualifiers here when still an amateur so obviously likes the venue and he looks worth chancing.
There was a bit of a mad scrum to get on yesterday when the markets first went up and some firms went as high as 150/1 but that didn't last long and the 100.099/1 available today is still fair.
Thomas Aiken has been trying to win a place on the PGA Tour via the Web.com Tour over the last few months and his fast finishing fifth at the Web.com Tour Championship on Sunday did at least result in limited membership. He'll get a few starts on the PGA Tour next year but I'm more interested in him here. He's a very neat and tidy player with form at Wentworth and after last week's eye-catching performance in the States I thought he was worth chancing on a course that looks made for his game.
My final pick is Mikael Lundberg at a monstrous price. The Swede often pops up and contends and he's shown a real aptitude for tree-lined golf courses. He's won three times on the European Tour (including the Lyoness Open in Austria only last year) and he has experience of the course. He finished down the field in this event in 2002 and he finished eighth at the Open qualifier last year.
Away from the outright market, David Drysdale isn't someone I can see winning but he's a very straight hitter and he'll be feeling good about himself having finished ninth last week to secure his card for next year. At 12/1, he looks reasonably priced to record another top-10 on a track that looks sure to suit him.
Paul Dunne @ 100.099/1
Thomas Aiken @ 110.0109/1
Mikael Lundberg @ 500.0499/1
David Drysdale Top 10 Finish @ 12/1 (Sportsbook)
I'll be back with the In-Play blog on Friday and if you missed it yesterday, here's my preview of the Presidents Cup.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter