Why the loss of the British Masters should concern us all
Next week we will likely discover that the British Masters won’t be part of the European Tour calendar in 2019. So, after the seeming success four years Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose hosting and title sponsor Sky Sports throwing all sorts of initiatives at the event it will, again, be no more.
I’m joined in this week’s Fourball by Steve Carroll, James Savage and Alex Perry.
How much does it bother you, given how much golf is on the TV, that we don’t have a national Open in England or Wales and the British Masters is now set to go under?
Steve: It irks me considerably, actually. Maybe ‘British Masters’ was a bit of a misnomer given it’s only been staged in England but it’s proved popular with fans and players have, generally speaking, got behind it during the last four stagings. I realise professional golf is all about chasing cash but there feels something fundamentally wrong about ditching a tournament that is well supported by spectators. It’s a bit of a kick in the teeth for those of us who enjoy attending events.
James: I have enjoyed the British Masters over the past few years and I’m pretty sure the players and fans have too. It’s probably in my top three European Tour events of the season.
We’ve got some fantastic courses and knowledgeable, passionate fans – I’m not really sure why it’s proving so difficult to make it work.
Alex: I find it astonishing that the powers that be who claim to be passionate about growing the game can’t make a regular tour event in England and Wales work. They can’t possibly be so blinkered to know that without golfers and golf fans coming through in future generations then there will be no European Tour. If they can make the likes of the Sicily Open work, they can make an English or Welsh Open work.
My verdict: I would say watching a host of tournaments in the South of England got me into golf more than actually playing the game in the early 80s. Other European countries seem to be able to host a national Open yet we’re all missing out. The last Wales Open was in 2014, you have to go back to 2002 for the last English Open. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Nobody watches golf on Sky so how on earth are youngsters supposed to get into it?
If you were to host the British Masters where would you host it, what would the format be and who would you not invite?
James: I’d host it at The Belfry – it’s centrally located, has all the right facilities and ‘infrastructure’ and would attract brilliant crowds. I’d do the Hero Challenge on the 10th tee the night before. Format would be 72-hole strokeplay. Play-off holes would be the 9th, 10th and 18th. I’d invite a few Ryder Cup legends to add to the nostalgia of it all.
Alex: Like the hosts in the previous four years, I’d take it to my homeland. Logistics aside, an Open at Royal North Devon is the dream – but a British Masters will suffice. I really like the format of the Amateur Championship where it is two days of strokeplay then into a matchplay event. But I’ll work on that once the European Tour confirm me as a host…
Steve: I was lucky enough to see the British Masters at my home course, Close House, so that is out. It’s far too small to ever hold it but I adore Swinley Forest and no professional would ever moan about spending a week round there. This might make me unpopular but, for a ‘national’ championship, it’s 72-hole strokeplay all the way. When it comes to doling out invites, I’d have round-the-clock surveillance going on at Rory and Sergio’s houses. Get those two and anyone else you want follows suit.
My verdict: Let’s get to the coast at a decent time of year and have a mixed matchplay – 128 of your finest golfers and, like every other brilliant knockout competition, if you lose you’re packing your bags. The only people I wouldn’t invite are those who insist on appearance fees. So 18 holes at a collection of the greatest links, the first year we’d kick things off at Royal Dornoch (below). Yes yes it’s a long way to go but so is Malaysia for the prospect of two competitive rounds. There would be a perk for the travelling fan of heavily-discounted green fees in the area that week. It would be one big jamboree.
The European Tour schedule is out next week, pick one tournament outside of the WGCs and majors that you’re most looking forward to and the one you’d like to get rid of?
Alex: Due to family commitments, I don’t (can’t) watch a lot of European Tour golf – so a Sunday in front of the TV watching golf is a rare treat. As a result, the events I end up watching most of are Asian based because they are early morning, or PGA Tour in the evening. That said, I’ll always make time for the Scottish and Irish Opens – mainly because I’m getting giddy with excitement about the battle for the Claret Jug. What would I lose? No fans, no tournament. Sorry.
Steve: I’ve always liked the French Open. I’ve been to Le Golf National a few times and have always found the combination of that course and a weekend in Paris quite hypnotic. On the flip side, I’ve got no love for any of the early year tournaments on the European Tour. I know they fill a gap, but I’ve never once found the need to tune into the Mauritius Open.
James: I can’t wait for the Czech Masters, it’s the first event I look out for when the schedule is announced. Sorry, I mean I couldn’t care less about it. Aside from the British Masters, I really like the Scottish Open it feels like a taster for The Open, it’s going to be on a great course and usually has a very strong field. Or at least has a few big-name American players trying to figure out/remember how to play links golf.
My verdict: Just given the timing and the time difference then probably Abu Dhabi as I might not have seen some of their faces for as long as six weeks. The purist in me says the Scottish or Irish Opens as long as it’s at a world-class links. And it would be a farewell to the Fiji International at the start of August. My mum could be playing in this and it would still pass me by.