The DP World Tour embarks on the UK for the first time in 2022 this week when the prestigious British Masters takes place at the iconic venue of The Belfry. This was a tournament which lit the hearts of sports fans around the world last year and will hope to do so once again.
That is because at the 478th time of asking, Richard Bland finally got his name onto the list of winners at this level. The veteran is here to attempt to make a successful defence of the title but faces some fairly stiff competition.
2021 – Richard Bland
2020 – Renato Paratore
2019 – Marcus Kinhult
2018 – Eddie Pepperell
2017 – Paul Dunne
2016 – Alex Noren
2015 – Matthew Fitzpatrick
We are on the Brabazon Course at The Belfry this week, the scene of Ryder Cups in the past. This track hosted this tournament last year and also one leg of the UK Swing during the pandemic in 2020. The course is a par 72 which measures 7,328 yards which isn’t especially long by modern standards but it is still a decent test of golf, one where good ball striking and accuracy is the key as evidenced by Bland winning here last year.
You don’t need to drive the ball miles here. In fact this is very much a course for finding fairways and greens. The top 10 last year was filled with players who had a high GIR ranking but these greens are small and can be hard to find so scrambling is another key statistic. There isn’t really any premium on putting here, as there doesn’t tend to be on courses with small greens. The week might start with a soft course after Wednesday rain but the temperatures are expected to be warm throughout the week.
Once again Danny Willett hosts the tournament. He did a wonderful job last year and has resumed the hosting duties. He also has a tee time too. He would have liked to attract a stronger field than there is but with the next major a couple of weeks away the strength in depth here was never going to be the strongest. Nevertheless, the defending champion Richard Bland is in the field and there are plenty of home stars teeing it up with him and the host.
They include Robert MacIntyre, Sam Horsfield, former host Lee Westwood, Laurie Canter, Ross Fisher and Andy Sullivan. There is also a decent European contingent looking to run off with the title this week including the former winner around here, Rasmus Hojgaard, Adrian Meronk, the winner in Spain last week Adri Arnaus, Thomas Detry and Adrian Otaegui. There are also plenty of internationals in the field with Ryan Fox, Dean Burmester and Oliver Bekker among them.
Robert MacIntyre is a 22/1 favourite this week. That price alone highlights how competitive this tournament might well be. He has been plying his trade in America recently but his four DP World Tour spins in the desert saw him register finishes of MC-MC-13-9. The Scot was in the top 10 here last year when he was equally as well favoured and had a chance to win on the final day but couldn’t get the job done. He’s just a fair price for me.
Adrian Meronk comes next in the betting at 25/1. The Polish star has four top six finishes on the DP World Tour this season and he was third here last year so he should be heading to Birmingham full of confidence. He is yet to win at this level and that is undoubtedly a concern in this field but you do get the feeling that much like Adri Arnaus ahead of last week, he has knocked at the door for long enough that it will open sooner rather than later.
The English pair of Jordan Smith and Sam Horsfield are joint third favourites this week at 28/1. They will both be hoping to use home crowds to their advantage. Smith has a couple of top two finishes this season and he was T17 here last year so he needs to be respected while Horsfield has only made one appearance since he withdrew mid-tournament at the Saudi Invitational. That was in the Zurich Classic where he didn’t play his own ball for all four rounds so I’d need to know he is match sharp before I backed him.
The only other player in the field this week who is shorter than 35/1 is Adri Arnaus. Regular readers will know that I am no fan of backing a player who has won for the first time the week before, especially one who had the emotional rollercoaster of winning on home soil and after a play-off. He is entitled to be a little flat at some point this week as he comes to term with everything which has happened. It is 35/1 bar.
The long game of Jordan Smith has been such recently that you would imagine he has to be back in the winning enclosure again soon. He was in the top 20 here last year so we know he can play this course and although his record on home soil isn’t fantastic, he has three top 10s in England so the home crowds don’t act as a detriment to him. In his last six recorded tournaments Smith has produced driving accuracy ranks of 3-6-18-4-13-4 so he is finding a lot of fairways in in that time he has posted figures of 2-3-1-1-9-9 in GIR so he is giving himself a lot of opportunities to strike. That obviously means he hasn’t delivered with the putter but on these smaller greens on grasses he’ll be familiar with he might well putt much better. If he does he looks a great bet at 28/1.
Laurie Canter looked like the winner in waiting for a long time in Catalunya last week but I’m hoping that the fuel in his belly missing out will have given him coupled with being in front of a home crowd here will inspire him to deliver the goods this week instead. Canter eventually ended up finishing third last week but he hit the ball well enough from tee to green to make me think he can go again here. The week before he led the field in greens in regulation so he is certainly ticking all those boxes needed to go well here. Had it not been for the doubt of how he will react to how last week eventually played out I think he would be the favourite this week. I’m happy to pay to see how he goes here.
Ross Fisher has been hitting the ball incredibly well recently, much better than his results would suggest anyway, and I think he can go well on a course he’ll know almost like the back of his hands. Fisher has three top 15 finishes in his last six starts but it is his GIR positioning that I like the most. In those events he has gone 2-14-6-47-3-4 for that discipline. The days where Fisher is going to be a regular contender are a thing of the past but when he is striking the ball as well as he is and is on a course he’ll know so well this is a week I think he can contend. I’ll take him as an outside bet.
Craig Howie hasn’t been in fantastic form this season but he was T12 in the Qatar Masters not so long ago and his approach play this season has been very strong. His last three GIR rankings have been 7-28-3 which is strong and if he can hit the ball that well this week then he should be able to make his way up the leaderboard. We know he doesn’t need to do anything when it comes to the course because he was fifth here two years ago. That was his only taste of this place so you would imagine he will play the course better second time around. He might be overpriced at 100/1.
Lukas Nemecz has been on my radar for a few weeks and he hasn’t quite delivered the goods when it comes to the end result too often. He was T15 in the first of the two Spanish events and then started last week strongly but faded over the weekend. The long game of the Austrian is in decent order. His last five recorded strokes gained tee to green ratings have been 2-18-17-9-12. It has been with the putter where he has struggled. I’ve already highlighted that on these small greens you don’t have to be a great putter so if his long game remains in good order then he is entitled to go well this week.
Back J.Smith to win British Masters (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with BetVictor (1/5 1-6)
Back him here:
Back L.Canter to win British Masters (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with Coral (1/5 1-8)
Back L.Nemecz to win British Masters (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with Coral (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
Back R.Fisher to win British Masters (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Betfred (1/5 1-10)
Back C.Howie to win British Masters (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back him here: