The 2019 British Masters (May 9-12) takes place at Hillside Golf Club in Southport, a links course that sits adjacent to Birkdale Golf Course that has hosted several Open Championships.
It’s a course that is rated highly amongst many of the world’s best golfers but, for whatever reason, it hasn’t staged a European Tour event since the 1982 Sun Alliance PGA Championship, though the 2013 English Seniors Open was also held here.
However, this location continues the new-look British Masters use of some of England’s most loved golf courses. It measures just under 7,000 yards, but this Par-72 promises to test every shot in the players’ armouries this week, especially if the forecast wind arrives.
Many holes are built around sand dunes, whilst a variety of brooks and pot bunkers will catch out anyone that doesn’t hit the right club. The course also features some trees, and avoiding these and the thick rough that lines the tricky-to-hit fairways will need avoiding to put a low score on the board.
The Par-5s are reachable by all unless the wind is strongly against, whilst a number of par-4s around the 400-yards distance should mean there are plenty of birdie chances for those in control of their games. Distance off the tee probably won’t be as much of an advantage as accuracy, as there also several dog-legs to navigate strategically.
Nobody will want to impress more than Tommy Fleetwood this week, as he’s not only a local Southport boy but also the tournament host. However, even though Fleetwood has the type of easy-going personality that should take his hosting role in his stride, he’ll still do well to win with all that extra work on his plate.
Previous hosts have certainly struggled since the rebirth of the British Masters in 2015, with neither Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, or Lee Westwood making an impact in the previous four editions. That’s why at odds of 8/1, it could be worth passing on Tommy Fleetwood this week.
That could leave the door open for second-favourite Tyrell Hatton. He certainly loves Links golf, as demonstrated by his two wins in the Alfred Dunhill Links and a variety of other high-profile finishes on such courses.
Admittedly, he’s not been in the best of form so far this season, but he did suggest at the WGC World Matchplay that he could step it up at some point soon. He certainly demonstrated his patriotism during his win in the Ryder Cup, and a return to Britain should see him in a better light. He’s performed well in his previous three starts in this tournament, finishing in the top-13 on each occasion, and this course should suit his game even better than the ones used for those editions.
Another links lover that’s probably been biding his time in the build-up to this event is Ryan Fox, and the Kiwi has posted several high-profile finishes on links courses over the last couple of seasons.
Having won his maiden tour title earlier this year in Australia, he should also be bursting with confidence. He’s nicely rested after a few weeks off and he could be ready to put in a big performance.
The bookies may have made an error in pricing-up Callum Shinkwin at big-odds this week, as the young Englishman is desperate to make the most of limited opportunities on tour this year after losing his card last season. He’s another that has posted some of his best performances on links courses and could reward at least each-way support this week.
Finally, a European Tour rookie that has loads of links golf experience at amateur-level is Grant Forrest. The Englishman has been putting in the air miles this year in a bid to establish himself on tour this season and, with a couple of high finishes in the bank already, this looks another week where he has a good chance of securing next year’s card.