British Masters: European Tour Starts in Earnest

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Paul Dunne won the British Masters in 2017

The Austrian Open and the Euram Bank Open provided some low-key action as the European Tour eased into the post-lockdown era, but the circuit steps up a gear this week with the British Masters at Close House.

The Tour is staging six tournaments in the United Kingdom before the end of next month and the first takes place in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It is the same venue which hosted the British Masters in 2017, an edition which was won by Paul Dunne, with Rory McIlroy finishing runner-up.

Dunne chipped-in on the 72nd hole to put the icing on the cake of a final-round 61 and a 20-under-par total, which was enough for a three-shot triumph. The wind is not expected to get up much over the next four days and another birdie-fest seems likely this time.

Dunne is the only winner in the field of a European Tour event at Close House, but 70/1* chance Marcus Armitage won a EuroPro Tour event there in 2015, so the Englishman will fancy his chances.

Lee Westwood Looking to Build on Abu Dhabi Success

The British Masters host is Lee Westwood, but with no spectators allowed on the site and media invitations limited, there are not so many duties for the 25-time European Tour champion.

Westwood should be able to concentrate on his own game, which gives the Ryder Cup legend an excellent opportunity of success on a course he knows well. Close House is his practice base and he got several rounds under his belt there during lockdown.

If Westwood brings the same form he showed before the coronavirus suspension to Newcastle-upon-Tyne this week, then the rest of the field could be playing for second place. The Worksop-born swinger won the high-class Abu Dhabi Championship in the middle of January, then followed up with fourth place in the Honda Classic on the PGA Tour in early March.

That is form which the vast majority of this field can only dream about – and Westwood has been on a lockdown health kick to make sure he comes back with a bang. He has shed two stone and is fighting-fit for Close House combat.

Scottish Duo Can Flourish Just South of the Border

Westwood is an attractive favourite, but if the host flops, a pair of Scotsmen may be waiting to take advantage. Marc Warren and Connor Syme could take the British Masters trophy north.

Warren, a 40/1 chance, won the Austrian Open the week before last, getting his career back on track after a barren spell. That was his fourth Tour victory and this sweet swinger has a great record in UK events. He won the Johnnie Walker Championship in 2007 and lost a playoff for the BMW PGA in 2013.

Syme, 45/1, was fourth in the Austrian Open won by Warren. Syme, an accurate sort who won on the Challenge Tour last year, has made a bright start to life on the European Tour.

*All odds correct at time of writing.

Steve has been a Racing Post columnist, golf tipster and punter for most of his working life. One of the most well-known tipsters in the country, his columns featuring golf betting tips have been must read material for years.
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