The European Tour heads to Walton Heath this Thursday for the British Masters. Justin Rose is the host, and the Englishman has assembled a robust European contingent to compete.
With Rose’s media commitments and duties as host, he could be forgiven for an average performance. However, a T2 or better finish for Rose will take him back to World No.1 so he’ll be extremely motivated to perform in front of his home fans.
Rose will undoubtedly have his work cut out with plenty of golfers staking a claim for the championship. Here are some players to consider this week:
Molinari is a favourite of mine; he proved his worth to us all at the Ryder Cup winning top European Point scorer as I predicted at 8/1. For those who were brave enough to back outright top points scorer enjoyed a tasty 14/1 price.
Molinari in recent times has been unflappable. His consistent playing style and calm on course demeanour have established him as a world-class golfer. Nobody questioned his ball striking or temperament; it was whether he would hole his fair share of putts.
Newfound belief has put his putting woes behind him; this has emphasised how good the rest of his game is. This was evident at the Ryder Cup; the tough layout was tamed by the Italian with pinpoint accuracy whereas his opponents buckled under the relentless consistency of his game.
The Italian has already won twice on British soil this year: he won the BMW Championship at Wentworth then the British Open in spectacular style fending off Mcilroy, Woods and Spieth in a captivating final round.
Molinari has a chance to sign off a fantastic season with a Race to Dubai win. There are valuable points on offer at the British Masters so the Italian will be motivated to perform this week.
Pepperell captured his first European Tour event at the Qatar Masters. Although there was no debate over his talent, it was certainly a relief to fulfil his potential and get into the winner’s circle. 2018 has been a breakthrough year for the Englishman boasting six top 10 finishes.
Eddie has an average score of sub 70 this year; this is an impressive stat. By no means will this week be a birdie-fest but it will give him plenty of confidence that all aspects of his game are firing.
His best finish in a major is a top 6 in the British Open – the links style of an Open is a similar test that Walton Heath provides. Also, Eddie is no stranger to Walton Heath; he navigated the course successfully in 2017 where he qualified for the US open.
It would be naïve to discount him of threatening over the weekend.
I picked the Irishman last week, and he didn’t fire on all cylinders. That said, his B game was still enough to post a top 10 finish. Frankly, Padraig relishes the challenge of links golf and his ability to embrace it is a crucial element to his success over the years.
The harsh conditions at the Dunhill could be ideal preparation for the Irishman; he negotiated them well with over 80% GIR which for Padraig is peak form. He’ll be keen to bring that consistency into this week. Furthermore, he posted a bogey-free final day 69 in difficult conditions, so all parts of his game are sharp.
Walton Heath has generous greens; this should suit Harrington knowing that he can recover from his errant drives that are inevitable over the tournament. In three of his last four events, he has finished inside the top 10. This suggests he is trending towards a win.
The German is an underrated player of the European Tour. He has had a stuttering season this year posting only one top 10 at the Nordea. However, having watched Kieffer live, I was impressed with his repetitive, rhythmic swing. His swing will hold up to the challenges that Walton Heath poses.
Putting from the right level at Walton Heath is very important given the large greens. Maximillian has superb control over his distances, and this could give him plenty of chances for birdies and reduce the risk of three-putt bogeys. He is due a big performance, and I see the layout as a good fit for Kieffer to provide each way value.