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Willett joins impressive list of former British Masters hosts

Willett joins impressive list of former British Masters hosts

Danny Willett joins Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood as the sixth player to host the Betfred British Masters since its return to the European Tour schedule in 2015.

Danny Willett is hosting the 2021 Betfred British Masters

This week’s Betfred British Masters hosted by Danny Willett, now in its 43rd edition, marks the first of nine events set to be held in the United Kingdom on the 2021 Race to Dubai.

Since its return to the European Tour schedule in 2015, hosting duties have belonged to some of British golf's most recognisable names, and this week Willett joins them.

“I’m very excited to be hosting the Betfred British Masters at a very iconic European venue in The Belfry. It’ll be a real honour.” said Willett. “We’ve had some great hosts and some great golf courses, it’s nice to see some of the best courses in Britain that people may not have had the chance to play on.

“I’ve wanted to do it ever since the first one in 2015. I thought the guys hosting it and having their say on a few things was a great idea. I am probably one of the ‘older’ players on Tour having been here for 11 years, so it’s a real honour to be able to host an event.”

Who else has hosted the British Masters?

Ian Poulter at Woburn (2015)

From walking the fairways as a teenager watching Seve play to memories of going head to head with Justin Rose for the British Masters title in 2002, it seemed fitting that Ian Poulter would play host on the British Masters return to Woburn and the European Tour schedule in 2015.

“When I drove through the gates yesterday morning, to feel what it really means, it's special,” Poulter had said ahead of his week as host. “To bring this tournament back, it means a lot.”

Fans turned up in their thousands each day to celebrate the return, watching on as Matthew Fitzpatrick went on to claim his first European Tour title.

Poulter could not quite produce the performance that the local fans wanted to see as he went 68-70-70-72 to finish four under, 11 shots behind Fitzpatrick, but he was quick to praise fans that week.

"We had 15,000 fans on Thursday, we've had something similar every day from then on in. They've come out in their thousands and that's what this place needs.

"British golf has been away for too long. This tournament, being able to bring it back the way we have, is a huge honour.”

ian poulter host british masters

Luke Donald at The Grove (2016)

Luke Donald became the second host of the British Masters at The Grove in 2016, and the former World Number One was not only heavily involved in the pre-planning of the tournament, but also part of several off-course initiatives that included the Hero Challenge and Masterclasses on Sky Sports.

Alex Noren won his third event of the season that week, and although Donald didn't make the cut, he did relish his first opportunity as host.

“The tournament was a big success and Alex (Noren) played like a champion this week,” said Donald after the end of the event.

“It’s been busy – I had a lot of responsibility to promote the event and make it unique..

“We did a good project with some kids, getting them to design the pin flag on 16, things like that. Obviously there was the Hero Challenge on Tuesday - there’s been a lot going but it’s been a fun and successful week.

“It’s been a privilege and an honour and if they gave me the opportunity to do it again then I certainly would do it.”

luke donald british masters host

Lee Westwood at Close House (2017 and 2020)

In the past four years, Lee Westwood has played host on two separate occasions at Close House, the first of which was back in 2017.

He was thoroughly involved throughout the week, and it was a role he relished at the club he’s now been involved with for a decade.

“I’ve enjoy being the tournament host,” said the former World Number One.

“It gave me another view of a tournament and an appreciation of what goes on leading up to a tournament and during the tournament. Special thanks to Graham Wylie and his team at Close House for doing fantastic job and the European Tour for putting a great event on. I’m glad I did it and hopefully everybody had a good time.”

He ended the week in a tie for 15th as Paul Dunne edged out Rory McIlroy to his first Tour win, and it was only a couple of years later that it was announced Westwood would be bringing the Betfred British Masters back to Close House in 2020.

Yet last year’s hosting duties were in stark contrast to years gone by. While the course was in exceptional condition, the tournament marked the official restart of the European Tour following a four month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning new protocols and no crowds.

“The Tour and Close House have done an amazing job,” said Westwood of getting the event up and running, despite missing the fans and the atmosphere.

“When we turned up on Monday I was surprised how thorough everything was. I knew we were going to be on lockdown but the testing protocol we have all been through has been a success."

Lee Westwood

Justin Rose at Walton Heath (2018)

In 2018, Justin Rose assumed hosting duties at Walton Heath, where he also followed in the footsteps of previous hosts by giving up his time throughout the week to take part in things like swing clinics and even a stint in the commentary box.

He rounded out a special week with a top ten as Eddie Pepperell claimed his second European Tour title, and said hosting had been a real honour for him.

“It’s been an honour hosting,” said Rose, who won the event in 2002.

“That’s the only way to wrap it up. It’s kept me motivated this week. I’ve definitely dug in a little harder, particularly on Friday when I didn’t want to miss the cut in an event I’m hosting. So the role has kept me working hard, on the course as well as off it, trying to be a good host.

“It’s been fun. I’ve tried to do the main things and not sweat the details. My manager and the European Tour have done a great job in helping to support me. It’s a huge honour to have your mug shot splashed all over the place.

“It’s a big European Tour event and I love the fact the four of us have hosted it over the past four years and it has been a fun and unique thing to do. You see the crowds turning out like this and it shows the thirst there is for golf in the UK.”

Justin Rose British Masters host 2016

Tommy Fleetwood at Hillside (2019)

The following year, the European Tour travelled to Hillside Golf Club as Tommy Fleetwood became the fifth player to host at the 2019 British Masters.

The Englishman ended the tournament in a tie for eighth while Marcus Kinhult captured his maiden Tour victory, but he still enjoyed a week that saw him follow in the footsteps of the previous hosts and let him bring golf to his hometown of Southport.

“It’s a massive honour for me to host the British Masters in Southport,” said Fleetwood, who also launched his Tommy Fleetwood Academy at the event.

“When you consider the guys who have done it before me – Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose – you have a Ryder Cup legend and three World Number Ones. They are huge British names who have achieved so much more than I have in their careers. Hosting was something that we had talked about doing one day, but I honestly didn’t think it would be this soon in my career. Just to have that honour is massive and it’s amazing.

“As a host you have the opportunity to get across your own message, and mine has always been focused on the north west and bringing this tournament home to what I believe is a massive golfing community. People are starved of golf in this area. We get the Open every eight or nine years, and that’s at Birkdale, but to bring a European Tour event back to this area, and to Hillside, which is such a brilliant club, was such a big thing for me.”

fleetwood pavillion host 2019