After a thrilling and compelling end to the PGA Tour season which ended with the dominant player for much of 2015, Jordan Spieth, taking both the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup, the focus now shifts to the European Tour in preparation for its own final series. The Race to Dubai Final Series will have an extremely tough task replicating the excitement and exposure generated during the FedEx Playoffs but it is for the tour to utilise the increased interest in the game to its advantage. Before the Final Series begin, the British Masters returns to the schedule with Ian Poulter hosting at Woburn GC and on the tee will be a number of big name in European golf.
The return of this event is hoped by many British golf fans to be heralding of a renewed increase in European Tour events held in Great Britain. In truth, having lost the Welsh Open and Johnnie Walker Classic in recent years, this event can be viewed as a part replacement for those events but the intention could be significant. The challenge is attracting the big British brand names to sponsor events, credit should go to Sky for adding their weight to this event. However, until a big player such as British Airways (who appear on Justin Rose’s shirt collars) commit to putting their name to an event, it’s unlikely that there will be a significant increase in British based events.
In regard to those players teeing it up this week, there are a range of objectives and goals on display this week. Some, like Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, are looking to find some form heading into the Final Series with their place in Dubai more or less secure. Whereas the likes of Nicolas Colsearts are looking to force their way into position where one good performance in the Final Series will get them to Dubai. Additionally. there are a handful of players who currently sit outside the top 120 who will hope a big performance this week will secure their card for next season. No shortage of storylines for an event which returns to the schedule after a seven-year absence.
Tournament host Ian Poulter has had an average 2015, he failed to make it to the Tour Championship hasn’t looked like adding to his resume of victories. A return to his home course could be just the tonic he needs to kick-start a strong finish to the season. What he will he need to do is balance the commitments he will have off the course this week to ensure he does not hinder his chances of success on the course. As an experienced player, he will surely have no issues with this balancing act. He was a runner-up when Justin Rose won the event in 2002 so he will be looking to go one better this time around.
Poulter will be high on many people’s lists as possible winners this week, but I feel the best chance of an English winner could lie in the form of David Howell. He has made a number of eye-catching performances this year without entering the winners circle, notably when finishing runner-up in China and Spain in late Spring. It’s two years since his last tour win and while he hs no concerns about losing his card, a victory this week would push him into the top half-dozen or so in the Race to Dubai rankings. Woburn was to Howell’s liking in 2001 when he was involved in a four man playoff which was ultimately won by Thomas Levet, look for him to have a big week once again.
Thorbjorn Olesen’s win in Scotland last week was the second Scandinavian victory in three weeks. The chances of a third may well best lie with Kristoffer Broberg who has looked on the brink of a breakout victory on a number of times in the past sixteen months. He led after last week’s opening round and shot 62 in the final round in Denmark to grab a share of second. Woburn will likely yield a number of low scores so those numbers mean Broberg looks on paper a good fit, it will be crucial that he eliminates some of the mistakes that lead to ten bogies or worse in his final three rounds in Scotland. As a four-time winner on the Challenge Tour, he shouldn’t want for confidence or decisiveness if he finds himself in contention on Sunday.