Major winner, Ryder Cup star and World Number Two Justin Rose takes on hosting duties this week as the Sky Sports British Masters moves south to the famed Walton Heath Golf Club. Here is what you need to know ahead of Thursday’s opening round.
The return of ‘Moliwood’– After composing a perfect duet in Paris two weeks ago, Ryder Cup heroes Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood will be reunited for an encore at Walton Heath. Molinari, who currently leads the Race to Dubai, dominated Le Golf National on his way to becoming the first European to go 5-0 in a single Ryder Cup. Reigning Race to Dubai champion Fleetwood joined his good friend in the historic performance, as the duo – lovingly nicknamed Moliwood by fans – earned the distinction of being the first European pairing to win all four of their group sessions.
Hosting duties – Since its return to the European Tour International Schedule in 2015, the Sky Sports British Masters has been elevated by the addition of a designated tournament host. Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood have overseen successful editions over the past three years, and this time round World Number Two Justin Rose is in charge. As part of his hosting duties, Rose has selected the famed Walton Heath Golf Club, one of his favourite courses in Britain, as the 2018 venue. The Englishman, like last year’s host Westwood, is a former British Masters champion, having prevailed at nearby Woburn Golf Club in 2002, and another trophy could propel him back to the World Number One spot. The recent FedEx Cup winner also has the privilege of nominating a charitable organisation to be affiliated with the Sky Sports British Masters. Rose has proudly chosen Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens as the Official Charity Partner along with the European Tour Foundation.
When all is said and Dunne – Defending champion Paul Dunne eclipsed Rory McIlroy to claim his first European Tour win at this event last season. The accomplishment of holding off a charging four-time Major Champion was impressive enough, but the Irishman’s triumph became even more impressive as he rounded off a stunning nine under par round of 61 – two better than McIlroy – by chipping in on the last hole for a walk-off birdie. He has since added another trophy to his collection, when he and countryman Gavin Moynihan triumphed for Ireland at the innovative GolfSixes tournament in May.
A fitting venue – Rose’s choice of Walton Heath to stage the 2018 Sky Sports British Masters follows in the footsteps of Poulter’s selection of Woburn Golf Club, Donald‘s choice of The Grove and Close House Golf Club, where Westwood took on hosting duties last year. Walton Heath is famed for its two challenging heathland layouts, and the Old Course has featured in the World’s Top 100 rankings every year since their inception in 1938 The club was founded in 1903 and boasts King Edward VIII as its first Captain. Amongst the events hosted at the Surrey venue over the years is the 1981 Ryder Cup, and it is also the venue for the annual U.S. Open qualifier, with Michael Campbell going on to triumph at the 2005 event after qualifying at Walton.
A Hero emerges – On Tuesday October 9, the European Tour will present another edition of the Hero Challenge, the innovative one-hole shoot out. This season the popular event is being held at a series of iconic city locations, with London’s Canary Wharf the focus this week. Rose headlines the evening of action-packed golf and is joined by the man who led Team Europe to Ryder Cup glory, Thomas Bjørn, his fellow star of Le Golf National, Thorbjørn Olesen, English duo Matt Wallace and Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston, plus defending Sky Sports British Masters Champion Dunne. Free tickets to the event are now sold out, but fans can watch the action, which starts at 6.30 pm, live across the European Tour’s platforms.
Credit: European Tour