EUROPEAN TOUR: The British Masters
VENUE: Hillside Golf Club, Southport, England
As is the convention these days, the British Masters is hosted by one of the nation's best golfers, who is the face of the event and selects both the course and the overall environment for the rest of the field that week. Last year Justin Rose did a fantastic job of promoting the event at Walton Heath, and for 2019 the opportunity has fallen to Tommy Fleetwood, one half of the greatest golfing double-act since the days of Seve and Olazabal.
As you would imagine, Fleetwood has stuck to his North-Western roots by selecting Hillside Golf Club as the venue for this year's event, located just on the outskirts of his lovely hometown of Southport. Despite the British Masters having undergone some difficulties in retaining sponsorship and funding over the last few years, the popular and charismatic Fleetwood appears a good choice to try and ensure the future of this event is safe.
Jordan Smith 1pt OUTRIGHT 33/1
The 26 year-old has won once on the European Tour back in 2017, but looks ready to take his game to the next level this season and follow in the footsteps of Matt Wallace and even Tommy Fleetwood, progressing from a good European Tour player into a world star.
Smith is ranked 122 in the world but has started the season really well, and a T5 last week was his fourth Top 15 finish in his last five events.
As mentioned earlier he did finish T3 in this event last year but the Hillside links does provide a different challenge, although it appears that he will be up to the task, with decent finishes at St Andrews and Gullane last summer. Whilst there are bigger English names on the start sheet, Smith is the man who arrives in form and may spring a bit of a surprise to some this week.
Ryan Fox 0.5pts E/W 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)
Fox has taken a couple of months off due to his wedding and honeymoon, so should be well-rested and raring to go again this week in Southport. Prior to the break, he was in great form with a win in Perth, along with good finishes in Saudi and at the New Zealand Open.
Most importantly, Fox is a fantastic links player due to his excellent ball-striking and flight control, and his long hitting is always an asset, so he could be really dangerous this week at a relatively short course.
The New Zealander has four Top-6 finishes in his last eight starts on the British Isles, so this event could be a perfect opportunity for him to collect his second win of the season.
The Long Shot
Stephen Gallacher 0.5pts E/W 100/1 (1/5 odds 8 places)
Gallacher won the Hero Indian Open back in March in a bit of a surprise late-career resurgance, and he seems to be really enjoying having his son on the bag and sharing their experiences together. Results either side of the victory have not been great but he should still come into this event with plenty of confidence. A couple of weeks back in Morocco, he started strongly again with an opening 68 before fading as conditions toughened.
The Scotsman is an excellent links player who has three Top 12s in his last four starts on this type of course, meaning that he could well contend on a medium-length course which will benefit those with plenty of links experience.