The European Tour Touches Down in the British Isles
The European Tour touches down in the British Isles this week for the first time in 2004 with The Daily Telegraph Damovo British Masters at the Marriott Forest of Arden taking over the traditional date previously held by the Benson and Hedges International Open.
BBC Television Sport will broadcast the first UK event of the season following 17 tournaments, contested in 12 different countries. The Ł1,600,000 tournament represents the launch pad for four events being staged in the UK over the next six weeks with the 50th Volvo PGA Championship taking place from May 27-30, The Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open from June 3-6 and the Diageo Championship at Gleneagles from June 10-13.
A field of outstanding quality assembles in the West Midlands of England this week, as the winners of no fewer than 13 Major Championships vie for the right to wear the 'Masters' robes donned by Greg Owen of England after his victory last year.
Owen passed the most stringent of examinations with flying colours, winning his first title on The European Tour International Schedule by three strokes from fellow Englishman, Ian Poulter, and Christian Cévaër of France.
Cévaër, coincidentally, is the most recent first time winner in the field this week, joining Christopher Hanell of Sweden (Madeira Island Open), Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand (Carlsberg Malaysian Open) and Germany's Marcel Siem (dunhill championship). All four made their breakthrough during the early part of the 2004 campaign.
Major Champions in the field are Nick Faldo, Retief Goosen, Paul Lawrie, Sandy Lyle, José Maria Olazábal and Ian Woosnam, whose collective haul of Major titles amounts to 13. Of that illustrious group, Faldo, Goosen, Lyle and Woosnam have all won Volvo Order of Merit crowns, a distinction shared by other luminaries in the field, namely Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood.
Westwood commented: "It's a pleasure to return to the 'Forest' where I have always enjoyed strong local support. The course has developed over the years into one of the finest on The European Tour schedule and I know that opinion is shared by many of my colleagues."
Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, the lone European to win not one but two of the World Golf Championships, will aim to collect a third title over a course he holds close to his heart following English Open victories at the 'Forest' in 2000 and 2002.
The strength in depth of the field can be assessed by those statistics and also the fact that the winners of the last seven Volvo PGA Championships - Woosnam, Montgomerie (3), Andrew Oldcorn, Anders Hansen and Ignacio Garrido - are all competing at the Marriott Forest of Arden course which boasts one of the great closing holes in golf, the par three 18th.
Woosnam will be attempting to claim his third 'Masters' degree, 21 years after his first victory at the Marriott St Pierre, Chepstow and ten years after his follow-up victory at Woburn in 1994. Faldo, Lyle and Montgomerie have all won the title in the past while two of the champions in the new millennium, Gary Orr of Scotland (2000) and Thomas Levet of France (2001) will tee up.
Vital Ryder Cup points are also at stake, ensuring the strong entry which, coincidentally, includes the final winner of the Benson and Hedges International Open, Paul Casey of England, who returns to his homeland for the first time since his highly creditable share of sixth place in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National last month.
Courtesy of www.europeantour.com