It’s a good deal leafier and not as wide open – “boring” some called it – than before. The Belfry looks like a proper golf course even more than it did when it helped make legends.
The Sutton Coldfield complex was where Europe was finally reborn as a force in the Ryder Cup, with Sam Torrance’s immortal finish in 1985. The challenge matches became golf’s biggest attraction as the cup returned here in 1989, 1993 and with triumphantly with Torrance as captain in 2002.
‘It’s playing really well’
The Ryder Cup will surely return here some point in the future, maybe sooner than many think. In the meantime, the European Tour has come back with last year’s UK Championship, and this year’s Betfred British Masters, hosted by Danny Willett.
The former Masters champion – the one at Augusta – doesn’t have the field he might have deserved with the PGA looming at Kiawah Island next week. But the European Tour is back home, even with the closed pandemic “bubble” in place.
“Early May is not the easiest time to get a golf course ready in Britain, especially with the weather they’ve had,” said Willett. “I’ve been in regular contact with Mike (Stewart), the tournament director this week, and tried to put a little bit of input into it and ask how the golf course has been coming on.
“From the pictures of what it was last week to how it is now, the guys have done a fantastic job. I’ve been out there and played and it’s playing really well, we’ll just have to see what the weather does for us.”
The short par 10th is set up for the usual thrills
It thundered for a spell yesterday lunchtime which drove everyone to cover, and the rain that fell will continue to make the course play longer than its 7310 yards.
By the looks of the tee box at the 10th, the short par four which was the scene of so much drama in the past, we’re going to have some fun.
“The Belfry have been spectacular,” said Willett. “This is a fantastic venue. You can tell why this is such a precious venue for the European Tour.
“The setup is great, all the rooms on site for all the lads to stay I would have thought has made the feeling of being in a pandemic and playing pretty nice.
“I think the Tour have done a fantastic job for everyone onsite and everyone feeling nice and secure and safe in a fantastic venue.”
‘It was more fatigue and energy levels’
Willett himself caught the virus and had to withdraw from the Players and the Honda Classic in the US.
“We had it pretty bad for six or seven days,” he recalled. “It was more the fatigue and energy levels.
“It was like a rehab process getting your cardio system back, but it’s spot on now.”
Ten Scots are in the field, with the first sighting since the early season Desert Swing of Steven Gallacher and Marc Warren. The in-form Connor Syme and Calum Hill join with former amateur colleague Robert MacIntyre, who is the highest ranked player in the field.