Danny Willett is relishing being able to welcome spectators to this week’s Betfred British Masters as he resumes hosting duties at The Belfry for the second year in a row.
The 2016 Masters Champion made his hosting bow at The Belfry in 2021 as the event was played behind-closed-doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but has returned as host this year with over 50,000 people expected to flood through the gates of the iconic venue through the week.
Willett, an eight-time DP World Tour winner, has once again appointed Prostate Cancer UK as the Official Charity Partner of the event, with headline sponsor Betfred, the United Kingdom-based bookmaker, set to donate £1,000 for every birdie and £2,000 for every eagle Willett makes this week as he looks to better the £19,000 he was able to raise last year.
Furthermore, they will donate £50,000 to Prostate Cancer UK for the first hole-in-one made on the Brabazon Course’s par three 14th, the same hole that Nick Faldo famously recorded an ace in the 1993 Ryder Cup.
The Englishman is joined in this week’s field by defending champion Richard Bland, who made history as the Tour’s oldest first time winner in this event in 2021 and will also make his 500th DP World Tour appearance this week, becoming the 44th player in Tour history to reach the milestone.
Spaniard Adri Arnaus, who picked up his maiden DP World Tour title at the Catalunya Championship last week, Scottish duo Ewen Ferguson and Robert MacIntyre, and Englishman Lee Westwood, who won the British Masters at The Belfry in 2007, will also tee it up this week.
Danny Willett: “Unfortunately we didn’t get the fans in after COVID restrictions. So yeah, this year, fingers crossed, 50,000 people through doors over the next four and a half days, and yeah, just going to be a really special moment to be able to have friends and family down celebrating.
“It’s a proud thing, because not only you’re hosting and trying to help the Tour out, and obviously Betfred have obviously been great sponsors again but it’s a pretty cool way of kind of showing what you’ve been able to achieve over the last 12 years on Tour.
“So yeah, it’s going to be a nice week and once again, yeah, pretty proud moment in my career.
“You’re going to get a nice few people around that first tee with how they have raised it up and I think for such an iconic golf course in European golf history, it’s a pretty intimate venue. Crowds are going to be quite close to players, and I think it’s going to give people some really good atmosphere and should play pretty well.
“The chosen charity again is Prostate Cancer UK. Betfred once again have been massively generous and Betfred are going to donate 1,000 pounds for every birdie and 2,000 points for every eagle. So fingers crossed, make a few. And then if anyone is fortunate to make a hole-in-one on 14, Betfred are going to give us 50 grand to Prostate Cancer UK.
“Again, shows their massive support over these last two years, with me being the host and the even the previous three or four years before that in hosting the British Masters, they have been tremendous in it, during COVID to still keep up the sponsorship and prize fund as they have, they have been amazing.
“Yeah, fingers crossed, guys, like I said with 50,000 people through the door, fans can go down to the tented village and can chat with representatives from Prostate Cancer UK and find out more information. And yeah, fingers crossed I can play pretty well and we can get some money made.”
Richard Bland: “It’s very special. It’s a dream come true. It’s something I had worked on for 20 years and I knew it was getting closer to 500 and so I looked at the schedule, when it would come out, and I kind of knew it would be very close to this week.
“I tweaked my schedule around a little bit and didn’t play here or there to make it this week. So I thought, I’ll make it that even more special and it’s something I’m very, very proud of.
“I can still remember pretty much every shot from last year. Certainly the back nine, most of the last day. This place now is somewhere that will always be very, very close to my heart.
“How I’ll feel on the first tee tomorrow morning, not too sure. Probably be a tear in the eye, I would think. I’m going to have all my family here with me. So it’s just a very special tournament, not only for me but obviously for the DP World Tour and yeah, it just feels great to be back.
“Obviously with what went on, 12 months ago, it’s a dream come true. Something I had worked on for 20 years.
“I thought I had it in me, of course, but when you lose your card at the age of 46, a lot of people are writing you off. So to come back the way that I’ve come back, when I finish playing, whenever that will be, that will probably be something I’m most proud of.
“Because I think a lot of people might just go, ‘you know what? That’s it, I’m done’. I never thought that. It took a lot of hard work but I guess it’s made it that much more special to be doing this when probably at my age, I probably shouldn’t. So yeah, I’m certainly enjoying it.”
Lee Westwood: “I’ve always loved coming back to The Belfry. Came here as a boy to watch Ryder Cups. Watched the ’99 Ryder Cup and the ’93 one, even at that stage it was a young golf course but obviously still a very good test. Then came back to play tournaments here. British Masters, Ryder Cup in 2002. It’s only an hour and a half from where I used to live. It’s a special place.
“I was quite pleased with the way I played at the Masters. I didn’t play very well the week before. I played okay at the Match Play but didn’t play very well the week before at the Valero.
“And obviously going back to somewhere I like, Augusta, where I’ve played well in the past was nice. I did play well and every aspect of my game as all right, and I was obviously pleased with the finish. It was nice to finish top 20, earn a top 20 again
“Straight after that, I went skiing. Went to Val d’Isère skiing for a week and came back in one piece which is good. It’s always good to do that. Then I’ve had the last couple of weeks off, working on my game a little bit, not too much, just having a rest. I feel at my stage rest is important as standing on the range grinding. Been doing some fitness work and gym work. Went and had a weekend away for my birthday. I don’t know if you know I’m 49 now.”
Robert MacIntyre: “It’s brilliant, brilliant to be back in Britain. The course playing longer than it was last year. I’m not sure what’s happened. I think there’s a couple new tees that are getting used. Last year we had bad weather and some tees had to be moved up. It’s a great venue to be competing at and ready to get going.
“Last year I feel like it got away from me. We pushed at probably the wrong times, that 10th hole, sucker. Sucked me in a wee bit and we attacked it. This year we’ve looked at some stats and we used to play holes, and we’ll rein it back. But as I said, it’s playing a little bit longer, so the scoring is probably not going to be as low.
“I want to win every week I pitch up, whether it’s America or in Europe. It’s not — I don’t play golf to make friends or — I mean, obviously everyone is playing and you’ve got money on the line but I want to win golf tournaments. That’s the reason I play. It’s just — it’s only way to drive yourself is to be competitive and try and win.”