An impressive field has gathered in Newcastle this week to contest the British Masters at Close House. Alex Noren defends and Rory McIlroy will start.

Lee Westwood plays host at the British Masters supported by Sky Sports at Close House GC this week. The former World Number 1 is joined on the start sheet by an impressive cast list of Major champions and European Tour greats.

Four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy will play at Close House and will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing finish to his PGA Tour campaign.

“I’m looking forward to playing my first British Masters for a while. I kind of had it in the back of my mind that if I didn’t make the Tour Championship then there was a chance to tee it up at Close House, so I have decided to do that before finishing my season off the next week at the Dunhill Links,” he said. “Teeing it up next week gives me one more chance to end 2017 on a high as well. If I can sign off the year with a win or two in Newcastle and then St Andrews I would take so many positives into my six-week recovery period when I am going to reset mentally and physically and concentrate on getting myself in the right shape for next year.”

McIlroy will be one of a number of Major champions playing at Close House. Masters winner Sergio Garcia will tee it up, as will Danny Willett, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer and Paul Lawrie.

Graeme McDowell – how to play a flop shot:

Last year’s winner Alex Noren will look to claim a second victory on English soil this season, he won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth earlier in the year.

“I’m really looking forward to defending my British Masters title at Close House next month,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed playing in Britain, and in front of the British fans. I won the Scottish Open as well as the British Masters last year and then won at Wentworth earlier this year, so I’ve had some success in Britain and it would be nice to play well again.”

The British Masters was first held in 1946 when South Africa’s Bobby Locke tied with Jimmy Adams of Scotland at Stoneham Golf Club. Over the years there have been some great champions including Peter Thomson, Tony Jacklin, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Colin Montgomerie and Justin Rose.

After a seven-year hiatus, the tournament returned to the European Tour schedule in 2015 when Matthew Fitzpatrick won at Woburn. Last season, Alex Noren came out on top at The Grove in Hertfordshire. He beat Austrian Bernd Wiesberger by two strokes.

This year the event is being contested at Close House near Newcastle. The Lee Westwood Championship Colt course is set within 200 acres of rolling Northumberland countryside. Designed by Scott Macpherson and named after legendary architect Harry Colt, it’s earned a reputation as one of the best new courses in England. It was ranked 95th on Golf Monthly’s most recent top-100 list.

On the Tuesday evening, eight players will tee it up for the Hero Challenge in which the contestants will feature in seven quick-fire head-to-head knockout matches over a specially constructed par-3 hole under floodlights, with the last man standing crowned champion.

3,000 people will watch Sergio Garcia, Ross Fisher, Danny Willett, Lee Westwood, Bernd Wiesberger, Matt Fitzpatrick, Martin Kaymer and Miguel Angel Jimenez battle it out for the £10,000 first prize.

As the British Masters is sponsored by Sky Sports, coverage is extensive, starting with the Hero Challenge and continuing with the Wednesday pro-am before the tournament proper.

The weather forecast looks mixed with rain likely on the first two days, perhaps clearing for the weekend.

Venue: Close House GC, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England
Date: Sep 28 – Oct 1
Course stats: par 70, 6,906 yards
Purse: £3,000,000
Defending champion: Alex Noren (-18)

TV Coverage:
Tuesday 26 (Hero Challenge) – Sky Sports Golf from 7.30pm
Wednesday 27 (Pro-Am) – Sky Sports Golf from 3.30pm
Thursday 28 – Sky Sports Golf from 9.30am
Friday 29 – Sky Sports Golf from 9.30am
Saturday 30 – Sky Sports Golf from 11.30am
Sunday 1 – Sky Sports Golf from 10.30am

Player Watch:

Matthew Fitzpatrick – The Englishman won the recent European Masters and is up to 12th on the Race to Dubai standings. He won the British Masters back in 2015.

Eddie Pepperell – He’s enjoyed a great return to form in recent weeks. He was tied fifth in the Czech Masters, tied third in the KLM Open and then tied third in last week’s Portugal Masters.

Scot Hend – The Australian missed out in a playoff for the European Masters and will be looking to bounce back from that disappointment with a good result at Close House.

Key Hole: 18th. A par-3 of over 200 yards, this one demands a good, solidly struck iron shot. If a player requires a par to win, the pressure on the tee shot here will be intense.