Fleetwood’s few ‘flutters of nerves’ hosting Betfred British Masters at Hillside

Tommy Fleetwood admitted to feeling a bit nervous when he arrived at Hillside GC as the host of the Betfred British Masters. Picture by GETTY IMAGES

BETFRED British Masters host Tommy Fleetwood is relishing the prospect of teeing it up in the town he grew up in as the European Tour returns to Hillside for the first time in 37 years.

The Englishman is acting as the fifth host of the British Masters since its return to the European Tour’s International Schedule in 2015, following in the footsteps of Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood, and is welcoming the stars of the European Tour to his home town this week.

Fleetwood, currently ranked 16th in the Official World Golf Rankings, finished tied ninth at the 2018 British Masters at Walton Heath and fourth in 2016 at The Grove.

Fleetwood said: “I’m very proud. It’s strange, especially the last two days, I’d say in driving in the car this morning, I said to Clare, I feel way more nervous than a normal event, I don’t know why.

“It’s been a long process. The last year has come around really quick. I’m really happy with how it’s turned out so far.

“Everybody has been saying great things about the golf course. It’s nice to see faces again, like in Europe. I haven’t been around for a little while, seeing them, catching up, and thanking them for being here, but so far, so good.

“Everybody seems really happy and the tournament is running smoothly and I’ve done probably the least amount of anybody else, so well done to everybody so far.

“I’m very lucky, the people running the event have made it as simple and easy as possible. I would say we know what we’re doing this week, and I know what I’ve got to do. I’d say everybody’s been really good at keeping us informed.

“Clare looks after me very well. I want to play well and I want to do really well in the event. At the end of the day, I’m not here just to host. I’m loving doing that and proud that I’ve got my face to a tournament, but still, I want to prepare as well as I can and hopefully put on a good show.

“It’s a different feeling coming to the course — not that I play here loads because I don’t get the time, but I normally drive in the car park and get the clubs out of the car and go to the first tee and don’t really see much else.”

Hertfordshire’s Matt Wallace is looking to build on a strong start to his 2019 season where he finished inside the top 20 in his first three events and then second at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

The Moor Park member finished a career-high 10th on the Race to Dubai Rankings in 2018 and has maintained his place in the top 50 in the World since finishing second at last year’s DP World Tour Championship.

Wallace who has had a meteoric rise from amateur golf over the last six years, via the Alps Tour and the European Challenge Tour, said: “I played here in the British Amateur in 2011 – I’m a different player to what I was then though.

“It’s a great golf course. Fantastic quality. I mean, I played out there this morning at 7.30, and I mean, beautiful. The greens were really good this morning as well, come Thursday, they should be perfect.

“To be able to travel around this country, Walton Heath was great last year, and then to come up here, playing in the North West, showing the crowds – hopefully it’ll be a fun week.

“Tommy being the host, as well, he’s going to be fantastic. Hopefully, somewhere down the line, I can emulate that and copy what he’s done and hopefully have a Matt Wallace British Masters.”

Frilford Heath’s Eddie Pepperell is the defending champion after the Oxfordshire-based pro’s victory at Walton Heath, back in October, which helped secure his place in all four Majors in 2019 via the World’s Top 50.