Tournament host Lee Westwood admits he is flattered and surprised by the strength of field he has been able to attract for this week’s British Masters.
Rory McIlroy’s late entry has given a further boost to the event at Close House, which also features the likes of Masters champion Sergio Garcia, Danny Willett, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Matt Fitzpatrick.
“It means a lot,” said Westwood, who is following in the footsteps of Ian Poulter and Luke Donald in hosting the £3million tournament. “I don’t know whether it’s me, the reason why the players have turned out, but if it is, then that’s fantastic.
“Sergio doesn’t play in Britain very often, but committed so far in advance so we could use him in the promotion of the event.
“I asked Rory at Sergio’s wedding, when we’d had a couple glasses of wine, and he said if he didn’t get to the Tour Championship he would think seriously about playing here and it’s great he’s turning out.
“He’s one of the few players in the world that I would turn out at a golf tournament to watch. It’s one of the strongest fields we’ve had all year on Tour I think. I can’t believe how good a field it is.”
Westwood is one of the few players in the field to have experience of the course on the outskirts of Newcastle and the former world number one also comes into the week in good form.
The 43-year-old was ninth in the Czech Masters and third in the KLM Open a fortnight ago and said: “I feel like maybe a win is just around the corner.
“It would be great if it was here this week, but whenever it comes it will be fantastic.
“I feel like I’ve got a real chance. People have said, ‘You must know the course really well’, but when you turn up on a Saturday morning and play with your mates, you’re going to play slightly differently to the way I’m going to play in the tournament this week.
Garcia is also in good form after recovering from an opening 73 to finish 10th in the Tour Championship in Atlanta on Sunday, with a first Race to Dubai title now his main focus for the rest of the season.