Lee Westwood ensured his week as tournament host of the British Masters supported by Sky Sports got off to the perfect start by winning the Hero Challenge – the European Tour’s one-hole shootout under floodlights – at Close House.
More than 4,000 fans packed the grandstand around the par three, 18th hole for the third staging of the Hero Challenge, which made its debut at the British Masters at The Grove 12 months ago and returned at July’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
And former World Number One Westwood, who has been attached to the Newcastle venue since 2011, did not disappoint the local fans, defeating Masters Champion and Ryder Cup team mate Sergio Garcia after a sudden death chip off in the final, having also seen off Ross Fisher and Martin Kaymer along the way.
The eight-man field also included Matthew Fitzpatrick, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Bernd Wiesberger and Danny Willett, with Westwood following Alex Levy and Patrick Reed, the respective winners at the Grove and Scotland, in lifting the trophy.
“It’s a great way to kick off the tournament,” said Westwood. “It’s different and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t expect to win, I have to admit, but it is a great start to the week and it was good fun playing against Sergio in the final.
“The crowd really got behind it. They were brilliant. You wouldn’t expect anything else from a Newcastle crowd at a sporting event though – they’re always good.”
Television hosts Vernon Kay and Kirsty Gallacher presented the action under the floodlights, which also included a celebrity nearest the pin shoot out, with former Liverpool footballer Robbie Fowler, Gaz Beadle from Geordie Shore, England cricketer Stuart Broad and BBC breakfast presenter Dan Walker, with Fowler taking the honours by a matter of inches ahead of Walker.
The Hero Challenge will be played for a third time in 2017 – and fourth overall – at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November.
European Tour www.europeantour.com