The odds on the Ryder Cup returning to the Midlands in 2018 have seriously shortened following the staging of another successful golf event at The Belfry.
Lee Westwood's exciting triumph in the Quinn Direct British Masters on Sunday, sealed with an eagle putt on the 17th green to earn a four-shot victory over fellow Ryder Cup player Ian Poulter, capped a fine week for the domestic golf scene.
Westwood's success over both Poulter and his fellow Worksop professional Mark Foster meant an English 1-2-3 at the top of a leaderboard given added local attraction by the success of Birmingham's Sam Walker, whose tie for fourth (and a cheque worth almost £58,000) was the best performance of his career.
It put all four well up in the early race to make the European team for the trip to Louis-ville, Kentucky next September when the 37th Ryder Cup is staged at Valhalla, taking place the week before the British Masters returns to The Belfry.
And, given the presence of Westwood, part of Sam Torrance's winning team here in 2002, and the fulsome praise he gave to the Brabazon Course in his public acceptance speech on Sunday, that has inevitably led to speculation as to when The Belfry, already the most frequently used course in the Ryder Cup's 80-year history, will stage this now massive sporting event for the fifth time.
The Americans have already committed to the schedule their next four Ryder Cup venues, up until 2020. But all Europe have so far confirmed is that the 2010 match will be staged in Wales on a new, lavishly constructed, spectator-friendly course at Terry Matthews' Celtic Manor, and that the 2014 match will take place in Scotland at Gleneagles.
Having also taken the biennial event to Spain in 1997 (Valderrama) and Ireland last year (The K Club), despite long-term Scandinavian claims to one day host the event, it is England's turn to host in 2018. And the appearance last week at The Belfry of both Ryder Cup director Richard Hills and European Tour chief executive George O'Grady did not go unnoticed.
As he prepares to oversee a multi-million-pound revamp by owner Sean Quinn, which is due to start next year and be ready by 2013, The Belfry's Director of Golf Gary Silcock remained coy as to the chances of the Ryder Cup once again being staged on the now world famous Brabazon Course.
"All I can say is that we met with both Richard Hills and George O'Grady this week," said Silcock. "Richard was here to play in the Pro/Am on Wednesday and George was here for a dinner and both were able to see for themselves the superb condition of the course.
"It is now two years since we brought in Kenny MacKay from the Forest of Arden, and we can now see the results. We've had a lot of compliments about the state of the course, particularly the greens, and that is down to the hard work of Kenny and his team.
"And it is no secret that Sean Quinn would one day like to see the Ryder Cup return here. That is why he has already invested so much in the place and will continue to do as part of our plan to make this Europe's leading five star golf and leisure resort. It is due to come to England again in 2018 or 2022, and where else could realistically host it?"
In the short term, Silcock will be happy simply to welcome back the British Masters to The Belfry on September 22 2008 for a third successive year.
This will be the third and final year of the contracted agreement with the European Tour for this event. And it would be no surprise if the proposed redevelopment, the plans for which were submitted to North Warwickshire Borough Council last month, meant that The Belfry briefly drops off the circuit again. But their plan for now is simply to keep up their current standards that, despite the distraction of an Aston Villa home game on Sunday, still attracted such good crowds.
"September's a really good time to stage an event here," said Silcock. "We haven't had the official figures for the final two days yet, but the attendances for the first two days were up 14 per cent, and, especially from the retail side, it was noticable how many more women and children we attracted."
* RYDER CUP SCHEDULE:
2008 Valhalla, Kentucky
2010 Celtic Manor, South Wales
2012 Medinah, Illinois
2014 Gleneagles, Perthshire
2016 Hazeltine, Minnesota
2018 Venue announced in 2010
2020 Whistling Straits, Wisconsin