IT’S never easy being a host. Anyone who’s ever offered to put on a Christmas dinner for all and sundry, and ended up with a turkey that’s as dry as an Arabian sawmill, will vouch for the truth in that statement.

“I’ve been busy for a year, basically, and then very busy for the last week and extremely busy for the last three days,” said Lee Westwood, who is the host of this week’s British Masters at his chosen venue of Close House and has been embroiled in all manner of duties, task and chores that come with that particular role.

“When I slipped my spikes on for the first round it was a bit of a relief to actually be a golfer again.”

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The 44-year-old, who won the British Masters crown a decade ago, has rolled out the welcome mat for his peers on the European Tour but he’s not being overly hospitable.

His young compatriot, Tyrell Hatton, may lead by three on a 12-under 128 after a 65 but Westwood is not just going to hand out the title on a plate like tasty Vol-au-vents at an ambassador’s reception.

A neatly assembled five-under 65, his second successive bogey-free round of the week, hoisted him into a share of second place with Ian Poulter as these two stalwarts of the scene manoeuvred themselves into position for a weekend offensive.

On a changeable day that started in the murk and misery of heavy rain but ended up in glorious sunshine, Westwood’s assault was aided by three birdies in a row on his outward half.

There’s not been a European Tour event in this neck of the woods since the Great North Open in 2002 and Westwood, who tasted victory on the circuit not far from here at Slaley Hall in 2000, is happy that the good folk of Northumberland are enjoying the show that’s being put on.

“I don’t mind everybody going out and making a lot of birdies,” said Westwood. “That’s what golf’s all about. I see too many tournaments where the pros are miserable and they have got their heads down because they are grinding away. I don’t mind a tournament like that but I’d much prefer to come out and see birdies.”

Poulter was tasked with these hosting duties a couple of years ago when the British Masters was held at his home course of Woburn. “I’m enjoying not being a host to be honest with you,” he said with a smile.

Poulter had plenty of reasons to be cheerful. A 65 of his own, which was burnished by a profitable surge of four birdies in a row, moved him on to a nine-under total as he bolstered his bid for a first tour win since 2012.

He may not have those aforementioned ambassadorial tasks to undertake this week but Poulter has still had to perform one notable necessary.

“It’s my 10th wedding anniversary and, yes, I have remembered,” he added. “I’ve sent a large bunch of flowers, lots of roses.

“That’s what’s happens when you have a decent PA. You pay her the big bucks to remind you on all the right days.”

You could say the English rose was in full bloom yesterday. Seven of the nation’s golfers were perched in the top nine at the halfway stage with only Sweden’s Robert Karlsson (nine-under) and Finland’s Mikko Illonen (eight-under) breaking that monopoly.

On the Scottish front, Richie Ramsay made steady advances into the fringes of the top-10 with a three-under 67 which left the Aberdonian nicely placed on six-under heading into the last two rounds.

A stream of eight straight pars going out had the frustrations building as he failed to make any inroads on the standings but a birdie putt of some 30-feet on the ninth gave him a much-needed lift before he concluded with a rousing finale and trundled in a raking birdie putt of over 40-feet on the 18th.

Prior to that grandstand finish, Ramsay had holed important five-footers for par at both the 16th and 17th to keep him ticking over.

“It was a day for staying patient as it was getting a bit frustrating in that run of pars going out,” said the three-time European Tour winner. “The big putts were the rewards for that patience though.”

Glasgow’s Scott Jamieson had a 68 to join a throng on four-under that includes tournament star attraction, Rory McIlroy.

Sergio Garcia, the Masters champion, was one of the big name casualties, though, as he missed the cut by a stroke on a one-under total.