Dave Tindall

Across the Pond

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Omega European Masters Preview

Monday, September 4, 2017


There are plenty of contenders for ‘favorite week of the year’ on the European Tour but the Omega European Masters will always poll its share of votes.

 

Set in the stunning Swiss mountain resort of Crans-Montana, the idyllic setting is both unique and inspiring and the Crans-sur-Sierre course has held a pro event every year since 1948.

 

The list of former champions also shows that players aren’t just here to look at the stunning views.

 

Seve won at Crans three times, Nick Price, Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo, Craig Stadler, Jose Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Ernie Els, Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia have all had their name engraved on the trophy while the last two winners aren’t bad either – 2016 Masters winner Danny Willett and, last year, current World No. 11 Alex Noren.

 

Miguel Angel Jimenez loves it so much he’ll be playing in the event for the 28th time this week! He’s also a former champ having taken the title in 2010.

 

 

The Course

 

Recent winners Noren (2016) and Thomas Bjorn (2013) were both capturing the tournament for a second time so we’re definitely in horses-for-courses territory this week – as you might expect given the unique setting. An amazing course in terms of looks, it’s also one of the shortest at just 6,848 yards. And it plays even less than that with altitude making the ball fly 10% further. Trees frame the severely undulating fairways (well, we are on the side of a mountain) while the greens (mix of poa and bent) are small with run-off areas so good chippers have the chance to excel. The par of 70 comprises five par 3s and three par 5s and water is in play at 10, 12, 13, 14, 17 and 18.

 

 

Past winners, winning scores and stats

 

2016 -17 Alex Noren (DD 39, DA 49, GIR 26, Scr 1; PA 23)

2015 -17 Danny Willett (DD 15, DA 55, GIR 2, Scr 35; PA 15)

2014 -18 David Lipsky (DD 39, DA 3, GIR 2, Scr 2; PA 30)

2013 -20 Thomas Bjorn (DD 29, DA 24, GIR 17, Scr 1; PA 3)

2012 -16 Richie Ramsay (DD 60, DA 24, GIR 1, Scr 46; PA 24)

 

Notes: The winning score is fairly consistent and, in fact, 12 of the last 14 editions have been won with 72-hole totals from -16 to -21. Greens in regulation is a key stat while three of the last five winners have been in the top two for Scrambling. Noren got up and down an amazing 95.2% of the time last year.

 

 

The Weather

 

The forecast suggest a bright and pleasant start to the week with temperatures in the mid-60s for the first two rounds. But then it turns. Rain is the prediction Saturday while Sunday looks pretty grim with heavy downpours, much cooler conditions and a few gusts of wind.

 

 

The Leading Contenders

 

Alex Noren

Noren’s last five appearances here show wins in 2016 and 2009 along with a further top 10 in 2011. He shot a 63 in both of his winning years. The Swede was T6 at The Open on his last start in Europe (top of Scrambling stats) and also T10 in the Open de France before that so, although not quite displaying the incredible form of this time last year, you’d expect him to challenge for this title again.

 

Tommy Fleetwood

After a breakthrough year and surge up the world rankings (currently 16th), Fleetwood must feel he fully deserves a pleasant stroll in the mountain air. But he’s also here to win and it’s often been a venue where top players have kept the good times rolling. Fleetwood knows the lie of the land extremely well having played in the previous five editions at Crans and his first three visits produced form of 19-9-5. A likely winner.

 

Bernd Wiesberger

Brought up in mountainous Austria, it’s no surprise that Wiesberger also makes this an annual stop. He’s 4-for-5 with a best of T6 in 2012 and also T13 in 2014. Lots of good rounds here although he’s never found a really low one (best is 66). Wiesberger won in China back in April and was consistent through to June but didn’t manage anything much in the big summer events. This is an obvious chance to get on the leaderboard again.

 

Matt Fitzpatrick

Sitting 27th for GIR and 37th for Scrambling, Fitzpatrick should be a good fit for Crans. And he is! After getting a first look in 2014, the Englishman was runner-up in 2015 (65-64-66 final three rounds) and T7 last year (65-64-66 final three rounds). If he’s in the top 10 after day one, watch out. The negative is obvious. Flat current form which continued with T54 in last week’s Czech Masters and shows just one sub-70 round in his last 19.

 

Lee Westwood

The 1999 winner hasn’t forgotten the skills needed to thrive here and, after being an infrequent visitor since 2009, he shot a final-round 63 last year to finish in the top four. You’ll find lots of other top 10s on his Crans resume. While he wasn’t a force in the summer majors, Westwood’s last two results in regular European Tour events are T10 in the Open de France and T9 in last week’s Czech Masters. Plenty to like about him this week.

 

Ross Fisher

It’s four missed cuts from seven starts at Crans for Fisher so maybe he does just come for the views. However, a fifth place in 2013 when he blasted a third-round 63 shows what’s possible and he actually posted another 63 (R2) last year despite finishing T58. Lots of strong finishes this year although he’s had just one top 10 since late May (T7 at July’s Open de France).

 

Jordan Smith

Came back to earth with T60 in Prague last week having won the European Open (first Tour success) and placed T9 in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in his previous two starts. But, despite being a rookie, his poor weeks are few and far between. He finished T9 and T12 in two Challenge Tour events in Switzerland last year and this season he’s 13th for GIR and 6th for Scrambling so Crans should really suit him. 

 

Richie Ramsay

Very few have played this course as well as Ramsay over the last few seasons. The Scot fired 64-66 on the weekend to take the title in 2012 and has backed that up with top 10s in 2014 and 2015. He can bring current form to the table too after second place in the Irish Open, a top 25 at The Open and T8 in the European Open on his last strokeplay start.

 

Tyrrell Hatton

The thrill of some big finishes in Florida and the novelty of playing every week on the PGA TOUR wore off for Hatton and, feeling somewhat homesick, he lost his way. The return to Europe hasn’t had the galvanizing effect he hoped and he’s missed six of seven cuts since June. But, how about some mountain air in his nostrils to change the script? Hatton absolutely loves this venue and has two third places from three starts, the second (2015) achieved with a closing 62.

 

Alexander Levy

Any tournament requiring a bunch of birdies is in Levy’s wheelhouse although he couldn’t get the hang of this course on his first three visits, missing the cut each time. T18 last year hints at something of a breakthrough and a second place in the European Open at the end of July suggests he’s ready to really give it a crack this time. A winner in China earlier this season.


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Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.
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