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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Next Rung
It’s an eighth visit to the mountain course at Crans-sur-Sierre for the giant Englishman but despite standing even taller than usual he’s not been able to look down on the field many times in this event. He’s missed the cut on three occasions, had another WD and T15 in 2010 is his only top 30. A top 15 in The Open was a recent sign of good health after injury concerns but this event remains a puzzle for him to crack.
One of the quiet starts of the European Tour over the last few months thanks to a run of 7-20-19-5 hitting a climax with victory in the Paul Lawrie Match Play in Germany. Now, can he bring that form to the Swiss Alps? He’s 3-for-3 so far but finishes of 40-53-58 suggest that this may not be the best fit for him.
He’s making his tournament debut but the New Zealander will be happy to have his passport stamped in Switzerland again. He’s made two previous trips to the country and finished second (2016) and third (2015) in the Challenge Tour’s Rolex Trophy. Everything went like clockwork in July as he reeled off a trio of top sixes in the French, Irish and Scottish Opens so gamers will hope he can find the same timing here.
Current form? That’s a tick as he finished runner-up in the Made In Denmark two weeks ago, hitting just under 85% of greens in regulation (second) and also scrambling well. That added to a second place in the Lyoness Open in June so he’s been showing up well in these gentler events. Course form? Oh dear. Horsey has played Crans six times with four missed cuts, along with T60 and T66.
A stalwart of this event and a venue he took to straight away after posting T13 on debut in 2001. Starting from 2010, the Welshman’s results at Crans read: 23-3-9-MC-7-24 and he’ll be itching to get back after missing the event last year. He’ll return showing an upturn in form with five top 25s in his last eight starts including each of the last three.
A runner-up in Morocco, that first European Tour win is surely coming soon and T9 in the Paul Lawrie and T14 in the Made In Denmark on his last two starts have teased us further. But is this the right venue for the Irishman? Evidence is very limited but his one appearance in the Swiss mountains resulted in rounds of 72-74 and a missed cut.
Another form horse after fourth at the Scottish Open and T5 in defense of his Paul Lawrie Match Play crown. Wall has played this course numerous times and banked a fifth top 20 with T18 last year so he could feature strongly again.
A superb winner at the Made In Denmark although the most noticeable thing about his play in the Czech Republic last week was how angry he got. It didn’t help and after appearing on the leaderboard over the first few days the bad energy finally got to him and resulted in T34. We’ve had previous American winners here (David Lipsky 2014 and Craig Stadler 1985) but perhaps Suri needs a week off to take everything in.
The South African now has two European Tour wins after taking victory in the Czech Masters last week so remember the name. He’s just 23 and more will follow. He suffered MC either side of his last one (2016 Joburg Open) but Porteous was T6 in Denmark before his Czech win so his form is excellent. T6 in a Challenge Tour event in Switzerland in 2015, his debut in this event saw him shoot 72-78 and crash out at halfway last year. Expect something much better this time.
Nothing too much wrong with his current position of 51st on the Race to Dubai but he hasn’t been very gamer-friendly at all this season, managing just a single top 10 (T7 Lyoness in June). It’s his first start at Crans for four years, a venue he played five years straight from 2009 with a best of T15 in 2011.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
The European Tour website claims this is his 38th appearance. Hmmm, we think 10 less unless he’s teed it up every year since turning 15. Twice a winner and a yardage he can still handle. Runner-up in Champions Tour event last time.
The Ryder Cup skipper and top-class chipper lifted the trophy in 2011 and 2013 and was runner-up here in 1999 and 2000. A top 15 in the recent Scottish Open suggests he can focus on the course still.
Three starts at Crans, three top 20s. That includes T12 last year after opening with 64. The Frenchman was third in his home Open de France and also top 10 in Prague last week.
Third here in 2013, the unusual and serene surroundings might just tap in to Victor’s desire to walk to a different drum. T31 at the Made in Denmark two weeks ago when he was 9th for GIR.
Another French mountain dweller (he’s played here since winning a Challenge Tour event on the course in 1997). He still loves it as shown by T7 and T12 on his last two visits. Poor current form but can just click.
Scared of flying and you wonder if he walks up the mountain to the first tee rather than takes a cable car. Still, a pair of top sevens here the last two years suggests these are heights he actively enjoys.
Second in Scrambling this year so has the skills to shine on debut. Has slipped off the radar a little but T31 (Denmark) and T25 (Czech) hint at a big week soon. Third in Open de France.
Gone quiet (three MCs) after some fine play in the first half of the season including a play-off win to deny Rory in South Africa. Runner-up here in 2014 so the fresh air might revive him again.
Two top 20s here in last four visits and final lap last year was a 63 for T12. Top 10 in Irish Open recently and T44 in Denmark last time.
Who’s On The Team?
The list of classy winners suggests the top names turn up here with intention as well as looking for photo opportunities.
In terms of betting, Mike Lorenzo-Vera could be worth a look at a big price.
One To Swerve
Of those that have played in a Ryder Cup, Chris Wood’s poor course form knocks him down the list.