European Masters – Crans Montana, Switzerland live on Sky Sports 4
Last weeks golf
Our 66/1 headline pick David Lipsky gave us a full EW payout for consecutive weeks as he finished T3 in Denmark. When he birdied the short par four 14th on Sunday he took the joint lead and looked set to at least grab a playoff place – that was until Thomas Pieters showed his class – birdieing the last three holes to nab the win from our man Lipsky and Bradley Dredge. Elsewhere we had 200/1 man Lundberg finish T10 and 140/1 shout Ben Hebert register a T13.
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The European Masters has been a permanent fixture on the European Tour since the tour began in the early 1970’s. Previously known as the Swiss Open, the stunning Crans-sur-Sierre layout hosts the tournament for the 70th time this year. Since 2009, this has been a co-sanctioned event with the Asian Tour and has one of the bigger prize pots of the season at 2.7 million Euros.
2015 saw Masters Champion Danny Willett claim the title ahead of fellow Englishmen Matthew Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton. The three return for this years renewal alongside Ryder Cupper’s Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood, Open de France winner Thongchai Jaidee, Scottish Open champion Alex Noren and American invite and future star Bryson Dechambeau.
I’ve been fortunate to attend this event over the past two years and having travelled reasonably extensively in my pre-fatherhood/career days, I can assure you that Crans Montana in Switzerland is one of the most beautiful places in the world and looks just as good (if not better) in the flesh than it does on TV.
The Seve Ballesteros layout measures in at a measly 6,848 yards and being located at altitude, this yardage plays even shorter. Stunning views are present throughout the 18 hole set-up, with the scenery particularly striking at the drivable par four 7th hole, where on a clear day you can see for miles down into the Swiss valleys.
The 1st hole was a par four, then was a par five, and now has reverted back to a quite ridiculous 540 yard par four. Likewise they changed the downhill 14th to a par four in 2014, but have since reverted to a much more sensible par five. The course plays to a par of 70 with the 9th and the 15th being the other two par fives.
The five par three’s are interesting, with scoring opportunities available at the short 3rd hole and uphill 11th, with multiple aces recorded over the past two editions. The 16th is a par four for the members and plays a whooping 235 yard par three for the pros.
Having walked the course several times, I can tell you this is more a faders course than a drawer if anything – players that move the ball from left to right will have a distinct advantage on several of the par fours – namely the 4th, 5th & 12th. Birdie opportunities tend to come in batches, with a distinct possibility of playing holes 5 thru 9 in six under par.
The course is highly undulating and mainly tree-lined. Walking it twice in a day is hard going as a spectator and a bottle of Fendant (the local cheap, white wine) is certainly needed after a day roaming the fairways cheering on (or cursing) your bets!
There is hardly a breath of wind forecast all week, with rain set to arrive on Friday PM and set in for the rest of the event. Sunday afternoon looks particularly wet, so doesn’t be surprised to see the final round tee times bought forward to the morning and from two tees as the organisers try to ensure a Sunday finish. I’m guessing the course will be pretty damp – expect this to be the usual birdie-fest.
Previous Winners & Key Stats
2015 – Danny Willett (-17) – DA 55th DD 14th GIR 2nd PPGIR 15th Scrambles 21/28
2014 – David Lipsky (-18) – DA 3rd DD 39th GIR 2nd PPGIR 31st Scrambles 9/12
2013 – Thomas Bjorn (-20) – DA 24th DD 29th GIR 17th PPGIR 4th Scrambles 18/20
2012 – Richie Ramsay (-16) – DA 20th DD 58th GIR 1st PPGIR 20th Scrambles 6/10* (excludes R2, no data)
It doesn’t take much to consider the key stat is greens in regulation here. Crans has much smaller than average greens, many are elevated up-turned saucers, with either run off areas or penal rough surrounding any wayward approach shot. Your golfer will miss greens here – especially if they aren’t accurate off the tee – when you do miss, it is key to scramble well and save those big par putts. Whilst there are many scoreable holes as indicated above and by the low scores on show by the winners, there are also some tough stretches where saving par and keeping momentum going is crucial to maintaining a title charge.
As ever par five scoring will be important – but with five par threes – I want my picks iron games and GIR stats to be in good order.
Bernd Wiesberger 30/1 EW (now 29s, which is OK)
One man who went quiet in the Ryder Cup chase having been mentioned earlier in the year is last years Open de France champion Bernd Wiesberger. Bernd is well overdue another win in my opinion and recent strong showings in Germany (T7), France (T11) and the Olympics (T11) coupled with course form at Crans reading 31, 13, six suggest the prolific ball-striking Austrian is ready to win again. My only concern is his sometimes lukewarm putter can stop him shooting the low numbers required – but one thing is certain – he will pound lots of greens and set up plenty of birdie chances.
Marcus Fraser 66/1 EW
I backed the experienced Australian here last year and was pleased to see him at a bigger price than the 50/1 floating about twelve months ago. The 38 year-old finished T2 here in 2012 and was in the top ten last year midway through his third round, before a calamitous last 27 holes saw him slip way down the leaderboard. A 5th place at the Olympics was a terrific showing for this years Malaysian Open winner and I’ve no doubt Crans will offer Marcus a great opportunity to add another trophy to his cabinet.
Rikard Karlberg 100/1 EW
On the face of it last years Italian open champ isn’t in the best of form – four MC in a row isn’t inspiring – but given two were in higher graded majors, that doesn’t put me off backing him this week. This is a course in which he finished 9th last edition with rounds of 65, 67 and 65, only ruined by a Saturday 74. The Swede also has a T15 here in 2013 and played great golf earlier in the summer in which he registered top ten finishes in China, Ireland, Wentworth and Sweden in the space of six weeks.
YE Yang 125/1 EW
The former USPGA major victor finished T16 here last year, but that was the original half-a-story as the Korean shot brilliant rounds of 65 and 63 in the opening two rounds to sit T2. Last week in Denmark he finished inside the top 20, mainly thanks to a red hot putter (3rd for PPGIR) and fine GIR stats (26th) I reckon the 44 year-old could follow other experienced plotters and former Crans-sur-Sierre champions Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez and conquer the Swiss mountains.
Edoardo Molinari 150/1 EW
Quietly, the lesser-known Molinari brother (but former two time ET winner) is having a good run. The Italian has made 10/11 cuts and appeared inside the top 10 in Denmark last week before slipping back to T26. His all round game appears in good order and he arrives at Crans with a fine historical record – 53, 13, 12, 2, 14 – last years T53 could have been another high finish were it not for a triple-bogey 8 on the par five 15th which derailed his hopes in his third round.
Prices correct at time of writing.