After an enthralling finish in Denmark, we remain on European soil this week as we make our annual trip to Crans-sur-Sierre golf club in the Swiss Alps for the Omega European Masters. A brief change in scheduling last year put this event immediately after the Open Championship, however it's now back to its more typical position in the calendar at the start of September and, as always, we have a fairly strong field that's assembled here by European Tour standards. A decent prize fund to €2.7m for this event is no doubt partially responsible, however for many players this is a highlight of the season as they set foot on this beautiful piece of land in southern Switzerland.
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford previews the Deutsche Bank Championship - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Crans-Sur-Sierre GC, Crans Montana, Switzerland. Designer: Fremantle and Gedge, 1908 with Ballesteros re-design 1999; Par: 70; Length: 6,848 yards; Fairways: Poa/Rye; Rough: Poa/Rye; Greens: Bent/Poa, 10'6" on the stimp.
Course Overview. This quirky sub-7,000 yard, par 70 is played at altitude and in typically warm Swiss weather this means that length off the tee will not be a factor this week. The course is a tree-lined, undulating test with tiny bent/poa greens guarded by bunkers and run-off areas which have been toughened up further following tweaks completed before each of the last few renewals. Four of the par 4s measure less than 400 yards whereas two stretch over 500 yards, plus there are five par 3s between 175 and 235 yards, however with the undulation changes and altitude the holes don't necessarily play as the card suggests.
Tournament Stats. We've published some key player statistics for this week's Omega European Masters that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Top 20 Finishes.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2015: Danny Willett, 16/1; 2014: David Lipsky, 125/1; 2013: Thomas Bjorn, 40/1; 2012, Richie Ramsay, 80/1; 2011; Thomas Bjorn, 55/1; 2010: Miguel Angel Jimenez, 18/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the European Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2016 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Crans Montana is here. A mixture of sunshine and shows this week with temperatures peaking in the high 60s Fahrenheit after chilly early morning starts on the mountain. Winds will be light throughout the week at 5-10 mph.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the last 6 winners at Crans gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:
Historically there have been 2 differing approaches to success here at Crans - either playing a conservative, high GIR game and putting well enough on the week to get the job done (Els 2003, Dredge 2006, Luquin 2008, Noren 2009, Bjorn 2011, Ramsay 2012, Bjorn 2013, Lipsky 2014 and Willett last year succeeded in this fashion); alternatively relying on an outstanding short game is the other route to victory as ably demonstrated by Karlsson (2002), Donald (2004), Rumford (2007) and Jimenez (2010). Only Garcia in 2005 really displayed a more balanced pattern of stats on the week.
Those with either a high GIR game or excellent short game can succeed here and it's prudent to have a mix of the two types of player in the team this week, although I'd err slightly more on the side of ball-striking. A positive record of this track is generally a big plus point given its quirky nature and this is the type of event that tends to see a similar set of players feature year-in, year-out.
Bookmaker Offers. A couple of bookmakers have extended their each-way terms this week at the Omega European Masters:
My selections are as follows:
A cursory look at the event history coupled with some excellent Major performances will have had many punters hoping for a better price on Tyrrell Hatton this week - alas an opening show from the miserly bookmakers had the young Englishman as short as 12/1 for this in places. For a Tour maiden who's yet to win above EuroPro Tour level that's a little too short for me to consider, although I suspect the 24 year-old will start gathering some silverware before too long. Alongside Hatton we have the Masters champion Danny Willett who's chosen to stay this side of the Atlantic instead of competing in the FedEx Cup PlayOffs and the in-form Alex Noren, however the inclusion of that trio in the field has meant for a more attractive price about Matthew Fitzpatrick this week and I'm more than happy to take the 20/1 on offer for the Sheffield lad here this week.
One thing we've learnt about Matt in his thus far short career is that he's not afraid to miss a few cuts and that, in turn, shouldn't put punters off of him if the course is right. A weekend off (Dunhill Links) preceded his maiden European Tour victory at Woburn last season and incoming form of MC/MC/MC/47 hardly telegraphed his Nordea Masters success in June, however this is an immensely talented player who's likely to keep accumulating silverware as the events tick by, potentially with another trophy beckoning this week.
His missed cut in Denmark last week can be best explained by the fact that he'd just qualified by rights for Darren Clarke's Ryder Cup team courtesy of his top-5 finish in the Czech Republic and a week further down the line he can get back to the important business of finding top form ahead of his forthcoming adventure at Hazeltine. There are two ways to look at this of course - you could equally argue that there's little motivation for Matt to perform this week, however I suspect he'll want to keep his game in tip-top condition ahead of the biggest week of his life. Thomas Pieters' win at the weekend puts him ahead of Fitzpatrick in terms of titles gained in the last 12 months and there's still a few weeks before he defends his British Masters crown for that score to settled.
2nd here last year featured a field-leading 79.2% of greens hit in regulation and that's the way Fitzpatrick is likely to compete again here this week. 81.9% on the same count on his penultimate start suggests he's not lost any of the form that he found at the Paul Lawrie Match Play and a contuniation of that kind of level into this week on the Ballesteros re-design that puts so much emphasis on quality approach shots should see him right in contention for another title. Whilst Matt's proven that he can compete on a variety of tracks - 7th at Augusta and his aforementioned win in Sweden are two layouts that put a lot of pressure on his lack of driving distance - these shorter, more strategic tracks are still likely to present the biggest opportunities to him and I think he's got a great chance to pick up where he left off in Prague a fortnight ago here this week. RESULT: T7
This fiddly track at Crans often brings the same players to the top of the leaderboard each year and backing a couple of course-proven players is my plan of attack this week. First up David Lipsky whose course form and current form is there for all to see and who must surely feature this week if he can maintain the form he's shown - with the flat stick in particular - over the past fortnight. Having won on just his 3rd Asian Tour start in 2012, it didn't take him long to make his mark on the European Tour either finishing 3rd on his debut at this level in Malaysia that same year in a co-sanctioned event before winning this event a couple of years later on his 15th start. The Californian, who is half Korean, hasn't quite hit those heights since, however 5 top-10 finishes this term including 6th and 3rd on his last two starts suggests to me that his game is in the right kind of shape to have another attempt at this title having also finished 16th last year as defending champion when really struggling with his game. The short game's working nicely for David at present - he led the field for scrambling last week in Denmark - and when these tiny greens are inevitably missed that's a great attribute to have. Consecutive top-10 All Round performances coupled with excellent putting efforts in the Czech Republic and Denmark where he ranked 4th both times for putts per round makes him a must bet for me this week. RESULT: T58
It's with some trepidation that I back Bradley Dredge given the mounting number of missed opportunities since his last European Tour victory on this very course. It will be nigh on 10 years to the day since the Welshman last tasted success by the time Sunday rolls around, however I'm prepared to give the predictor no.1 selection a chance this week given how well he played for the vast majority of last week and in the end only a determined Thomas Pieters stood between him and some very welcome silverware. An early double bogey on Sunday opened the door for Dredge's competitors, however to his credit he produced a 6-under performance for his final 15 holes which included an outstanding putt on the 72nd hole to finish in solo 2nd place. Crucially for the 43 year-old, the putter was on fire last week after a few weeks of being lukewarm at best - when on song, Dredge is one of the best putters in world golf and the confidence is likely to reverberate through his whole game. Course form in Denmark which now reads 2/6/2 will no doubt make him a short price for next year's renewal, however before we get ahead of ourselves there's a decent chance for him to capitalise on his form on another course where he excels having added a 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finish to that aforementioned victory over the years. "I'm in good position but I want to win some tournaments. It’s nice to come in second but I want to be holding the trophy at the end of the day" a determined Dredge remarked after banking a healthy €200k for his efforts last week - we've seen him produced strong back-to-back performances in the recent past and I think he's worth the chance to do the same this week. RESULT: MC
Certain players are a little easier to read than others and for me there are events where Tommy Fleetwood feels comfortable and confident and others where he doesn't. Aside from the Dunhill Links where he perennially performs, this event is seemingly one of the Englishman's favourites having recorded progressive finishes of 19th, 9th and 5th before missing the cut last year immediately after the Open Championship. A 7th place finish in Qatar aside, this season's been far from great for the 25 year-old and whilst his card for next season is safe, he'll need to push on over these next few weeks if he's going to make the big money events at the end of season plus the Tour's finale in Dubai. It's all about the ball-striking with Tommy so it was massively encouraging for him to see a marked improvement on his last start in the Czech Republic - 82% Driving Accuracy and 80.6% GIR says everything you need to know about his long game that week and a continuation of that level into this week at Crans should see him in the mix here. Players who can find these greens in the required number are at a distinct advantage here and the 2013 Gleneagles champion has found that element of the task here to his liking in the past having ranked inside the top-3 for GIR in two of his four attempts at this title. Putting isn't Fleetwood's strongest suit by any stretch, however his best efforts have tended to come on Bent/Poa surfaces such as we have here and further improvement this week is likely in my view. RESULT: T49
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel