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Our annual trip to the beautiful Crans-Sur-Sierre golf club in the Swiss Alps is next on the agenda and the event has succeeded in attracting a whole host of top-class players this year to further brighten what is already a cracking event. US Open champion Rory McIlroy is back in action following the injury he sustained at Atlanta Athletic Club, as is Open Champion Darren Clarke. Joining them are the likes of Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Matteo Manassero as well as recent winners Alex Noren, Simon Dyson, Thomas Bjorn and defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez. With such a stellar field on display for an event like this, there's massive value from a betting perspective as you look further down the field.
Ryder Cup qualification begins this week and many of the big names in attendance will be looking to get a flying start on the rankings with a victory here, however Crans-Sur-Sierre presents a very different challenge to many courses and it's arguable whether any of the top names will really be suited to the challenge here generally being more used to playing on longer, flatter US-Style courses.
The course is a short par 71 at just 6,800 yards played at altitude and in warm weather - length off the tee will not be a factor for any player this week. The course is a tree-lined, undulating test with tiny bent/poa greens guarded by bunkers and run-off areas. Crans is a second-shot course where finding the putting surface is imperative to put together a score low enough to succeed here. With 4 par 5s and 3 reachable (to the brave or foolish!) par 4s, there's scope for heavy scoring and a lot of fun. Ultimately you need to find the greens and putt well to succeed here, plus previous experience of the course is of great benefit. Players who perform better on shorter set-ups also tend to excel here.
My selections for this week are as follows:
Course specialist Bradley Dredge simply cannot be overlooked here this week - if there's one event that the Welshman will feel can make his season, this is it. At 78th on the money list, Dredge knows that a win here will guarantee his seat on the plane to Dubai in December and he'll be gunning for a 3rd European Tour title and a second at Crans-Sur-Sierre following his victory here 5 years ago.
There must be something about the Swiss air which switches Dredge's game into overdrive as his record here is second to none with a win, a second, third, fourth and two more top twenty finishes in his last 8 attempts. Winners of this event have also tended to do well at the BMW International Open in Munich (a short course on bent/poa greens where low scoring is required) - 3rd, 9th and 3 more top 20s in his last 6 attempts in Munich speaks volumes about his chances here.
50/1 about dredge represents value in a field deep with talent and is based primarily on the fact that Dredge has just 1 top 10 to his name this season (in Dubai), primarily as his ironplay has been a little off its normal level - no such issue last week as he found himself inside the top 10 for GIR and carrying that form forward to Crans will put him in good stead here for another assault on the European Masters title. RESULT: M/C
Winning a golf tournament often requires a little bit of luck and, when it really mattered at Gleneagles, Gallacher's had run out - his approach at 15 was a yard from perfection, ultimately resulting in a bogey and missing the playoff by a solitary shot. All this after recording a quadruple-bogey 8 on his 8th hole on Thursday which would have knocked the stuffing out of many other players. Heartbreak for the in-form Scot and disappointment for GBS followers as we missed out on any return whatsoever from the 40/1 top selection.
Gallacher was as solid from tee-to-green in Scotland as you'd expect from a man with his ball-striking prowess, however what got him into contention was a switch from his normal long putter to a shorter version borrowed from his son. At Crans we'll find Gallacher's high GIR game well suited and his long, accurate hitting rewarded on the reachable par 4s and par 5s where fortune favours the brave (and accurate!). After consecutive top-6 finishes I'm ready to give Gallacher another chance this week to reward his fine form of recent times. RESULT: T18
Last week's playoff brought the 25 year-old South African into the spotlight and for me showed the type of player with the right grit and determination to succeed at this level. He maintained his composure under pressure to take Thomas Bjorn right to the wire and will take great heart from his performance once the disappointment has subsided. After a first round 77, Coetzee had no right to make the cut, let alone get into contention, however 3 blistering rounds showed us what he's made of and rewarded those lucky (or astute?!!) punters who backed him at 900 on Betfair on Thursday night.
I've already mentioned the Munich tournament as being a good indicator of likely success here - Coetzee finished 3rd behind another of last week's playoff losers Pablo Larrazabel in Germany earlier this season. 7th in Joburg, 4th in Morocco, 3rd at Castle Stuart and a splendid 15th at Sandwich are all positive performances on bentgrass-based greens this season and the 4-time winner on the Sunshine Tour could well go close again here if he's shaken of last week's defeat. RESULT: T25
Marc Warren is the first of two longshots for me this week and I think the 2-time European Tour winner has a far better chance than the 150/1 being offered about him to win here this week. At 150th on the Race To Dubai, the Scot is under severe pressure to secure his playing privileges for 2012, however he'll be buoyed by achieving his biggest cheque of the season at Gleneagles last week and looking to push on further this week.
Putting is Warren's biggest strength and that asset goes down well at Crans where last year's winner Miguel Angel Jimenez averaged less than 1.6 putts per GIR over the week. 2 top 10s here in the last 5 years proves that he can play this course and he comes into this year's event with a stronger platform of recent form to suggest he could sneak into the each way places here. RESULT: M/C
Sky TV presenter and occasional golfer David Howell has been showing signs of late that a rise back up the golf rankings is on the cards - having peaked at 13th on the OWGR back in 2005, the man from Swindon has been on a slippery slide ever since and currently sits at 260th in the World. Don't let that put you off here though - Howell's most potent weapon, his putter, is back on song and it will only take a small improvement from tee-to-green for him to be really competing here on a course where his lack of length off the tee won't be penalised at all.
His tie for 8th at Killarney last month was the 35 year-old's second top 10 of the season having finished 5th in Qatar, however 8th doesn't tell the whole story as he started the final round in the joint lead with eventual winner Simon Dyson before succumbing to final-group pressure. He'll be stronger for that experience and comes to Crans in the knowledge that his game is suited to this test.
Howell finished 7th here in 2009 and 8th back in 2003 so can play the course, plus he has a fine record in Munich (see my previous comments) having won there in 2005 with further top-5 performances in 1999 and 2006. The 11/2 currently available with Paddy Power for a top 20 finish (click here for the full top 20 market) is also well worth a look in my opinion.RESULT: DQ
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:00BST 30.8.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation
We run a weekly competition on our facebook group where you can win a £25 free bet with Paddy Power simply by predicting who will win each week’s events – it’s great fun and free to join, here’s a link to the page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=254181393361