With the PGA Tour taking a breather between seasons following Rory McIlroy’s impressive – and lucrative for him – win at East Lake on Sunday, all eyes will be on the European Tour this week as we make our annual pilgrimage to the Swiss Alps and the beautiful Crans-Sur-Sierre Golf Club.
The new FedEx Cup Champion committed to this event some weeks back in support of his sponsor Omega and he heads what can only be described as an excellent field for this event. The Northern Irishman tops the betting at 4/1 and undoubtedly has an outstanding chance based on last week’s effort and course form of 2/7/3 from the early days of his European Tour career – punters simply need to decide if Rory will have the energy both physically and mentally to contend here after last week’s exertions.
Defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick, who goes for the three-peat here, rates as an 8/1 chance this week, and Open Championship runner-up Tommy Fleetwood sits just behind him at 12/1 at the time of writing. Add to that trio the likes of Matt Wallace, Sergio Garcia, Eddie Pepperell, Bernd Wiesberger, Alex Noren, Lee Westwood and Danny Willett, plus American raider Rory Sabbatini and last week’s winner Erik Van Rooyen, who proved all the doubters – including me – wrong by producing an excellent final round to deservedly get over the line in Sweden.
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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 in the Swiss Alps. 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 following tweaks completed before 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.
The front-9 contains three of the sub-400 yard par-4s from the stretch from the 5th to 7th, however it’s the final hole of that trio that presents the best opportunity for the brave who take on the green, with 208 birdies and 10 eagles recorded there 12 months ago. Back-to-back reachable par-5s at the 14th and 15th reaped over 400 birdies and 33 eagles last year and taking advantage of these scoring holes whilst navigating safely around the remainder of the course is how the more aggressive types might prevail.
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. 2018: Matthew Fitzpatrick, 12/1; 2017: Matthew Fitzpatrick, 30/1; 2016: Alexander Noren, 18/1; 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.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Crans Montana is here. A mixture of sunshine and showers this week with a chance of rain each of the four tournament days. Temperatures will be pleasant enough in the high 60s Fahrenheit and winds will be light throughout.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the last 9 winners at Crans gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:
- 2018, Matt Fitzpatrick (-17). 278 yards (63rd), 71.2% fairways (1st), 77.8% greens in regulation (2nd), 37.5% scrambling (25th), 1.68 putts per GIR (8th)
- 2017, Matt Fitzpatrick (-14). 296 yards (44th), 66.7% fairways (16th), 74.1% greens in regulation (13th), 78.6% scrambling (2nd), 1.65 putts per GIR (8th)
- 2016, Alex Noren (-17). 301 yards (39th), 51.9% fairways (49th), 70.8% greens in regulation (26th), 95.2% scrambling (1st), 1.73 putts per GIR (23rd)
- 2015, Danny Willett (-17). 308 yards (15th), 55.8% fairways (55th), 77.8% greens in regulation (2nd), 56.3% scrambling (35th), 1.68 putts per GIR (15th).
- 2014, David Lipsky (-18). 298 yards (39th), 75.0% fairways (3rd), 83.3% greens in regulation (2nd), 75.0% scrambling (2nd), 1.72 putts per GIR (31st).
- 2013, Thomas Bjorn (-20). 313 yards (29th), 65.4% fairways (24th), 72.2% greens in regulation (17th), 90.0% scrambling (1st), 1.64 putts per GIR (4th).
- 2012, Richie Ramsay (-16). 275 yards (58th), 66.7% fairways (20th), 81.9% greens in regulation (1st), 54.5% scrambling (46th), 1.71 putts per GIR (20th).
- 2011, Thomas Bjorn (-20). 303 yards (24th), 82.7% fairways (1st), 80.6% greens in regulation (1st), 50.0% scrambling (51st), 1.69 putts per GIR (7th).
- 2010, Miguel Angel Jimenez (-21). 308 yards (18th), 73.1% fairways (5th), 66.7% greens in regulation (32nd), 75.0% scrambling (6th), 1.54 putts per GIR (2nd).
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, Willett 2015 and Fitzpatrick 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), Jimenez (2010) and Noren (2016). Only Garcia in 2005 and Fitzpatrick in 2017 really displayed a more balanced pattern of stats on the week, however both are excellent ball-strikers first and foremost.
Incoming Form: 6 of the last 9 winners here arrived with a top-7 finish recorded in their previous event and all had a top-10 finish in their last 10 starts at the very least, so some solid recent form looks preferable. All winners had also recorded a minimum of one top-3 finish in the season or, in the case of Noren, Bjorn and Jimenez, a victory on Tour:
- 2018, Matt Fitzpatrick: 30/12/27/MC/14/MC/48/MC/36/7
- 2017, Matt Fitzpatrick: 12/2/35/MC/54/MC/44/50/MC/54
- 2016, Alex Noren: 9/MC/43/12/MC/8/1/46/49/2
- 2015, Danny Willett: 29/MC/38/3/MC/38/6/MC/MC/6
- 2014, David Lipsky: 18/10/MC/58/2/15/19/24
- 2013, Thomas Bjorn: 4/2/2/18/8/MC/73/MC/MC/58
- 2012, Richie Ramsay: 52/2/16/MC/MC/16/MC/MC/MC/6
- 2011, Thomas Bjorn: 15/MC/WD/MC/57/MC/4/68/MC/1
- 2010, Miguel Angel Jimenez: 8/MC/49/1/MC/27/22/MC/7/3
Event Form (1996 Onwards): A positive record on this track is generally a good sign 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, however both David Lipsky and Richie Ramsay arrived here with patchy course form at best so it’s certainly not the be-all and end-all:
- 2018, Matt Fitzpatrick: MC/2/7/1
- 2017, Matt Fitzpatrick: MC/2/7
- 2016, Alex Noren: 66/MC/1/MC/9/27
- 2015, Danny Willett: 23/42/25/2/26/5
- 2014, David Lipsky: 59/MC
- 2013, Thomas Bjorn: 8/MC/30/2/2/WD/23/26/MC/15/1/MC
- 2012, Richie Ramsay: MC/MC/34
- 2011, Thomas Bjorn: 8/MC/30/2/2/WD/23/26/MC/15
- 2010, Miguel Angel Jimenez: 8/55/7/6/21/46/63/8/2/13/37/MC/3/4
Those with either a high GIR game or excellent short game can succeed here, however it’s clear that despite its length this course favours neither the longer nor shorter hitters. Whilst the eventual champions in recent times haven’t been exceptionally long drivers of the golf ball, that fact could have had an entirely different spin on it had Scott Hend converted either of his play-off chances in 2016 and 2017, or if Lucas Bjerregaard had overcome Matt Fitzpatrick last year, and with the likes of Pelle Edberg (2015) and Brooks Koepka (2014) also contending in the recent past, it’s clear that this isn’t necessarily a course that fits a single style of play.
My selections are as follows: