What’s the first thing you would do after winning $15 million? It would probably not be to jump on a plane, fly across the Atlantic and prepare for a full week of work. That, however, is just what Rory McIlroy did following his FedEx Cup win. After doing the media and having a small celebration, McIlroy jetted over to Switzerland for this week’s Omega European Masters.
McIlroy has been installed as the favourite to win this week for very good reason but he’s sure to face a tough challenge up in the Alps. Danny Willett is one of those in the field who knows exactly what it takes to win this tournament. The 2015 champion is back to something approaching his best and should be a real contender this week at odds of 22/1 with Ladbrokes.
Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club is arguably the most picturesque golf course used by the European Tour. The course is set high up in the Swiss Alps in Crans Montana which is a world class skiing resort for much of the year. The air is clear and thin so balls fly considerably further than at sea level which cuts down the effective yardage of the par 70 even more than the 6,848 yards on the scorecard.
European Tour players have more than enough power to get stuck into Crans-sur-Sierre which features a couple of drivable par fours. With length no defence, the course (which had the original design considerably reworked by Seve Ballesteros in 1999) uses hazards, run off areas and significant undulations to try to keep scoring down.
|Crans-sur-Sierre||Crans Montana, Switzerland||6,848 Yards||€2,500,000|
Matt Fitzpatrick absolutely loves playing in Crans Montana. He returns to Switzerland looking to complete a hat-trick of tournament wins. Fitzpatrick is in very good form at the moment and has extra fire in his belly having narrowly missed out on winning the Scandinavian Masters last week.
Alex Noren and Danny Willett, the 2016 and 2015 winners respectively, are also both in the field for the 2019 renewal. Willett is, quite remarkably, the only man to have won this tournament in the last six years without having to resort to a playoff. That shows you just how bunched scoring can be at Crans-sur-Sierre and another close run thing is expected this year.
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2015||Danny Willett||-17||1 Stroke|
Analysis: More Than One Way to Get the Job Done
Much like Hills Golf Club which was used for last week’s Scandinavian Masters, Crans-sur-Sierre is a course that plays into the hands of players who are in complete control of their golf ball. Errant tee shots can quite easily find trouble, whether that’s a well-placed bunker, a horrible ditch or one of the big trees which frame the fairways.
The most well-trodden route to success in the European Masters is throttling back off the tee and hitting a high percentage of fairways and greens. However, some players have had success by taking a more aggressive approach. World class drivers who can back their play off the tee with excellent wedge play have a good chance to contend should they putt well enough on the tricky greens they’ll find at Crans-sur-Sierre.
Willett to Mark His Return to the Top Level
Missing the cut at the 2017 Omega European Masters laid bare just how bad things had got for Danny Willett. The Englishman had an excellent previous record at Crans-sur-Sierre so the fact he was unable to be competitive was a big shock for him and his many fans. Fortunately, Willett’s game and head are in completely different places as he makes his return to Crans Montana this week.
The countless hours of hard work he’s put into his swing with his coach Sean Foley have already started to pay off. He won the DP World Tour Championship last year and in under 18 months has gone from 342nd in the world to his current ranking of 55. Willett arrives fresh after a family holiday and could just go all the way to win his second European Masters title at 22/1 with Ladbrokes.
Closaerts Can Bounce Back to Form
The PGA Tour playoffs will have served as a reminder for many European Tour players hovering around the 110 mark of the Race to Dubai rankings that they need to buck their ideas up to retain their tour card for next season. Nicolas Colsaerts is one of those who needs some good results, even if he is more concerned about making it to Dubai than merely doing enough to maintain his full playing privileges.
The Belgian’s results of late haven’t been anything to write home about. He is a cool, calm customer though who won’t get flustered and should be looking forward to the Omega European Masters where he has played very well before. Colsaerts is among that number who will look to utilise their power and putting to score well this week. His chances of contending are better than his odds of 225/1 with bet365 suggest.
Bjorn Worth Chancing at a Huge Price
Thomas Bjorn is looking forward to a very enjoyable week in Crans Montana. The Dane has been playing here for many years, winning the title twice. Last year’s victorious Ryder Cup captain will get to catch up with some of the players who starred for him in Paris but it’s not just a social trip for Bjorn. He’s shown some encouraging signs with his golf game lately most notably finishing eighth at Valderrama and he could be worth chancing at 500/1 with Betfred even if just for a chance to cash out later in the week.
Final Verdict: Danny Willett to Win
Rory McIlroy’s performance last week reminded everybody that he is capable of winning any tournament should he bring his best game. He could certainly win the Omega European Masters but does not represent value at a general price of 4/1 given the mental and physical exertions of last week. Danny Willett is a much more tempting option at 22/1 with Ladbrokes whilst Nicolas Colsaerts and Thomas Bjorn have outsider chances of returning at huge prices.
About the Omega European Masters
The Omega European Masters has been around for a very long time, with the first edition having taken place way back in 1923. Initially, the tournament was called the Swiss Open, a title it held until the event was known as the Ebel European Masters Swiss Open in 1982. Canon were the sponsors from 1991 to 2000, with Swiss watchmaker Omega taking over in 2001.
Since 1939, the European Masters has taken place at the Golf-Club Crans-sur-Sierre in Valais, Switzerland. The competition has been held every year since 1948, apart from the 2020 edition, which was cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak. The tournament is a European Tour event, though it was also part of the Asian Tour from 2009 to 2017.
Back to the Beginning
The first official Swiss Open was won by Scottish golfer Alec Ross. That was the start of Ross’s supremacy in this competition, as he went on to win again in 1925 and 1926. The man from Dornoch in the Highlands of Scotland won several tournaments during his career, including the US Open back in 1907.
Superb Spaniard Wins Two in a Row
The great Spaniard Seve Ballesteros was a three-time winner of this tournament. Seve’s first victory was a three-stroke success over John Schroeder in 1977. The year before, Ballesteros finished runner-up to fellow Spaniard Manuel Pinero.
A year after his first win, Seve retained his crown at the 1978 Swiss Open, this time beating rival Pinero by three shots. The third and final title for Ballesteros came in 1989, as he got the better of Australian Craig Parry by two strokes in Switzerland.
Ballesteros played a big part in Spain’s dominance of this competition from 1976 to 1981, as four of six Swiss Opens were won by Spaniards during that time. Along with Seve’s wins in 1977 and 1978, Pinero prevailed in 1976 and 1981. Also, Jose Maria Olazabal was a winner in 1986.
Spanish Winners of the European Masters
|1986||Jose Maria Olazabal|
|2010||Miguel Angel Jimenez|
Rees Wins Third Crown
Dai Rees became the first player from Wales to win this tournament when he secured a playoff victory in 1956. Two years later, the Glamorgan man was at it again, this time claiming a single-stroke victory over Englishman Syd Scott. Rees then became only the third player to win three Swiss Opens, beating Harold Henning in a playoff in ’65.
Rees was a fine player and won a total of 43 professional tournaments in all. He was second or tied second in the Open Championship on three separate occasions: in 1953, 1954 and 1961, losing out to some of the game’s greats in nine-time major winner Ben Hogan in 1953, five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson in 1954, and seven-time major winner Arnold Palmer in 1961.
Fitzpatrick’s Back-to-back Victories
Two years after securing his first European Tour victory at the British Masters, Sheffield-born Matthew Fitzpatrick won the Omega European Masters in Switzerland in September 2017. Fitzpatrick beat Scott Hend – who also finished runner-up the year before – in a playoff to win his first crown.
Fitzpatrick was desperate to keep hold of his title the following year at Golf-Club Crans-sur-Sierre. It was another close one, but Fitzpatrick fended off Dane Lucas Bjerregaard in a playoff to add another European Masters trophy to his cabinet. At the time of writing, that remains his last European Tour victory.
Swede Soderberg Squeezes Past Rory & Co.
In a fascinating 2019 tournament in Valais, Swedish man Sebastian Soderberg won a five-man playoff to win on the European Tour for the first time. The Swede won with a birdie on the first extra hole, beating Rory McIlroy, Lorenzo Gagli, Andres Romero and Kalle Samooja. He held his nerve remarkably well in such a high-pressure situation given his lack of experience of winning big tournaments.
Soderberg had been a winner on the Challenge Tour as well as picking up three Nordic Golf League wins since turning professional in 2013. However, his first European Tour victory at the 2019 Omega European Masters in Switzerland will always be one to remember for the Swede.
Few Americans Victorious in European Masters
At the time of writing there have been only two victors in this tournament from the United States: David Lipsky in 2014 and Craig Stadler in 1985. A similar lack of US winners is seen on some European Tour events more than others, but one would generally presume that a tournament with as long a history as this one might have thrown up one or two more over the years.
Part of the reason is that the tournament is generally held in late August/early September when the vast majority of top US players opt to play in/prepare for the PGA Tour events such as the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship.