TOURNAMENT HISTORY Following one of the most dramatic weekends in European Tour history, the schedule returns to the venue where that epic race for Ryder Cup qualification began exactly a year ago. The Swiss mountain setting of Crans-sur-Sierre is one of the oldest staging posts on the tour, and always manages to attract a decent line-up. Surprisingly, given what one might assume would be a natural inclination for a week off, this year's includes most of the principals from Gleneagles.
The history books show a stream of world-class winners including the likes of Garcia, Els and Donald this century, though more recently Brett Rumford and Jean-Francois Lucquin were available in triple-figures before their victories in 2007 and 2008. COURSE AND KEY STATS This is one of the courses where the greens in regulation stats have proved most important through the years. Lucquin, for instance, may have had little in the way of wider form, but was very reliable around that time from tee to green; as were all recent champions. The key characteristic about this quirky course is very tricky greens, which place a particularly strong emphasis on the approach shot. Fewer long range putts tend to be holed on this course than usual.
Another interesting feature is the three consecutive short par-fours on the front nine. All represent an easy birdie opportunity for those with a classy touch around the greens, which may further explain the tendency towards high-quality leaderboards, as scrambling is the skill that tends to separate the best from the rest. SELECTIONS 3pts ew CHARL SCHWARTZEL @ 18/1 (GENERAL) Rather than focus on the equally obvious Ryder Cup candidates, I prefer a fresh player in Schwartzel. He was sixth at Crans last year, and there's no doubt that significant strides have been made in the meantime. This is easily his best year to date, with top-20s in the last three majors, and previously twice making the top-three in prestigious PGA Tour events. Schwartzel represents one of the principal threats to our long-term bet on Kaymer to win the Race to Dubai.2.5pts ew BRADLEY DREDGE @ 22/1 (BET365, PADDY POWER, HILLS)
Given that he's offered strong hints of a return to his best form, most recently when 7th at Gleneagles, Dredge is a must-bet around what must be his favourite course. Not only was Crans the scene of his finest hour, when winning easily in 2006, but he's made the top-20 on six of his last seven visits, four times inside the top-four. 1pt ew OLIVER WILSON @ 50/1 (BOYLESPORTS, 33/1 SPORTINGBET)
Oliver hasn't done much in the big events recently, but caught the eye for a long way at Gleneagles before slipping back to 14th in Sunday's unsuitably windy conditions. He's made the top-25 on all four previous visits to Crans, which is pretty fair for a 50/1 shot. 1pt ew FREDRIK ANDERSSON-HED @ 50/1 (BET365, HILLS)
A record of three previous top-25s at Crans may look ordinary, but in fairness Andersson-Hed has never enjoyed anything like the form of this season, which has yielded a maiden win and second place at the elite BMW Championship. Besides respectably making the cut on his recent USPGA debut, the Swede's last two European Tour finishes were 11th in Scandinavia and seventh in the Czech Open, at another course well above sea level. Nobody in this field ranks better in terms of scrambling. 0.5pt ew JOOST LUITEN @ 90/1 (BOYLESPORTS, 100/1 SKYBET) Having made his last 13 cuts, registering six top-20s in the process, Luiten looks overdue at least a place payout and perhaps a breakthrough win. Remember, this young Dutchman was being tipped for great things just three years ago, when taking the Challenge Tour by storm and making a big impact on his early European starts. After injury problems, his time may have come. Even if not this week, then Luiten is definitely one to follow next week in his national Open.
MAIN CANDIDATES EDOARDO MOLINARI Only a fool would argue with Edoardo's credentials after Sunday's
heroics. There was no hyperbole in Monty's remarks that his
triple-birdie finish was the finest he's ever seen on the European Tour,
under the most extreme pressure. Nevertheless, it would be asking an
awful lot for him to follow up for back to back wins. MIGUEL-ANGEL JIMENEZ I learnt a big lesson last week, never to write off Jimenez, especially
in terms of his professionalism. He was also magnificent at Gleneagles,
apart from that inexplicable double-bogey on 17. Jimenez has been a
regular Crans contender over the years, with seven top-tens including
top-fours in the last couple of years. Surprisingly, he's never won the
title. SIMON DYSON Hard luck to Dyson, who played his heart out over the past three weeks,
coming up painfully short in his bid to make the Ryder Cup side.
Nevertheless, that represents excellent recent form and he's previously
made four top-20s here. LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN A record of one top-60 in five tries doesn't suggest this is
Oosthuizen's course, but then we are again talking about a player who
has recently improved out of all recognition. Since becoming Open
champion, he's maintained his form with fourth place in Sweden and ninth
at the elite WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. GONZALO FERNANDEZ-CASTANO Castano's last three results represent a significant improvement after a
poor run, finishing third in Ireland, 11th in the Czech Open and a
respectable mid-division finish at the USPGA. He was sixth at Crans last
year, and looks well suited to a course where his weak putting is less
of a liability than usual.
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