It's one of the most eagerly anticipated stops of the year as the European and Asian Tour co-sanctioned Omega European Masters takes place in the Crans - Montana region of Switzerland. We will witness some of the most scenic terrain all year, perched in the backdrop of the Alps. Omega have extended their sponsorship deal which will see them host into the next decade.
On a more important note it's also, in my opinion, one of the easier events to profile potential winners for. Danny Willett did the business here last year and the Masters Champion and Race To Dubai leader returns as market favourite (15.00). Compatriot Lee Westwood, who won this event in 1999, has just received his official Ryder cup pick alongside Thomas Pieters and Martin Kaymer, and the Englishman trades at 31.00.
The Course - Crans-Sur-Sierre Golf Club
Measuring circa 6,850 yards, Cran Sur Sierre plays to a par of 70 since the 14th was reduced to a par 4 for the last two editions. After course renovations before the 2014 renewal the track was soft following a wet summer and still yielded low scoring. There weren't quite as many par breakers in 2015 and ahead of the 2016 edition the course is said to be accommodating thicker rough, while conditions have been dry and sunny so expect the greens to be firmer and thus harder to hold again.
The 5th - 7th holes are all drivable par 4s albeit the 5th was lengthened during the renovations and is now a lay-up hole for most. The course is predominantly tree-lined with big elevation changes at 10% altitude. As ever, the small up-turned saucer like greens will be a key theme and it will bring the short game specialists to the fore. Spin and distance control at altitude is always key here so the course experienced players will have the edge. The back nine is now flooded with hazards for the wayward. The accuracy premium should be at an all-time high in 2016.
Omega European Masters Best value betting tips
Matteo Manassero - 67.00 or 14.00 - has a real affinity with the Crans course, claiming that performances here "kick-started his career". The tight tree-lined track with tricky green complexes suits the short game specialist down to the ground. After carding a third place finish in 2010 he combined for an average finishing position circa 25th in 6 appearances on the Mountain before a missed cut last year when his game was in meltdown. This year though, has seen the Italian back where he belongs and a recent good run has returned top 15 finishes at the Nordea Masters and BMW International Open, while he was bang in contention finishing 3rd in the Scottish Open. Matteo recently represented Italy in the Rio Olympics. He ranks inside the top 20 for Greens in reg this season with a clip of 73%.
Miguel Angel Jimenez - 41.00 or 9.00 - is a former champion who has declared in the past that he's "in love with the place". Miguel is always high up in the betting here at altitude and after 20 odd consecutive appearances in the mountain, he returns after a brief hiatus in 2015. No one owns better form in Montana than Jimenez who notched that win in 2010. Miguel hit a top 20 at the Open Championship then finished 3rd and 2nd respectively at the Senior Open and US Senior Open championships so the game's in fine shape. The Spaniard ranks 16th in driving accuracy.
Horses for courses and Aussie Marcus Fraser - 46.00 or 10.00 - is coming into form at the right time for Crans. Fraser was 5th at the Olympic golf having taken a 3 shot first round lead with an opening 63. Arguably that was a course that didn't suit and now - on a course where accuracy and scrambling skills are the premium, and even more so according to reports for 2016 - it may be the time to have him onside. Marcus is 23rd in driving accuracy and 13th in scrambling and he used these skills to claim the Maybank Championship Malaysia on a short Royal Selangor track earlier in the year. The short stick wizard has some decent form at Cran-Sur-Sierre including runner-up here in 2012.
Alejandro Canizares - 67.00 or 14.00 - is another in the mould of Marcus Fraser and his recent form here reads 9-mc-4-16. He's in the top 30 of the scrambling stats and is one of the best around with the flat stick, ranking third in putts per round in 2016. The Spaniard seems to be gaining some momentum with a T45 finish at the Scottish Open which included a 2nd round 66, followed up by a T5 finish at the Paul Lawrie matchplay where he won 3 matches including an impressive 4 & 3 victory vs Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Keep an eye out for Brett Rumford at 126.0 or 26.00. Rumford loves this place and following the theme of scramblers, his short game is the reason why. He's hit numerous low rounds in Cran and indeed won here back in 2007.