Is there a golf tournament with a more stunning backdrop than the European Masters? This world-class tournament is held high up in the Alps at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club in Crans-Montana which is a ski resort for much of the year.
The views around the course are breathtaking but players cannot allow themselves to lose their concentration as the quality of the field assembled each year means this is a tournament that takes some winning.
2022: Thriston Lawrence
Golf has had its fair share of fairy tales over the years but things do not always pan out. For Matt Wallace, just having the chance to win the 2022 Omega European Masters was enough to make him emotional on Saturday. The Englishman came agonisingly close to his first DP World Tour win since 2018, chasing down Thriston Lawrence to get into a playoff, but was ultimately left disappointed as Lawrence won on the first playoff hole.
Calling this a fairy tale for Thriston Lawrence may be pushing it a bit too far but he was delighted to pick up his second DP World Tour of the season. The 25 year old gave himself credit for the patience he showed over the week. He certainly needed to stick to his guns as the pressure ramped up over the weekend but patience was not the watchword earlier on as Lawrence took Crans-sur-Sierre apart on Thursday with a round of 62.
Rounds of 64 and 67 kept Lawrence right at the top of the leaderboard and although he required extra holes a wire-to-wire win is always a bit special. The win took Lawrence into the top 100 on the official world rankings for the first time in his career, something he called a “dream come true”.
2021: Rasmus Hojgaard
Bernd Wiesberger came into the 2021 Omega European Masters looking to cement his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team. The affable Austrian came so close to securing the win that he’d need to assure himself of a spot at Whistling Straits but golf can be a cruel sport. Wiesberger had a one-shot lead over Rasmus Hojgaard on the final tee but made an absolute mess of it, making a double bogey to hand the win to Hojgaard.
While Wiesberger’s implosion and the impact that has on the 2021 Ryder Cup was the big story, the fact that Rasmus Hojgaard won for the third time on the European Tour at the age of 20 could be the most impactful thing for European golf. The super impressive Danish star showed nerves of steel while his more experienced rival was getting in his own way and there are sure to be many more wins in Hojgaard’s future.
Hojgaard had to play some very good golf just to set the clubhouse lead ahead of Wiesberger. He looked to be out of contention as he made the turn for home on Sunday but a run of birdie-eagle-birdie from the 14th hole got him right back into the mix. He kept pressing for more to ramp the pressure up and was a worthy winner of this historic tournament.
The 2020 tournament was cancelled.
2019: Sebastian Söderberg
The Omega European Masters was settled by a playoff for the sixth time in seven years. Whereas the last two renewals went the way of a European Ryder Cup star in Matt Fitzpatrick, Rory McIlroy was unable to make his class tell in a five-man playoff which was won at the first hole as Sebastian Söderberg was the only man to make a birdie on the 18th hole at Crans-sur-Sierre.
McIlroy, who has a close relationship with the tournament sponsor, was the main draw at the tournament just weeks after he won the FedEx Cup in Atlanta. He had personal reasons to try for the win after losing out in a playoff in Crans-Montana 11 years before and although he fought back from a seemingly hopeless position on Sunday, he couldn’t match Söderberg on the extra hole.
Beating a player of McIlroy’s calibre just adds to what was already a huge achievement for Söderberg. He looked for all the world to have thrown away his chance to win a maiden European Tour title when three-putting the last hole of his tournament and opening the door to the four players in second place but gathered himself expertly and was full value for the win.
2018: Matthew Fitzpatrick
As a golfer, Seve Ballesteros was famed for his powers of recovery. His shot from up against a fence and behind a tree at Crans-sur-Sierre is up there with his most legendary moments so it was fitting that Matthew Fitzpatrick followed in Seve’s footsteps at this course by winning his fifth European Tour title before the age of 25.
Fitzpatrick’s love for this course and event was already well established before claiming the win. He came through in a playoff against Scott Hend in 2017 and did likewise against Lucas Bjerregaard 12 months on for his second Omega European Masters success. The difference this time around was that Fitzpatrick was the man to be shot at as the overnight leader.
Several players tried to close the gap to Fitzpatrick but Bjerregaard was the best of the lot, taking just 30 shots on the front nine and setting the clubhouse lead of -17. While the Danish star was flourishing, Fitzpatrick floundered a little in the early stages before working his way back to form when it mattered most. A birdie on his 72nd hole got him into the playoff before another birdie on the same hole was enough to end the playoff at the first time of asking.
2017: Matthew Fitzpatrick
One of the great joys of golf is that every golfer can play to their own unique style. Matthew Fitzpatrick and Scott Hend go about their business in very different ways and are at very different points in their careers but nothing separated the pair of them after 72 holes at the Omega European Masters. It ended up taking three playoff holes before Fitzpatrick could finally get ahead of the big-hitting Australian to claim the win.
In truth, Hend did well to hold off Fitzpatrick for so long in the playoff as it was the Englishman who had all the momentum after the final round. Fitzpatrick fired in a composed and top-class round of 64 to close the four-shot gap between himself and Hend at the start of play. It was the sort of round that golf fans knew he was capable of as he is a regular at this event and feels that the course suits his game to a tee.
For Hend, this was the second edition of the European Masters in succession in which he was beaten in a playoff. His lead over Alex Noren was just one shot going into the final round of 2016’s tournament so losing that four-shot advantage is sure to sting even if it is obvious that he loves playing in Crans-Montana.