Sergio Garcia, who is poised to make his fourth Ryder Cup appearance for Europe later this month, will take the chance to hone his game for The K Club by defending his Omega European Masters title at Crans-sur-Sierre, Crans Montana, Switzerland, this week.
The 26 year old Spaniard, who owns a home in the picturesque Swiss village, is one of six past winners of this prestigious championship to contest the 2006 event, which for the first time includes a woman golfer in American teenager, Michelle Wie.
Garcia fought out a stirring contest a year ago with Sweden’s Peter Gustafsson, England’s Paul Casey and his house guest for the week, fellow Ryder Cup player Luke Donald, before winning by a shot from Gustafsson. It was sweet revenge for Garcia, who had lost out to Donald 12 months earlier.
The dashing Spaniard admits that there is nothing quite like the gentle relaxation of competing from the comfort of his “home from home” just yards from the first tee in Crans Montana, while the World Ranking points he collected for winning in 2005, in the first Ryder Cup counting tournament for 2006, went a long way towards helping him qualify automatically for Ian Woosnam’s Team.
This year is particularly special for Crans-sur-Sierre and everyone involved in the organisation of the tournament, which attracts professional golfers and their families in droves each September.
The event marks the 60th playing of the European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club, which this year also celebrates it’s centenary. The first European Masters was contested in 1939 before the outbreak of World War II. Thereafter, the tournament has been contested at the same venue every year without interruption since 1948.
Apart from Garcia, previous winners in the field include the Argentine pair, Ricardo Gonzalez (2001) and Eduardo Romero (1994 and 2000), Germany’s Sven Strüver (1998), Italy’s Costantino Rocca (1995) and Jamie Spence of England, who carded one of The European Tour’s all-time low rounds of 60 on his way to victory in 1992.
Now that the pressure of trying to qualify for The 2006 Ryder Cup has been lifted from the shoulders of many of the competitors, the Omega European Masters – one of the most popular events on Tour – affords the opportunity to enjoy the course, the ambience, the cosy family atmosphere and some of the most breathtaking views in golf.
Wie, meanwhile, was extended an invitation to play, making her the second woman golfer to compete on The European Tour International Schedule. England’s Laura Davies competed in the 2004 ANZ Championship at Port Horizons Golf Resort, Port Stevens, in Australia.
The hugely talented youngster, who turned professional last year on October 5, six days before her 16th birthday, said: “I am honoured to play in my first European Tour event. I am very happy that Omega has extended this invitation and I am very excited to play against the best professional golfers in Europe in the magnificent setting of Crans-sur-Sierre.”
Gaston Barras, President of the Organising Committee of the Omega European Masters, said: “This year marks the centenary anniversary of the Golf Club Crans-sur-Sierre, and it will also be the 60th tournament played on the course. These two milestones make it a special year for us and we are delighted to have Michelle Wie among the entries for 2006. We are working with Omega to improve the tournament every year, and we are sure Michelle Wie’s inclusion will further raise the profile of the Omega European Masters.”