Already no stranger to making golfing history, the Omega European Masters will create another niche for itself in the record books this week when it becomes the first co-sanctioned event between The European Tour and the Asian Tour on European soil.
Three weeks after Korea’s Y E Yang claimed an historic triumph in the US PGA Championship, India’s Jeev Milkha Singh and Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, the two highest ranked Asian players in the field, will spearhead the Asian challenge against their European Tour colleagues.
Since 1999, 56 events have been co-sanctioned on Asian soil, but this first sojourn to Europe further emphasises the spirit of co-operation and collaboration between the two Tours.
George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “Golf at the highest level is now a truly global game and we have embraced that concept. We extend our warmest welcome to the Members and Officials of the Asian Tour, the same welcome that has been extended to The European Tour in Asia, and around the world, for over 20 years.
“It is fitting that Omega are our main partners for a tournament that will impact around the world given their commitment to global sport, in particular golf, with the Omega European Masters and the Omega Mission Hills World Cup.”
Kyi Hla Han, Executive Chairman of the Asian Tour said: “We want to express our gratitude to Omega and The European Tour for inviting us to be a part of this prestigious event. This week’s event is also the first step forward for the Asian Tour and European Tour as we recently announced a new alliance to further grow the game internationally.”
The only ever present European venue on The European Tour International Schedule from 1972 to the present day, the spectacular Crans-sur-Sierre layout has been witness to many great moments such as Jamie Spence’s final day 60 in 1992, which saw him come from ten shots behind at the start of the day to win the title after a play-off with Anders Forsbrand.
It has also seen a number of firsts, including several maiden Tour victories such as last year when Jean-François Lucquin claimed the title after a dramatic play-off with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.
The Frenchman, who is domiciled in the Swiss town of Crassier, has already been back among the Alpine peaks of Crans Montana during the winter to relive that experience.
“I live only about two hours drive from the golf course and went to Crans for a bit of skiing with my coach,” he said. “I just stood beside the snow-covered 18th, watching the kids playing in the snow, and the memories came flooding back. I thought to myself: ‘wow, this is special’. I think it always will be very special to me.
“For a long time it looked as if Rory would win, but I managed to take my chance in the play-off. To win my first title with my wife and young son in the crowd with lots of friends meant so much to me.”
As well as the chance to win the prestigious title and garner vital points in The Race to Dubai, the Omega European Masters is, as in previous years, the starting point in the quest for Ryder Cup points.
From now until the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in August 2010, European born players will be doing all they can to earn a berth in Captain Colin Montgomerie’s Team bound for The Celtic Manor Resort.
The countdown to Wales will begin with a high quality field at Crans-sur-Sierre, including four of The Ryder Cup side from 2008, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Oliver Wilson, who will all have designs on playing under the 2010 Captain.
Elsewhere, Michael Campbell and Trevor Immelman bring Major Championship-winning credentials to Switzerland while last year’s runner-up McIlroy is also back looking to go one better and add to his own European Tour tournament haul which began in January at the Dubai Desert Classic.
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