Omega European Masters betting preview and tips: Danny Willett to star

Matt Fitzpatrick goes for a hat-trick in the Alps this week
Matt Fitzpatrick goes for a hat-trick in the Alps this week

In-form golf expert Ben Coley fancies Danny Willett to make it two wins in the Swiss Alps as he previews the Omega European Masters.

Recommended bets

3pts e.w. Danny Willett at 25/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Andrew Johnston at 80/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Romain Langasque at 110/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Jamie Donaldson at 150/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

Always an event to look forward to on account of surely the most stunning backdrop in professional sport, the Omega European Masters goes up a gear this year thanks to the return of Rory McIlroy, who is 4/1 to make it four titles in 2019.

The professional journey of golf's $15million man now spans over a decade, and one of the earliest signs of what was to come actually came here as he missed a short putt for what would've been his first win. It was a setback from which McIlroy recovered quickly, with Sunday's victory at East Lake the 26th of an already remarkable career.

In two subsequent visits to the Swiss Alps, McIlroy has finished seventh and third and there is absolutely no doubt that he can pull this place to pieces if he really wants to. Those driveable par-fours midway through the front-nine at Crans-sur-Sierre yielded a couple of eagles last time he played here and while most champions are a little steadier, a little less aggressive, McIlroy could well blast his way to glory.

I don't imagine there will be many who are all that interested in backing him, though. It's a long journey from Georgia to Switzerland, one McIlroy will surely have spent celebrating an important success, and there must be every chance his focus slips sufficiently for seventh or eighth to represent a decent week. He just might not be as engaged as you'd like at the prices.

Personally, I'd much rather he weren't here - better to take shorter prices and not be keeping a watchful eye on McIlroy - so I wouldn't say he helps shape the market as such, simply that he can be overlooked along with Matt Fitzpatrick, who bids for a Swiss hat-trick having been banging on the door all year long.

Clearly, Fitzpatrick is one of the key threats to McIlroy and he's the most effective player of this quirky course, but he's had plenty fall right in bagging this title twice and it'll take some effort after his second runner-up finish of the summer. Surely, he will play well, but it takes something quite special to go three years without being beaten in any event on any course, and he looks short at 8/1.

Danny Willett, on the other hand, should be fresh and raring to go having played quietly impressive golf since the spring, and he's by far the most appealing bet despite the predictable early support.

A winner here in 2015, when getting the better of his Sheffield protege, Willett has long brought his best golf to Crans and only in 2017, when at the lowest of ebbs, has he failed to make the weekend.

Even last year, when still piecing things together before that brilliant triumph in Dubai, Willett was the halfway leader and all told he's been fifth or better at halfway in half of his 10 visits. That's a startling return, one which demonstrates that for all he's won the title just once, he's contended for it on a regular basis.

With multiple winners of the event common - Fitzpatrick, Alex Noren and Thomas Bjorn combine for six of the last 10 renewals, two apiece - Willett looks to hold every chance now that his game is so clearly back close to its best.

Since the PGA Championship, where he hit the ball well to snap a run of missed cuts and produce his best result since February, Willett has done very little wrong. From there he contended behind McIlroy in Canada, went on to finish 12th in the US Open, and after a blip in the Irish Open he went on to share sixth at Royal Portrush.

That performance will have done wonders for the confidence of the 2016 Masters champion, but the work isn't yet done as he's still looking for a return to the world's top 50 from his current perch of 57th.

The remaining events of the European Tour season provide an excellent platform for another push forward and having been 24th in the high-class Northern Trust when last seen, Willett need only reproduce the pick of this summer's efforts to be a massive factor in these calmer, more familiar waters.

Beyond the front two in the betting and perhaps Tommy Fleetwood, I see no more likely contender here and Willett rates a strong each-way fancy at the price.

For all its idiosyncrasies, Crans tends not to throw up a shock result. Six of the last 10 winners in fact arrived on the back of a top-10 finish in their previous start, including the semi-surprising champion Richie Ramsay. The other surprise winner this decade, David Lipsky, was playing beautifully when he teed off here in Switzerland.

Course form is more valuable here than just about anywhere - not only has Fitzpatrick won the last two renewals, but Scott Hend has been runner-up in two of the last three - and it correlates particularly well with the Hong Kong Open, where Hend has been a winner and Fitzpatrick has gone close.

We'll come to Hong Kong later, but sticking to the fairly obvious is a sensible move here and it leads me back to Andrew Johnston.

Beef was part of last week's staking plan and finished 10th after a field-leading weekend, ultimately falling a shot shy of the places after a bogey at the 71st hole having worked hard to climb the leaderboard following a slow start.

As it was his first appearance since the Open Championship, a little rust is forgiven and he might just have clicked for a return to Crans, where only seven players can boast a better scoring average.

Johnston's worst round in 10 at the course was his debut one, a slow-starting 72, and since then he's excelled throughout the bag at a venue which rewards strong iron play, which is clearly his strength.

In 2016, he carded two rounds of 65 to finish third behind Noren, while last year's 35th came when in generally poor form and still offered plenty of encouragement when it comes to contending at this course again.

With two top-10 finishes in his last three starts, Johnston is fit and firing and, as mentioned last week, he's in a great place mentally with a baby on the way.

His sole victory on the European Tour came on another course with tiny greens, where his quality approach work was rewarded, and it was pleasing to see his short-game in such good health on his return to action in Sweden.

Third in the all-around in 2016 and 14th last year, he's done a lot right at this course and fits the profile of being a fairly obvious sort who is on offer at a big price, very much in the mould of Ramsay.

Back towards the front of the market and Noren has to be considered at 25/1. The Swede is as reliable as it gets when it comes to winning titles and although it's over a year since his last, there's no place better than Switzerland to end what for him is a drought.

After a slow start in Sweden last week, Noren fired a trio of 67s to build some momentum and he just needs that putter to warm up to be a factor at a course where he's twice a champion.

Sergio Garcia shouldn't be dismissed dropping in grade - if he's back in the right frame of mind, watch him go - while Bernd Wiesberger has been as reliable as anyone this summer, but on balance it was only Willett who stood out as rock-solid and worth backing.

As such, I'm compelled to look towards those at bigger prices and it was in fact tempting to include three other members of last week's team, Lee Slattery, Aaron Rai and Marcus Kinhult.

The latter finished 10th here as a 19-year-old amateur in 2015 and he did a lot right last week, perhaps finding a marquee three-ball with Fitzpatrick and Henrik Stenson a little daunting before a stylish Sunday move almost earned us an each-way return.

Kinhult is two-from-two here in terms of making the weekend and could go well, while Rai brings that Hong Kong form to the table having held off Fitzpatrick there late last year. He missed the cut on his first trip to Crans but has plenty of high-class form at altitude and should improve upon that.

As for Slattery, unlike Rai he does have some course form courtesy of two top-10 finishes, and Crans brings back some nice memories as he was here preparing for the 2017 renewal when his wife gave birth to their second child, with Slattery watching on via FaceTime.

He went on to shoot an opening 75, perhaps regretting his decision to come to Switzerland, but then produced an inspired Friday 62 before going on to bank a decent cheque with which to return home.

Having found his form this summer and twice been in staking plans recently, the popular Southport man is hard to leave out, but preference at a similar price is for Jamie Donaldson.

Ultimately, for all Slattery's promise, Donaldson has two top-10 finishes in his last three starts, including last week, and this former Ryder Cup star clearly boasts superior credentials if we view their careers side-by-side.

It's often difficult to get a firm handle on where players are as they work back from injury, particularly when they're at the veteran stage, but those efforts in Scotland and Sweden suggest the 43-year-old is a genuine title contender once more.

Jamie Donaldson in action at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic
Jamie Donaldson in action at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic

Donaldson came close to winning here in 2011, the first of three top-10 finishes in a four-year run, while he also has four further top-25s to confirm his liking for Crans.

A winner at altitude in Guatemala of all places, the Welshman looks good value at around the 150/1 mark having struck the ball really well for ninth in Scotland and then produced four under-par rounds for fifth last week.

Course and current form are the most basic factors in golf betting and rarely do they add up to value, but Donaldson has both yet is still considered an unlikely champion here. I'm not so sure he should be.

Edoardo Molinari is another former Ryder Cup player who has been dropping hints lately and could go well, Ashun Wu caught the eye last week and has two top-10 finishes in as many starts here, while Hideto Tanihara is another at a massive price despite taking to this unique venue on his first visit last year.

There are cases to be made for all of the above, but the two rags I found hardest to leave out were Stephen Gallacher and Nino Bertasio.

Gallacher has been a constant presence here, his reliable iron play carrying him through to the weekend on each of his last nine starts since missing the cut on debut some 20 years ago.

It's been a largely poor year for the Scot, but he took his chance superbly at another quirky course to land the Indian Open, and for one who has so often contended here, including last year, I thought the standout 300/1 quotes were very much on the big side.

As for Bertasio, he was in my staking plan both last year and in 2017, both times playing well without doing enough. He's very fond of the course, one where he contended as an amateur in 2010, and considers himself as much Swiss as he is Italian having been born in Zurich.

Unfortunately, while I was hoping for a nice tune-up in Sweden, he was seven-over through nine holes before withdrawing and even prices in the region of 250/1 aren't enough to compensate for a disastrous display which hints at a physical issue.

You might have guessed by now that any number of big-priced options came under consideration, but ultimately this ought to be fairly predictable so I'll finish off the outright selections with Romain Langasque.

Very much one to keep on the right side of until he breaks through, Langasque was seventh here three years ago, leading at halfway, and it's interesting that many of his best efforts have come at altitude with runner-up finishes in both Nairobi and Johannesburg.

Perhaps that's the benefit of living in Andorra revealing itself - though I suspect there might be a tax-based explanation for that - but whatever the case, Langasque has the right sort of conditions for a first European Tour win.

Last week's narrow missed cut doesn't worry me too much as he simply didn't get a handle on the front-nine on what was his first start at Hills. Besides, his form prior to each of this year's top-six finishes reads MC, T38, MC, MC, so this young, electric talent isn't one to dwell on a slightly underwhelming week.

Nor should we, and instead the focus is on some impressive season-long numbers such as 15th for greens hit and 14th in scrambling, which suggest he'll have opportunities for his trusty putter to sing at a course he took apart with a Friday 63 back in 2016.

Romain Langasque
Romain Langasque

Finally, I was close to recommending a very small bet on Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra at 1000/1, but instead suggest waiting for a full first-round leader market where something in the region of 300/1 might be worth taking.

This Spaniard is ranked 15th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and is a year into his time at Wake Forest, where he's enjoyed some success so far while also returning to Europe to play well in the Amateur Championship.

Clearly, I know very little about him, but I do know that this event has thrown up more than its share of amateur or at least only-just-professional contenders, including Kinhult, Langasque and Bertasio, while Matthias Schwab played well to make the weekend in 2015, too.

The nature of the course, which is short and fiddly and encourages players to take on risk for potentially big rewards, perhaps explains why the real talents to earn an invite have almost all justified it - including Doug Ghim and his top-10 finish last year.

Lopez-Chacarra probably isn't quite ready to do that - Ghim had PGA Tour experience and Langasque had played in the Masters - but it wouldn't shock me if he fared much better than a pair of respectable rounds at Valderrama earlier this year.

Posted at 1845 BST on 26/08/19.

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