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31 August 2005

2005 Omega European Masters - Preview

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Pro-Am feedback suggests challenging new course and a possible re-think of the game plan for players.

Some of the 156 registered players had a chance to check out the condition of the Severiano Ballesteros course during today’s Pro-Am tournament. Among them were Omega ambassador Sergio Garcia and his friend, flatmate for the week and last year’s winner Luke Donald. For the first time, the 2005 Omega European Masters kicks off the qualifying for the 2006 European Ryder Cup team and both players have Cup experience, having helped the European team to its convincing victory in 2004. Although they admitted that the qualification will only gain importance later on in the year, Luke Donald expressed his obvious desire to qualify outright, rather than rely on the wildcard that he was offered by Bernhard Langer shortly before arriving in Crans-Montana last year. Garcia will, however, find it difficult to put the Cup out of his mind, since he is paired with Europe’s 2006 captain Ian Woosnam for his first two rounds.

Unfortunate injuries have prevented two top players from participating in the tournament. Omega’s other golfing ambassador, South African Ernie Els, has been out of action for several weeks and England’s David Howell picked up an injury after winning last week’s  BMW Invitational in Munich.

The erratic meteorological conditions of the past few weeks in Switzerland may force players to rethink their game plans: several weeks of rain that provoked severe flooding in other parts of Switzerland have left the rough very thick and the bright sunshine and unseasonally hot temperatures of the past few days (which is set to continue for the rest of the week) is sure to speed up the greens. Fairways considerably narrower than last year on some holes will also add an additional challenge and may lead to much more aggressive play from the longer hitters.

In celebration of the fact that the 2005 Omega European Masters will count towards the Ryder Cup qualification for the first time, the organisers have created a special Ryder Cup theme around the event. In addition to a strong presence by the organisers of the next Ryder Cup in Ireland, the actual Ryder Cup trophy will also be present in Crans-Montana and a special Ryder Cup exhibition match will be held after the close of play on Saturday. The Saturday evening activity has a tradition since Omega’s title sponsorship and has seen the likes of Cindy Crawford and Asian superstar Coco Lee trying their hand at golf in the past. This year, members of the victorious European Ryder Cup team will show off their skills to the crowd.

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