Charl Schwartzel leads a 13-strong South African contingent at the scenic Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club in Switzerland ahead of Thursday’s European Masters, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
England’s Matt Fitzpatrick is looking to become the first player since Seve Ballesteros in 1978 to defend this title and will have star company for his first two rounds with last week’s winner Matt Wallace and potential Ryder Cup captain’s pick Thomas Pieters sharing the 8:20am tee time.
South African hopes will not rest solely on Schwartzel, who finished inside the top 10 in his last European Tour start, with Erik van Rooyen once again lining up looking for his first win on the circuit.
The 28-year-old is looking to cap his maiden season off with a win – he has a top 20 in his first Major (The Open), a runner-up at the Joburg Open and a top five at the Rolex Series’ Irish Open as achievements this term – after finishing one shot short of the playoff in Denmark on Sunday; that result lifted him to seventh in the SA rankings and 35th in the Race to Dubai.
He begins his pursuit with Max Kieffer (Germany) and fellow Challenge Tour graduate Aaron Rai (England) at 9am off the 1st.
Schwartzel, who missed the cut the Northern Trust to see his PGA Tour season come to a halt, is joined by England’s Andy Sullivan and veteran Thai golfer Thonchai Jaidee on the 10th at 8:10am.
At the same time as Van Rooyen, multiple European Tour winner George Coetzee gets under way on the 10th tee with Marc Warren (Scotland) and Marcus Fraser (Australia). Coetzee has not teed it up since missing the cut at Carnoustie and will look to improve his 68th place in the Race to Dubai with a strong showing.
Afternoon start Dean Burmester is another looking to arrest a back-to-back record of missed cuts. The 2017 Tshwane Open winner failed to progress to the weekend in the Czech Republic and Denmark but has a strong showing in Scotland – he secured a top 10 in that Rolex Series event – to lean on as well as a recent trip home to ensure he starts this week refreshed.
Groups to watch:
Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and Andrew Johnston will tee off at 8:30am.
Paul Dunne, Li Haotong and Kiradech Aphibarnrat will tee off at 1:10pm.
2015 winner Danny Willett, Jorge Campillo and Alexander Bjork will tee off at 1:30pm.