Top golfers tee off in Crans-Montana
Some of the world's top golfers face off in the Swiss Alps on Thursday, at the start of the European Masters held in Crans Montana.
Among those teeing off into the thin alpine air are three of Europe's best players, Darren Clarke from Northern Ireland, Thomas Björn of Denmark and last year's winner Lee Westwood from England.
Both Clarke and Westwood are hoping to add the Crans-Montana prize money (totalling SFr2.34 million) to their winnings as they attempt to topple Scotsman Colin Montgomerie from his position as top European prize money earner. Montgomerie is not playing in Switzerland this year.
Björn is regarded as the most in-form player. He recorded a 21 under par total to win a tournament in Munich last weekend - his fifth win on the European circuit. He also finished second in this year's British Open and third in the PGA championships in the United States.
Among the other older names gracing the greens of canton Valais are England's Nick Faldo(winner in 1983) and Severiano Ballesteros of Spain who has won the tournament on three occasions.
Switzerland's hopes rest with Paolo Quirici who is currently in good form. But the European Masters in Crans-Montana has not always been his lucky course - he has failed to make the cut for the final round for the past four years.
Some of the competitors may also have other longer-term objectives in mind. The European Masters constitutes the first qualifying round for the European team for the Ryder Cup next year.
The par 71 course at Crans-Montana has undergone renovation work over the past few years costing some SFr2 million. With a budget of SFr8 million, the European Masters is Switzerland's second most expensive sports event after the Basel Indoors tennis championship.
The tournament lasts until Sunday.
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