There are two tournaments that are first on my event wish list every year: the Hong Kong Open and the European Masters in Crans Montana on the Haut Plateau high above the Rhone Valley. It is a spectacularly beautiful place, with air so pure that you'd love to be able to bottle it. The Crans-sur-Sierre Club, in conjunction with sponsors Omega, has spent over SFr6 million (nearly HK$50 million) on improving the course over the last three years, turning a stunning venue into a seriously good test of golf.
Of course the ball flies for miles in the thin mountain air, so even with a tight par of 70, eighteen players shot four rounds in the 60s, a pretty unusual statistic. American David Lipsky was one of those. Starting the final round three shots behind the leader, Englishman Graeme Storm, there weren't too many local tipsters plumping for the Asian Tour player. However, he'd shown a worldwide audience what he was capable of earlier in the season when finishing second at The Championship at Laguna National in Singapore and he was nerveless in holing a birdie putt at the 72nd hole to put pressure on Storm, who had hit a brilliant drive down the last, but then shied away from attacking the dangerous flag close to water. The former Amateur champion's only previous Tour win came at the French Open in 2007, but after a year of financial torment Storm was more concerned to tie up second place and guarantee his playing rights for next season. Two putts meant a playoff and with Storm in trouble off the tee, Lipsky hit a lay-up out of the fairway bunker that no one had anticipated or could remember seeing before. He appeared to have left himself a really difficult "up and down", but played it superbly, leaving a tap-in for a win that gives him a free ticket around Europe for the next two years.
His stated and natural aim is to end up on the PGA Tour but it won't be easy under the new rules. If he gets his card at the PGA Tour School he then has to decide whether to play a full season on the Web.Com Tour to try and gain his full card, or whether to spend more time, or all his time in Europe; exciting, but daunting too. It seems probable his appearances in Asia will be distinctly limited now. No doubt he'll get a warm welcome at the Hong Kong Open this month.
Storm did have a most rewarding week, which included winning the highly-regarded BMW i8 for a hole-in-one. A number of players are on the waiting list for one, and he wasn't short of offers to buy it at the asking price or even better.
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