The European Tour moves on to Sweden this week for the Nordea Masters at Bro Hof Slott where our man fancies the big hitters to hold a significant advantage. Read his in-depth preview here...
"Bro Hof Slott is a long course with five par fives so length off the tee is almost imperative. Sweden’s Richard S Johnson won here in 2010 and he’s not the biggest of hitters but the next three to win here – Alex Noren, Lee Westwood and Mikko Ilonen - all ranked inside the top-ten for Driving Distance and all four course winners played the par fives in double digits under-par."
The Nordea Masters was created in 1991 when the Scandinavian Enterprise Open, an event that dated back to the 1960s, merged with the PLM Open. Although a fairly new tournament, some big names have already taken the title. Colin Montgomerie won the inaugural staging and he went on to win it three times. Lee Westwood has also won the event three times and major winners Nick Faldo, Vijay Singh, Graeme McDowell and Adam Scott have also taken the title.
Bro Hof Slott Golf Club (Stadium Course), Stockholm, Sweden
Par 72, 7,511 yards
Stroke Average in 2013 - 71.37
After two years at the PGA National in Malmo, the Nordea Masters returns to Bro Hof Slott Golf Club in Stockholm which held the event in the four years between 2010 and 2013.
Touted as a future Ryder Cup venue, the Robert Trent Jones Jr-designed Bro Hof Slott only opened in September 2007. It's a long and very wind-exposed track with five par 5's.
The back nine weaves its way beautifully through fjords and the par 3 17th has an island green a la Sawgrass, so water is most definitely in-play. The fairways are of average width but they need to be found as in previous years the rough has been fairly penal.
The greens have a lot of run-off areas so players will have to hit plenty of accurate approach shots and/or scramble really well. In 2013 the greens ran at 10.8 on the stimpmeter.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday
Last Five Winners
2015 - Alex Noren -12
2009 - Thongchai Jaidee -16
2008 - Mikko Ilonen -21
2012 - Lee Westwood -19
2011 - Alex Noren -15
What Will it Take to Win The Nordea Masters
Bro Hof Slott is a long course with five par fives so length off the tee is almost imperative. Sweden's Richard S Johnson won here in 2010 and he's not the biggest of hitters but the next three to win here - Alex Noren, Lee Westwood and Mikko Ilonen - all ranked inside the top-ten for Driving Distance and all four course winners played the par fives in double digits under-par.
Bro Hof Slott is an exposed track and the wind can play havoc but at this early stage the forecast suggests only light winds so I can see the event developing into something of a birdie-fest.
Is There an Angle In?
It's fairly old form now so it may not be of much use but there's definitely a strong correlation between this venue and Blackstone in Korea, which was the host course for the now defunct Ballantine's Championship between 2011 and 2013. Westwood has won at both courses, Noren arguably should have done, Bernd Wiesberger won at Blackstone and was third here in 2013 and Ross Fisher has been seventh in Korea and runner-up here and the last Ballantine's champ at Blackstone, Brett Rumford, finished tied fourth at Bro Hof Slott in 2010.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Alex Noren, Mikko Ilonen and Jesper Parnevik have all won the event twice and as already mentioned, Monty and Westwood have won it three times. That's a lot of multiple winners for an event that only started in the 90s so past winners will be worthy of close scrutiny.
The Walton Heath Affect
Many in the field will be attempting to qualify for the US Open at Walton Heath over the next two days and over the years, I've backed players because they've performed well and qualified and I've also dismissed others on account of a miserable performance in Surrey. Neither strategy has been memorably successful or detrimental but you may want to consider how anyone you're considering backing is faring so here's the leaderboard.
Alex Noren won here wire-to-wire in 2011 and all four course winners sat first or second at halfway. Johnson was tied with KJ Choi with a round to go in 2010 but the other three were all clear after 54 holes. Ilonen converted from two clear, Westwood was three ahead and Noren made the final round a mere formality by moving from three clear to 11 ahead between rounds two and three.
Four years is only a very small sample but what limited evidence we have certainly suggests a fast start is important and that we should be concentrating on the front-runners from fairly early on.
Henrik Stenson has been trying to win this title for 20 years now. He's finished runner-up twice and he hit a low of 1.528/15 two years ago before missing out on the playoff, won by Thongchai Jaidee, so he's come close before. He's only played Bro Hof Slott once before though, in 2011, and he missed the cut. He comes here in poor form too...
Knee surgery at the end of last year didn't hold him back when he finished third in the Arnold Palmer and second in the Shell Houston Open in late March and early April but he missed his first cut on the PGA Tour in two years at the Wells Fargo earlier this month and we haven't seen him in public since he followed that disappointing effort with another weekend off at the Players Championship.
Given he's bidding to win the event for a record-breaking fourth time and that he's been in decent form this spring, Lee Westwood will have his supporters but it was impossible not to notice how poorly he finished at Wentworth again yesterday when in with a chance to win and he hasn't tasted success outside of Asia since he won here in 2012.
Defending champ, Alex Noren, is something of an event and course specialist of late. He missed the cut here in 2010 but he finished 10th when defending here in 2012 and fourth a year later so he' has a nice bank of form at Bro Hof Slott. He didn't play in the event in 2014 because of injury and he dotted up at PGA National last year by four strokes. The 33-year-old Swede has been in fair form of late and can't be dismissed lightly at a venue he clearly enjoys.
I'm going to keep things simple here. I've had a small bet on Alex Noren and I've played a couple of big bombers.
Thomas Pieters hasn't kicked on since narrowly losing to Rickie Fowler in Abu Dhabi in January but this looks like somewhere he can shine. He was third behind Scott Hend in the True Thailand Classic at another bombers track in March but other than that he's been largely disappointing. He wasn't awful at Wentworth last week when finishing tied for 27th though, considering tricky Wentworth wouldn't be his sort of test, and I can see him contending again here.
Scott Hend capitulated under pressure at Wentworth yesterday - failing miserably to convert his 54 hole lead and he hasn't played well at Walton Heath today either. There's a danger the Wentworth experience could leave a mark and that he doesn't recover in time to do himself justice here but he's worth chancing at a decent price.
The powerful Aussie has playing some of the best golf of his career this season and he's a better player than the one that finished fourth here in 2011.
The market is still forming but three outsiders that I might yet add are Alvaro Quiros, Pelle Edberg and Mikael Lundberg.
I'll be back soon with my Memorial Tournament preview.
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