Steve takes a look at this week's European Tour action from Sweden, where a brand new course is set to challenge Henrik Stenson and co. Read what our man thinks it will take to win here...
“I fancy the course might really suit multiple winner Alvaro Quiros and he’s the one I like most from the get-go. With no mature trees, wide fairways and not much water in-play, he could find his form again after two lacklustre efforts on venues that wouldn’t have been ideal.”
The Nordea Masters, previously known as the Scandinavian Masters, was first staged as recently as 1991, when Colin Montgomerie beat Seve Ballesteros by a stroke at Drottningholm. Major winners, Nick Faldo, Vijay Singh, Graeme McDowell and Adam Scott have all taken the title, as well former world number ones, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.
PGA Sweden National, Lake Course, Malmo, Sweden
Par 72, 7,475 yards
Described on the course's website as a "beautiful piece of Florida in the heart of Skane", the Lakes was designed by Kyle Philips, with help from 2008 Nordea Masters winner, Peter Hanson.
It's a an exposed parkland style course with wide fairways and small bent grass greens which are said to be in very good conditions and set to run at 11 on the stimpmeter.
There are 74 large bunkers in-play but contrary to what you may imagine with a course called the Lakes, there's not a whole lot of wet stuff in-play. The par 3 17th plays over water and the 18th hole has the same lake running all the way alongside its left-hand side but water is only actually in play on four holes in total.
Although not quite as close to the sea as its sister course, the Links, the Lakes is still coastal so wind will definitely be a factor.
Philips was also responsible for the Verdura Golf & Spa, which hosted the Sicilian Open two years ago, the Grove, home of the 2006 WGC - American Express and Kingsbarns, which is one of the three courses used for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Live on Sky Sports all four days - 10:00 and 14:00 on Thursday and Friday, 12:30 on Saturday and 12:00 on Sunday
Last Five Winners
2013 - Mikko Ilonen -21
2012 - Lee Westwood -19
2011 - Alex Noren -15
2010 - Richard S Johnson -11
2009 - Ricardo Gonzalez -10
What will it take to win the Nordea Masters?
Having spent half an hour or more analysing the last four event results from Bro Hof Slott, I was a bit miffed to finally spot that we're on the move again. I'm sure the Swedish PGA will be chuffed to show the world their brand new national course but for us punters it's a real pain and on a brand new course, we're in the dark to a large extent.
Kyle Philips venues used on the European Tour previously haven't been especially difficult so we can probably expect a winning score well into double-digits under-par where grinders need not apply.
Length will in all likelihood be rewarded on such a long course and given its coastal location, an ability to handle windy conditions might be crucial too.
Is there an angle in?
Last year's winner, Mikko Ilonen, having finished tied 12th at the BMW PGA Championship the previous week, failed by a single stroke to make it to the US Open at Monday's 36-hole qualifying marathon at Walton Heath, and Bernd Wiesberger, Rikard Karlberg and Alex Noren, who were all placed in this event, all played at Walton Heath. I'm not sure playing there yesterday is a huge advantage but it's certainly not a negative on last year's evidence and it's worth highlighting that because it was played one week before the US Open, last year's renewal began on Wednesday. The extra days rest can only be a plus for anyone that played yesterday.
Given we've never seen the course before I'm struggling a bit but it does look like the finish could be tricky so if you happen to be on the leader with a few holes to play, laying back some of your potential winnings would be prudent.
World number two, Henrik Stenson, is the star name and the clear favourite but he looks short enough to me at just 7.87/1 given his poor record in his homeland and given that we can't be sure whether he'll take to the venue or not.
He's played in Sweden 19 times since 1996 and he's missed the cut seven times and won just once, on the Challenge Tour in 2000. He's finished runner-up in this event twice, in 2004 and 2005 but the form figures for his three attempts since read MC-73-MC.
He's the star turn so he'll have lots of media obligations and distractions and for me he's well worth swerving. As is second favourite, Francesco Molinari...
Molly's price is extraordinarily short week after week and he just doesn't win anywhere near enough to be considered value at the sort of prices he goes off at. He's a consistent performer who's finished inside the top-seven in three of his last four starts but he's only won three times in 257 European Tour starts.
Thomas Bjorn has been around long enough to know that collapses like the one he suffered on Sunday at Wentworth are part of the game and he could very easily lift himself and contend here but there's no value to be had in him at just 21.020/1.
Having finished placed in the last two majors, Sweden's Jonas Blixt is fast developing into a world class player but he too looks a short price here. He said last week that he's suited to a stern test, where everyone will make mistakes and where it isn't all about making lots of birdies. I don't think this venue will be like that at all.
This is one of those weeks when shelling out a lot of cash before the off is probably not too wise and although I've backed plenty of players, I've kept stakes very low.
Shane Lowry possibly hit the front a bit early on Sunday at Wentworth but he soon recovered from the disappointment of finishing second to Rory McIlroy, when he finished in front of 104 rivals at yesterday's US Open qualifier at Walton Heath (result here).
It sounds as though he fought hard to win and that he'll need to rest up but if he can hold his form he has to contend. Here's what he had to say after qualifying.
"It was really tough out there. I played OK and putted really, really well. I holed a lot of 6- to 8-footers for par and carried a lot of momentum in from yesterday to get the job done. I was three under this morning and this afternoon chipped in for eagle to get to five (under), so that got me going.
"I just tried to play steady from there and not lose my head. It was tough last week and then 36 holes in this weather was very tough. I'm looking forward to my bed tonight."
I've no idea who's played here previously but Peter Hanson, who helped with the design, must surely know the course well so I've had a very small saver on him, as I have on Jens Dantorp, who's affiliated with the course.
I fancy the course might really suit multiple winner Alvaro Quiros and he's the one I like most from the get-go. With no mature trees, wide fairways and not much water in-play, he could find his form again after two lacklustre efforts on venues that wouldn't have been ideal. Three starts ago he very nearly won the China Open on a course more to his liking and he could easily bounce back here.
After that, I've backed all the men playing here that qualified for the US Open yesterday. Whether it's a strong angle-in remains to be seen but given we've very little to go on it's worth a punt, especially as most of them are trading at huge prices.
I'm going to do something a little different with one of them though, Graeme Storm, who I simply can't see winning.
Storm has a habit of starting well but finishing weakly. He's won just once on the European Tour (2007 Open de France) but he's led after round one eight times since 2006 and he's done so at least once every year since 2010. On the back of qualifying yesterday, he could be pumped up enough to get off to another flier and at 200/1 he looks worth chancing in the First Round Leader market on the Sportsbook.
Shane Lowry @ 40.039/1
Peter Hanson @ 40.039/1
Alvaro Quiros @ 70.069/1
Tom Lewis @ 130.0129/1
Max Kieffer @ 140.0139/1
Oliver Fisher @ 230.0229/1
Lucas Bjerregaard @ 260.0259/1
Chris Doak @ 280.0279/1
Jens Dantorp @ 330.0329/1
Shiv Kapur @ 360.0359/1
Niclas Fasth @ 520.0519/1
Andrea Pavin @ 530.0529/1
First Round Leader
Graeme Storm @ 200/1 (Sportsbook)
I'll be back on Friday morning with the In-Play Blog.
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