Third edition of unique event
Will the men take a 2-1 lead?
The Scandinavian Mixed replaced the Scandinavian Masters, an event in existence since 1991, two years ago so this is only the third edition of the tournament in this format.
Co-sanctioned between the DP World Tour and the Ladies European Tour (LET), the Scandinavian Mixed is just like any other 72-hole stroke play event with the field playing one course for one prize fund and for one trophy. The men will play from the men's tees, and the ladies from the ladies' tees.
The field is equally split between men and women, the groupings over the first two days will be mixed, and there'll be a cut after 36 holes with the top-65 and ties progressing to the weekend.
Jonathan Caldwell won the first edition at Vallda Golf & Country Club but the boys lost their bragging rights when an in-form Linn Grant romped to a nine-stroke victory at Halmstad Golf Club to level the score 12 months ago.
Ullna Golf & Country Club, Österåker Municipality, Stockholm, Sweden.
Men's Yardage 6,819
Ladies' Yardage 6,067
Designed by Sven Tumba and opened in 1981, Ullna was the venue for the now defunct Scandinavian Enterprise Open between 1983 and 1987, as well as the HO Open on the LET.
Sam Torrance, Ian Woosnam, Ian Baker-Finch, Greg Turner and Gordan Brown Jnr won the five editions of the Scandinavian Enterprise Open and Annika Sorenstam won the HO Open so the cream has really risen to the top here.
Ullna was considered the very best course in the area when it first opened but as time wore on and as equipment advanced, it's lack of length was becoming an issue, but jack Nicklaus had this to say of the venue when he visited in 2007.
"I wouldn't change anything. The course is wonderful, filled with challenges and beautiful scenery. Sure, if you want I can gladly help with sandcapping and new drainage systems. I could modernize the green areas and make holes more strategically interesting. But the line of the track, I wouldn't touch."
Nicklaus and his design team returned in 2010 and the course was extensively modernised prior to reopening in 2013.
Nicklaus Design's top shaper Jerame Miller transformed Ullna's fairly flat topography to a more rolling landscape, allowing Lake Ullna and its numerous streams to come into play on almost every hole. Bunkers and green areas were rearranged and redesigned, small ditches became winding streams, ponds were expanded, a state-of-the-art irrigation and drainage system was installed, all fairways were sandcapped, and greens seeded with the highly acclaimed "supergrass", creeping bent 007.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, staring at 12:00 on Thursday.
First Two Winners with Exchange Prices
- 2022 - Jonathan Caldwell -17 200.0199/1
- 2023 - Linn Grant -24 50.049/1
Was Linn's win a one off?
Having won the Belgian Ladies Open two weeks earlier in her penultimate start, the 22-year-old Swede, Linn Grant, was matched at no bigger than 60.059/1 before the off 12 months ago and she was a very easy winner.
Grant began the final round leading by two and trading at around 2.47/5 but it wasn't long before she put the event to bed, birdying five of the first six holes in round four, and she went on to win by an incredible nine strokes.
It was fantastic for the tournament to see the women level up the score so soon but Grant aside, the men dominated the leaderboard for the second year running.
The 13 players immediately below Grant were all men and at the inaugural staging in 2022, Alice Hewson finished third, but the only other woman to finish inside the top-17 places was Olivia Cowan who finished tied for 10th.
Sweden's Caroline Hedwall coped better than most in the challenging and worsening conditions on Saturday two years ago and when she had a putt on the par five 16th to go three clear of the field she was matched at a low of just 2.6213/8 but it all went a bit pear-shaped after that.
Hedwell missed the birdie attempt and then drove into the water at the 17th. To her credit, she made a great par save on the 18th but having begun round four in a tie for the lead with Hewson, Rhys Enoch and Jason Scrivener, she shot 76 to finish tied for 18th.
Grant was in a league of her own 12 months ago but given how much the men have dominated the two leaderboards, there's every chance that Linn's win may transpire to be a bit of a one-off.
Although Grant won easily 12 months ago, Australia's Jason Scrivener, a pre-tournament 40.039/1 shot, was matched at a low of [1.6] during round three and the runner-up, Adrian Otaegui, hit a low of just 1.444/9 in the inaugural edition two years ago.
It's unusual to see just one player go odds-on in these sort of low grade affairs, where nerves come into play, and laying anyone that goes odds-on very often pays off.
If you can get two players layed at odds-on you'll be in profit regardless of who goes on to win and it's often a great way to play these sort of events.
If you're new to the exchange, this is a good little guide into how to place a lay bet.
I was quite perplexed by the opening show here and I'm still not convinced the market's corrected itself entirely.
Last year's winner, Linn Grant, was initially installed as the favourite, despite the pressure of defending and the fact that she's not in quite the form she was 12 months ago, whereas the world number 64, Alex Noren, was trading at almost twice the price he went off 12 months ago, having missed his two previous cuts.
Noren isn't in sparkling form at present, but he finished 29th at the Charles Schwab Challenge two weeks ago and he ranked fifth for Putting Average when finishing 52nd at the Memorial Tournament last week.
He finished 15th in this event last year after a slow start saw him sit tied for 98th after round one and he's still a decent price at 16.015/1.
Noren hasn't won on the DP World Tour in almost five years but he finished second at the DP World Tour Championship in November last year and fifth at the Abu Dhabi Championship in January on the last two occasions he dropped back to this Tour and he has a very respectable record in his homeland, winning this event twice when it was known as the Nordea Masters.
As an indication of how wrong this market was on Monday morning, despite yet again disappointing in-contention over the weekend last week in Germany, fellow Swede, Alexander Bjork, whose solitary title, the Volvo China Open, was won more than five years ago, was trading shorter than Noren!
Noren fairly priced in his homeland
As alluded to above, I thought Alex Noren was too big yesterday at 20.019/1 on the Exchange and at 18/119.00 with the Sportsbook and even though he's shortened up a bit in the last 24 hours, he's still a very worthy favourite and the one they all have to beat.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter