Steve looks back on a week that produced two in-form winners either side of the Atlantic. He didn't manage to pick out either of them but what lessons have been learnt for next year?
“I’d toyed with backing pre-event favourite and past winner, Alex Noren, and I’ll think hard about doing so again next year. He lives only an hour away from Bro Hof Slott Golf Club and his regular visits to the track clearly help.”
It was a week for punters that like to follow in-form players or third round leaders, with both winners in tip-top form before the off and both holding all at bay after leading with a round to go.
Finland's Mikko Ilonen, winner of the Nordea Masters, had been placed in last year's renewal and had come into the event in sterling form and Matt Kuchar, The Memorial winner, had led with a round to go in the previous week's event - the Crowne Plaza Invitational.
Ilonen was matched for just a few pounds at as high as 85.084/1 and for decent money at 55.054/1, but was generally a 38.037/1 shot before the off, and in the States, Kuchar, went off at 30.029/1.
The result in Sweden was somewhat frustrating, with pre-event pick, Bernd Wiesberger, outscoring everyone over the weekend to finish third, after a far too pedestrian start - he'd trailed by ten strokes at halfway and was ultimately beaten by just four. Still, it could have been more frustrating, last year's selection in the event, Jonas Blixt, finished second. I wouldn't have amused had he been the only man to beat this year's big fancy - he missed the cut twelve months ago when my money was down!
I've no complaints about The Memorial Tournament, although I'm still in a confused mild state of shock with regards to Tiger Woods' performance. I was daft enough to go against Paul Krishnamurty's excellent advice and back Woods before the off but he was simply never at the races. In fact, he played his worst nine holes ever during the third round.
He sits out this week's St Jude Classic and so will line-up at the US Open a week on Thursday on the back of a truly woeful performance. He and his backers will cling to his final run of holes yesterday, when he played the last 13 of the event in four under-par but anyone that's already loaded up for Merion won't be overly confident.
What have we learnt for next year?
If the Nordea Masters occupies the same slot in the calendar it will once again follow fast on the heels of the US Open qualifying event at Walton Heath and we'll again have to decide how much of an affect competing in the two-round event on the Monday before this tournament will have. On the evidence of this year, we'd have to assume none...
Ilonen, having finished tied 12th at the BMW PGA Championship last week, failed by a single stroke to make it to Merion in last Monday's 36-hole marathon and Wiesberger, Rikard Karlberg and Alex Noren - all placed in Sweden, all played at Walton Heath.
I'd toyed with backing pre-event favourite and past winner, Alex Noren, and I'll think hard about doing so again next year. He lives only an hour away from Bro Hof Slott Golf Club and his regular visits to the track clearly help.
I'd written in the preview about a possible correlation between Bro Hof Slott and Blackstone, home of the Ballantine's Championship, and I'm even more convinced by the link after this week. Peter Whiteford traded at heavy odds-on in Korea this year, before losing in a playoff, and although he faded out of contention over the weekend, he shot 63 on Friday morning to hit the front here.
Both this week's events require a fast start. Ilonen sat in second place at halfway and every winner at Bro Hof Slott has been no worse than second after 36 holes. At Muirfield Village, home of the Memorial Tournament, only two winners in the last 16 years, Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk, have been further than four strokes behind after day one.
Kuchar was only the second third round leader to win in six years though, so although being up with the pace is important, being in front with a round to go is not necessarily the best place to be.
Player to follow
The American revolution on the Challenge Tour continued at pace this week when Brooks Koepka won his second event in the space of a month and in some style too. Peter Uihlein came to many people's attention when he won the co-sanctioned Madeira Islands Open three weeks ago but fellow American, Brooks, could be the man to keep an even closer eye on.
He'd impressed in Italy at the beginning of May when he comfortably won the Montecchia Golf Open, two days after his 23rd birthday, by seven strokes but he won by even further this weekend - strolling to a ten-shot success at the Fred Olsen Challenge de Espana.
Austria's Bernd Wiesberger will attempt to double-up in his homeland this week at the Lyoness Open and over in the States, as previously mentioned, the US Open warm-up event is the St Jude Classic. I'll be back tomorrow or at the latest, on Wednesday morning, with previews for both events.
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