The Nordea Masters is our challenge this week following a busy few days of golf with the conclusion of the BMW PGA Championship plus US Open qualifying for a number of this week's cast on Monday at Walton Heath. Some of Sweden's finest golfing talent is descending on the Trent Jones Jr-designed Bro Hof Slott course this week to compliment what is a medium-strength event with World No.6 Henrik Stenson joining the regular European Tour locals Peter Hanson, Alexander Noren, Kristoffer Broberg, Robert Karlsson et al. Former course winner Lee Westwood returns to these parts having chosen not to defend his Nordea Masters trophy that he won in 2012 and last week's runner-up Rikard Karlberg represents the highest finisher from Wentworth in attendance here, albeit at a massively reduced price compared to this time last week.
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford previews the Memorial Tournament - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Course Overview. The course here at Bro Hof Slott is an exposed 7,511 yard par 72 running alongside a fjord - as you'd expect, water is waiting to punish errant tee shots and, whilst the landing areas are reasonably generous, there's no place for serious waywardness here. The greens are top quality bentgrass and there are run-off areas around many of the putting surfaces - the last 3 winners here (Alex Noren, Lee Westwood and Mikko Ilonen) proved that top-quality ball-striking is the key ingredient and packing a decent punch off the tee is beneficial with 5 par-5s on the card. There are also 5 par 3s to contend with including the 17th which became a graveyard for many a ball in the windy final round in 2011 - scores of 6,7,8,9,11 and 12 were recorded on the hole that day - however the forecast this week is for light-to-moderate breezes throughout so it shouldn't present the same level of difficulty 5 years further down the line.
Tournament Stats. We've published some key player statistics for this week's Nordea Masters that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally plays well at this event. This week's venue, Bro Hof Slott, was used for the events between 2010 and 2013 inclusive: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Top 20 Finishes.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available. Bookies' favourite Henrik Stenson tops this week's predictor from Peter Hanson and Nicolas Colsaerts. Alex Noren, Thomas Pieters and last week's fastest finisher Rikard Karlberg complete the top 6 positions.
Winners & Prices. 2015: Alex Noren, 20/1; 2014: Thongchai Jaidee, 66/1; 2013: Mikko Ilonen, 35/1; 2012: Lee Westwood, 6/1; 2011: Alex Noren, 28/1; 2010: Richard S Johnson, 100/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the European Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2016 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here. The tournament will enjoy clear, sunny skies for the most part with temperatures in the low-to-mid 70s Fahrenheit before a cooler weekend follows. The breeze will be light at around 10-15 km/h at times.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the last 3 winners here at Bro Hof Slott from 2011-13 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
The fairways are quite wide here at the Bro Hof Slott which gives some respite to the less accurate off the tee, although there's no room for complacency with a watery grave awaiting the seriously errant. Birdies are the order of the day though with somewhere around 25 gains likely to be required to get the job done this week in the forecast good conditions, so combining long driving and strong GIR stats with a decent week on and around the greens is likely to be the winning combination here in Sweden.
The 5 par 5s lend themselves to attacking play and the longer players who can find the fairway off the tee on the longer holes will give themselves numerous opportunities to hit the par 5s in two shots. Scrambling isn't overly difficult here so I'd favour the long hitters who've been striking the ball with relative accuracy of late as the key attribute here. Scoring is likely to be low so players with the ability to post a low 4-round total when conditions are good should also be favoured.
My selections are as follows:
With conditions set fair in Sweden and a low-scoring event looking likely, players need to tick all the requisite boxes for me this week to warrant backing. Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood undoubtedly both have the long game to succeed here, however the pair have struggled with the putter in recent times and that's just about enough to put me off backing them at such short prices. Alex Noren defends and again could well contend despite a career-to-date record that underwhelms when returning as the champion, however I'm far happier to back the highly talented Thomas Pieters who has both the long game and putting ability to compile a winning score here at Bro Hof Slott.
Like many of this week's cast, the 24 year-old was involved in US Open qualifying at Walton Heath yesterday and having made a flying start he eventually succumbed to the windy conditions and, like a number of others, withdrew before the end to conserve a little energy ahead of this week's tournament in Sweden. For me, performance at Walton Heath is nothing more than an interesting fact ahead of an event that's going to be very different in terms of its setup and conditions, so reading too much into the results may be a red herring although individual performances are nonetheless worthy of note for future windy events if nothing else. The final leaderboard for Walton Heath is here.
After two missed cuts from his previous two attempts at the BMW PGA Championship, the Belgian produced a strong personal best last week at Wentworth to finish inside the top 30 and produce figures of 3rd for Total Driving, 7th for Ball-Striking and 7th for All-Round performance. That's impressive for a player who's better suited to longer, less claustrophobic tracks which he can attack and I'm soon expecting a return to the kind of form that saw him contend in Abu Dhabi (2nd) and Thailand (3rd) earlier this season. The 6 foot 5 inch giant proved what an exciting prospect he is last season when winning the Czech Masters and KLM Open in personal back-to-back events with 19- and 20-under totals and when the putter starts firing, as it did over that spell, he's a seriously strong player who's capable of winning a lot of high-profile events in my opinion. Over the past 9 months he's produced top-5 putting performances on a whole variety of putting surfaces ranging from Bermuda through to Bentgrass and with his length off the tee (303.1 yards season to date, 13th on Tour) he has the raw attributes I'm looking for to succeed here this week. Scrambling isn't overly difficult here, however minimising bogeys is still critical so 6th for scrambling at Wentworth also bodes well and if he putts as well as we know he can this week then it will take a lot to stop him claiming his third European Tour title. RESULT: WD
After grabbing an each-way place with Nicolas Colsaerts in Mauritius earlier this month, I'm happy to keep faith in the Belgian Bomber here this week in Sweden. Conditions at the 33 year-old's 'second home' were far from ideal with a stiff breeze blowing across the exposed layout, however it was to his credit that he just about held on during an attritional final day's play to finish in tie for third; subsequent finishes of 23rd in Ireland and 22nd at Wentworth, which matched his personal best there, are encouraging enough to warrant support here this week on what should be a wholly more compatible test. You know what you're getting with Colsaerts who can hit the ball as far as the very longest in world golf and who finds a high percentage of greens in regulation, however every now and then he gets hot with the putter - typically when standing on greens of the purer Bentgrass variety - and that can produce very low scores. A 24-under total in China when he secured his first European Tour victory back in 2011 shows that he has the ability to go low when the situation dictates and he also flirted with a 59 in the weather-affected Portugal Masters won by Alex Levy back in 2014. Recent rounds of 65 in China and Mauritius bodes well, as does an impressive third round 68 last week in Surrey; with 5 attackable par 5s here and in decent nick overall, an improvement on his tie for 11th here in 2010 is a distinct possibility. RESULT: 3rd
I said in my Thomas Pieters selection that I won't put too much emphasis on the results from Walton Heath, however two players who managed to secure their places at Oakmont plus have the game style to suit Bro Hof Slott are worthy of backing here this week in my view:
Firstly I'm keeping faith with Peter Hanson despite a final round 77 at Wentworth that saw him drop from a contending position going into Sunday to a forgettable tie for 33rd. Frustrating yes, especially as the winning score of -9 was clearly within reach from a starting position just 4 shots shy of that level, however Sunday apart it was another step forward in the rehabilitation and rebuilding of a career that reached a high of 17th in the OWGR back in 2012 courtesy of 6 European Tour victories plus another 7 professional successes over the years. Prior to missing the cut in Ireland from a poor draw, Peter had recorded Total Driving ranks of 4th, 5th and 8th on his previous 3 outings, complimented by Ball-Striking performances of 2nd, 4th and 2nd; normal service was resumed at Wentworth as Hanson posted ranks of 5th and 4th respectively to reinforce my view that his long game is back close to its very best. The 38 year-old led the field for Driving Distance too and has the ability to attack this course as he proved on his way to a 3rd place finish here in 2012. When the putter warms up I fully expect the Swede to go very close to adding to his European Tour tally so it's encouraging to see that he's finished inside the top-5 for putting average here at Bro Hof Slott on two of his three starts on this track. Qualifying for his first Major since the Masters in 2014 at Walton Heath yesterday is just the icing on the cake, however in positive mood with strong local support I can see him going well again here this week. RESULT: MC
Finally I'm backing one of the European Tour's nearly men this week who surely must break his maiden before too long. Romain Wattel, like the other members of my team this week, has the raw attributes I'm looking for to succeed on this long Bro Hof Slott track and with his form seemingly peaking after claiming his biggest career cheque last week at Wentworth, I'm happy to take a chance that this will be the week that he finally breaks through. A regular 295+ driver of the golf ball, the 25 year-old ranked 2nd for Total Driving in China and 3rd on the same count in Ireland before finally producing a decent putting display last week (1.69 putts per GIR) which was enough to produce his first top-4 finish on the European Tour for over a year. We know from his history that the Frenchman can maintain his form for a few weeks when he finds it as he's produced various spells of top-10 finishes or better over the years before going off the boil again, so backing him while he's hot could well be the recipe for success with him. A couple of early-career top 30 finishes here on this track bode well and he led the putting stats last time he played in Sweden back in 2014 at Malmo; 19 birdies last week in Surrey was beaten by only two players on the week and 10 bogeys or worse was also right amongst the best on show suggesting he's really not far away at all from breaking through. RESULT: T25
First Round Leader
Back to the well this week in a bet that's produced a winner for the past two seasons. Admittedly the justification for Jens Dantorp to lead here after day one is slightly more tenuous as we've moved away from his home course in Malmo back to Bro Hof Slott outside Stockholm, however that's not to say that he should be ignored here on a track that still plays to his strengths. The 27 year-old has opened up with rounds of 66 on each of his last two Challenge Tour events and before that shot rounds of 65 and 64 in Turkey - he's clearly scoring well at the moment, albeit at a lower level than this, however that's not stopped him from stepping up to the plate on day one in this event over the past two seasons and golf often produces these kind of results that have you banging your head against the wall if ignored. The Swede has reportedly been striping his irons of late - twice he's produced 100% GIR rounds over his last 3 events - and getting off to another smart start isn't out of the question in my view. RESULT: Lose
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