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The Nordea Masters is our challenge this week following the conclusion of the US PGA Championship at Bellerive. A change in scheduling for this event, from last year's spot which followed Wentworth, has undoubtedly meant that the attendee list is down on recent years as the likes of Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren are nowhere to be seen having supported the event regularly in the recent past. Martin Kaymer (42nd), Thorbjorn Olesen (56th) and Alexander Bjork (MC) have made the journey from St Louis to Sweden, however for the most part the European Tour players will be approaching this week fresh from a week or two of rest and recuperation.
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford previews the Wyndham Championship - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Course Overview. Hills G&CC opened in 2005 and was the brainchild of renowned golf course architects Arthur Hills and Steve Forrest. At a reported 7,169 yards for its par of 71, the course isn't particularly long on paper, however the elevation changes will make some holes play longer or shorter than the card suggests and players with the ability to adapt their games for this will feel more comfortable here. Although there are some trees on various parts of the course, the layout is also exposed in places with generous, undulating fairways and large greens. Johan Edfors recently oversaw the re-design of 7 of the greens and recent rain is expected to make them quite receptive.
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, Hills Golf & Country Club, is being used for the event for the first time so tournament history stats should be considered accordingly. 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.
Winners & Prices. 2017, Renato Paratore, 150/1; 2016, Matt Fitzpatrick, 40/1; 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 8 years based on the 2017 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here. After a long spell of dry weather as we've seen in much of Northern Europe over the past weeks, the weather pattern has broken down in Sweden and showery rain is expected at times throughout the tournament. The wind will be a feature with 15-20mph expected at times; temperatures will be in the mid-60s Fahrenheit and a stark contrast to the warm, sunny weather that most events have experienced of late.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
This is the first time that Hlls GC has been used for any significant event other than the Dubliner Challenge played on the Challenge Tour in 2008 (final leaderboard here) and as such there's no historical data to give us any kind of pointer as to how it will play, other than to say that just 6 players finished under par that week in windy yet soft conditions.
Incoming Form: In terms of recent renewals of this event at its various venues, current form heading into the event is listed below. With the exception of Richard S Johnson back in 2010, each other winner had recorded a top-10 finish in one of their previous 5 starts globally:
Event Form (back to 2010): Event form of recent Nordea Masters winners is listed below, however it's worth considering that the event has moved location at various points and this week's venue is new to the tournament:
With so little to go on this week, I won't be getting to heavily involved in this year's Nordea Masters which is a shame as it's an event that I've enjoyed in the past. Recent rain and more wet weather expected throughout the week will likely make the course play a little longer and wider than anticipated, however a fairly stiff breeze is likely to keep a lid on scoring to a degree and I'd favour control over length here this week.
My selections are as follows:
The absence of Sweden's leading players Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren has left the talented if inconsistent Dane Thorbjorn Olesen as the clear favourite for this event. Although he's undoubtedly capable of beating up this relatively poor field, at single figure quotes I'm quite happy to leave him out after a couple of weeks of competing in the US and the adjustment that will be required when he arrives in a damp and cold Sweden without his clubs and baggage which were lost in transit on Monday. Of course his equipment may well have arrived by the time he needs them, however that's far from perfect preparation given the skinny price.
Following Olesen in the betting we have the likes of China Open winner Alexander Bjork, Martin Kaymer who's shown the odd sign of life of late and Rocco Forte Open winner Joakim Lagergren, however the inclusion of those names at the top end of the betting demonstrates just how open this event is, assuming that the favourite Olesen doesn't win. Working down the list, the name that really catches my eye is 3-time European Tour winner Jeunghun Wang who's been chalked up as 60/1 chance in this field and he has a better chance than that in my view.
With the vaguest of hints that we have from the 2008 Challenge Tour event that this layout is a fairly stiff test when there's a bit of wind in the forecast, the South Korean's successes in Morocco at -5 and Mauritius at -6 in back-to-back weeks in 2016 tell us that he's quite comfortable grinding out a score when required and he rubber-stamped his ability to tame a breeze when adding to his trophy cabinet at the 2017 Qatar Masters where it's perennially breezy. A 10-20mph breeze - with the potential for a little more on Saturday - will keep a lid on scoring this week and the 22 year-old is better equipped than most to tackle those kind of conditions from what we've seen in the past.
8th in this event last year, albeit on a different track, is at least a tick in the box for some form in the region and 13th on his last start on Tour at the Porsche European Open contained a second round of 65 which was his best effort since winning in Qatar at the start of 2017. His ball-striking looked much improved in Germany and in an event that's largely bereft of proven European Tour winners, I think that the price on offer is well worth taking on this week. RESULT: MC
Swedes have had a fairly strong record in this event in recent times with Peter Hanson (2008), Richard S Johnson (2010) and Alex Noren (2011, 2015) all taking the title and although the home challenge is a little muted this year, I suspect that Markus Kinhult can give the local supporters something to shout about. The 22 year-old was brought up a few miles up the Swedish coastline and the Gothernburg resident will be far more familiar with the surroundings this week than most of this field which has to be a small advantage.
Going back to 2015 at this event when it was staged at Malmo, Kinhult led the field at the halfway point as an amateur to effectively announce himself on the European Tour stage and although his weekend performance wasn't a patch on his opening 36 holes, he nevertheless gained useful experience in the process. Now back on the European Tour after a forgettable first attempt the year after his aforementioned effort, he's clearly improved massively as a player and sits reasonably comfortably inside the top-60 in the Race to Dubai as the European Tour season heads into a critical spell for those who have aspirations of making the DP World Tour Championship in November.
12th at both the SA Open and at Wentworth earlier this year were positive results whereas 3rd at the Qatar Masters represents the Swede's best finish at European Tour level, however if was his 5th place finish at Le Golf National last month which really caught the eye. Opening rounds of 71/65/67 meant that Marcus held both the 36 and 54-hole lead at this year's Ryder Cup venue and although the pressure told in the end, it's nevertheless more experience in the bank for the next time he's in contention - and if it is this week that he finds himself in the mix then he'll have a far weaker field to overcome this Sunday. RESULT: T45
A couple of longer-priced players to finish this week, both of whom have a chance of running into a place in my view. First up Connor Syme who's impressed at various points this season and won't be as disadvantaged this week in terms of course experience as he has been of late. Hailing from the east coast of Scotland at Kirkcaldy, the Scot will be more equipped than most with whatever the weather throws at the players this week and if he can keep his ball in play off the tee this week then he could well feature in what's a relatively poor field. A sparkling amateur career led to the 23 year-old turning pro after the 2017 Walker Cup and he hit the ground running with a 12th place finish at the Portugal Masters and 15th the week after at the Dunhill Links. 2nd behind runaway winner Mikko Korhonen at the Shot Clock Masters earlier this year rates as Connor's best finish on Tour, however there have been signs in recent weeks that his game isn't far away having shot a 62 at the Scottish Open which was the course record until it was eclipsed by Brandon Stone's final round heroics and he sat 6th after day 1 at the Porsche European Open on his last start. Syme's putting well at present and has the raw credentials to get into the mix here this week. RESULT: T21
Finally I'm taking a chance on Australian journeyman Matthew Millar who's been playing some tidy golf of late. The 41 year-old played on the European Tour between 2006 and 2009 with top-5 finishes at the New Zealand Open and Indonesian Open his best results, however after dropping as low as 1,218th in the OWGR at the end of 2014, it appears that the Canberra native has turned a corner career-wise. From 57 ranking events played since the start of 2015 he's won twice, has 10 further top-3 finishes and another 12 top-10 finishes to his name - clearly he's enjoying his best golf at this stage of his career. Length off the tee is Millar's biggest challenge, however this course isn't overly long by today's standards and the par-5s on the front 9 will be 3 shot holes for the vast majority of the field this week, so I suspect his lack of power will be less of a hindrance than some other weeks. Instead his tidy tee-to-green game could well set him in good stead here and with progressive form of 11th at the Indonesia Open where he led after the first round and 9th at the Fiji International where he closed with a 67, at the price on offer he's worth taking a chance on in my view. RESULT: T75
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel
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