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The Nordea Masters is our challenge this week following a busy few days of golf with the conclusion of the BMW PGA Championship, which delivered our 3rd European Tour outright winner in the last 4 previewed events, 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 Barsebäck Golf & Country Club this week to compliment what is a medium-strength event with World No.5 Henrik Stenson joining the regular European Tour locals Rikard Karlberg, Kristoffer Broberg, Peter Hanson, Robert Karlsson et al for this week's festivities. Alex Noren is also here fresh from his incredible final round heroics at Wentworth which saw him secure his 5th win globally in his last 22 events, all of which have been achieved within the past 12 months. That's truly impressive and the 34 year-old will quite rightly arrive to a hero's welcome this week on home soil.
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford previews the Memorial Tournament - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Course Overview. Barsebäck Golf & Country Club is located in Northern Malmö and just a few hundred yards in from the coastline that flanks the Oresund strait which separates Sweden from Denmark. This week we're playing the older of the two courses on the estate, the Masters Course, which was designed by Ture Bruce and Donald Steel in 1969. The club has hosted a number of Scandinavian Masters events over the years including 1992 won by Nick Faldo, 1995 (Pernevik), 1997 (Haeggman), 1999 (Montgomerie), 2001 (Montgomerie), 2003 (Scott), 2004 (Donald), 2006 (Warren) and most recently in 2009 when Ricardo Gonzalez won by two shots at -10.
A mixture of holes, some of which are tree-lined, parkland style and others more exposed and down by the seaside, will await the players although generally the course is quite flat and exposed. The fairways are fairly tight in places and the greens are A4 Bentgrass. The course details are patchy at best on the European Tour website, however in 2009 it played as a lengthy 7,665 yard, par 73 featuring 4 par-5s and 3 par-3s with the long holes measuring between 547 and 591 yards; this year it's reportedly playing longer still at 7,729 yards. The course was extended before the 2009 renewal with the par 3 11th becoming a 443 yard par 4; alongside some other adjustments this ultimately added 300 yards to the track and a few more tweaks have been made since to take it to its current length.
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, Barsebäck Golf & Country Club, was used for the events in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2009 in this week's data: 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. 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 6 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-70s Fahrenheit. The breeze will be consistent at around 15-25 km/h at times. Sunday may see a shower or two as the tournament reaches its conclusion.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the last 3 winners here at Barsebäck gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
The course was extended to a tougher 7,665 yard, par 73 (from 7,365, par 72) for the 2009 renewal and a 282 (-10) total for Ricardo Gonzalez suggests that the changes had an immediate effect on the difficulty of the course. Having said that, the Argentinean produced some fireworks on the back nine on Sunday to birdie 5 of his final 6 holes from some difficult positions. A holed bunker shot from a plugged lie on the 17th and a miracle escape from the trees on the 18th to 5 feet emphasises the requirement for a strong short game which is also backed up by the fact that both Marc Warren and Luke Donald won the previous two renewals here. Adam Scott won the 2003 edition with a more conventional tee-to-green performance, however with a long track and a bit of breeze expected throughout, I'd favour those with a strong short game here this week.
Incoming Form: In terms of course winners, Ricardo Gonzalez had finished 13th at the Open de France on his penultimate start which was his best effort of the season to date, however he had missed 3 of his last 4 cuts. Marc Warren's immediate form prior to victory in 2006 was even less obvious with 4 straight missed cuts, however three early season top-20 finishes had shown some promise at least. Luke Donald on the other hand had been playing in the US for the most part in 2004 before returning to Europe and finishing 22nd in Ireland the week before his win here. In terms of recent renewals of this event at its various venues, current form was as follows:
Event Form (back to 2010): Event form of recent Nordea Masters winners is listed below, however again this is on various tracks used for this event. If we're looking at Barsebäck in isolation then Ricardo Gonzalez had finished 59th here in 2001 before winning in 2009 and for Marc Warren it was his course debut. However Luke Donald had finished 3rd here the year before his win, Adam Scott was 4th the year before his and Colin Montgomerie boasts course form of 8/1/1/4. A mixed bag for sure, however disregarding older course form as irrelevant may be a little hasty.
Although I'm more than a little wary of taking the course specification as gospel given the inconsistencies we've seen in recent times on the European Tour, this layout would still appear to be on the longer side of average and players who can drive the ball a long way may have an advantage on some holes. That said, the winners here are hardly in the upper echelons of the driving distance category and ultimately those players who have excelled on and around the greens have triumphed on the last 3 renewals held here.
One interesting point to note is that birdies aren't easy to come by here with 2009 winner Gonzalez one of just 3 players to reach 20 birdies on the week, the top 4 in 2006 all made exactly 17 birdies each and Donald won in 2004 by making just 18 birdies and an eagle. Bogey avoidance and a more grinding mentality may well be the order of the day here and those players who possess a more aggressive attitude may find themselves getting frustrated as play progresses.
Bookmaker Offers: Latest offers and extended each-way places are detailed below.
My selections are as follows:
The argument here this week is whether or not the top 2 in the market can or should be opposed. World No.5 Henrik Stenson has his Swedish summer retreat literally just around the corner from the Barsebäck course and after a tough spell of events where he missed 4 cuts on the trot, 16th at TPC Sawgrass and 3rd last week at Wentworth suggests his game is coming around once again. Alex Noren on the other hand arrives in his homeland in euphoric mood after capturing the prestigious BMW PGA Championship title thanks to an incredible final round of 62 on Sunday. At around 5/1 and 7/1 respectively though they're a win-only punt at best and offer no value whatsoever in my view. Either could and may well win of course, however for me Stenson doesn't convert contending positions anywhere near enough to justify the price and Alex Noren's post-victory form in the past 12 months reads MC/46/34/37/23 and that's enough to dissuade me here.
I'm going to tackle this week from a different angle and go with a team of mid/longer-priced players who will deliver us an overall profit if one or more run into the each-way places or better - of course we may well be playing for place money only if one of the favourites does deliver. Top of my list this week is Paul Dunne who I last backed at the Trophee Hassan II when he came up just short in the play-off against Edoardo Molinari. The track at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam is a 7,615 yard, par 73 so certainly holds some parallels to this week's challenge and like this week was no pushover with players struggling to reach 20 birdies over the course of the week - indeed eventual winner Molinari managed just 12 birdies and 2 eagles on his way to a 9-under total. Losing the play-off was of course a bitter pill for the 24 year-old to take, however it's all part of the learning curve for an up-and-coming professional and I'm sure that there's much more to come from the Irishman and a maiden European Tour title is just around the corner.
No slouch from off the tee - he was 6th at Wentworth for driving distance at 306.5 yards on his way to a solid debut 30th place finish - Dunne's real strength is on and around the greens which should suit this layout well given the patchy history we have to hand. 3rd for putting at the Tshwane Open and 1st on the same count in Morocco is encouraging, as is 5th and 12th for scrambling on his last 2 starts in China and Surrey respectively. No course experience isn't likely to hamper the Greystones resident a massive amount here given the last competitive action on this track was in 2009 and only the locals who use this track in practice rounds will have that much of an edge, save for a few of the more experienced European Tour players. The final piece of the jigsaw may well be Paul's qualification for the US Open yesterday at Walton Heath where the putter was red hot by all accounts and, after a short trip over to Sweden, he may well be ready to hit the ground running this week. RESULT: MC
I was tempted to back Pablo Larrazabal again this week I must say - the Spaniard is still playing some nice golf and signed off with a closing round of 66 at Wentworth to (very) briefly hold the new course record, however a failed attempt at US Open qualifying may well knock his confidence a little for this week and that's not ideal for a player who thrives on positivity. Instead I'm backing another in-form player who did perform well at Walton Heath in the shape of Hao-Tong Li whose bogey-free second round of 64 on Monday was enough to lift him into the 2nd automatic qualification spot for Erin Hills.
The 21 year-old from China has already bagged 5 professional titles including a maiden European Tour success on home soil last year and much more's to come I'm sure given his combination of power and touch around the greens - that may well prove to be the right formula for success here this week in Sweden. Top-15 or better for Driving Distance on each of his weekend appearances in 2017 is encouraging on this lengthy track and sub-1.7 putting averages in Dubai (1.67 - 10th in the field), Sicily (1.64 - 8th) and Malaysia (1.60 - 3rd) makes him a decent fit for this course in my opinion. 3rd overall by the coast at the Rocco Forte Open on his penultimate start is also encouraging and he found something with his irons at Wentworth to produce his best GIR ranking (8th) relative to the field for over 18 months - clearly that washed through to his performance on Monday at Walton Heath. Still a little underestimated by the bookmakers, he's worth taking a chance on here this week in my view. RESULT: T26
A couple of course-experienced longshots to complete my selections in the shape of Marcel Siem and Raphael Jacquelin:
With some of the most tangible course form on show, Marcel Siem is worth a punt here this week at 200/1. The German's form has dipped since the end of 2014 and the last of his 4 European Tour titles, however following his rehabilitation from a shoulder injury last year there are a few signs that he may be ready to start climbing the OWGR once again having reached the top-50 earlier in his career. Well capable of driving the ball the requisite distance to compete here and with an excellent touch on and around the greens when at his best, what's been noticeable of late is that his ironplay has slowly been improving and that may well spell a more competitive run of form for the 36 year-old before too long. 77.8% GIR in Malaysia (13th in the field), 72.2% in India (10th), 75% in China (33rd) and 72.2% in Sicily (20th) all helped produce paid weekends for Siem and 8th overall at the Rocco Forte Open on his penultimate start was his best result on Tour for very nearly a year. With wins at Le Golf National (2012) and Lake Malaren (2014) we have a player proven on long, bentgrass-greened tracks and finishes of 8th and 4th here at Barsebäck in 2004 and 2006 respectively make Marcel an interesting outsider this week. RESULT: T8
Finally I'm taking another punt on Raphael Jacquelin as the European Tour once again heads to the seaside. Coastal tracks where birdies are at a premium is the Frenchman's forte and whilst this layout may prove to be a little lengthy for him to actually win, I can see him running into a place at a tasty price. The Lyon man, who now resides in Switzerland, finished 5th here at Barsebäck in 2006 and has made the weekend on this layout on 5 out of 6 attempts dating back to 1999, so clearly he's not been overawed here despite the ever-increasing challenge from off the tee. 8th last year in this event at the lengthy Bro Hof Slott also encourages, however ultimately it's the Frenchman's grinding style and love of coastal golf that gets him the nod here. Top 20 finishes in China and Sicily before missing the cut at Wentworth suggests to me that his game isn't a million miles away at the moment and twice he's led the field for scrambling in his last 7 starts which will help him minimise bogeys on this layout. Although a closing 66 at Walton Heath left him a couple of shots short of the play-off, he will nevertheless arrive in Sweden with a little bit of momentum in his game. RESULT: MC
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