The Scandinavian Invitation, formerly the Nordea Masters, is our challenge for this week, following the conclusion of the Czech Masters which saw our 66/1 shot Adri Arnaus narrowly miss out on the title, finishing a single shot shy of a resurgent Thomas Pieters who captured his first title for 3 years on a course that he clearly loves. After a slow front 9 on Sunday, Arnaus tried to his best to reel in the former Ryder Cup star to no avail, however his time will surely come sooner rather than later.
On to this week then and with financial services group Nordea parting ways with this event, we’re left with a sponsor-less tournament with a €1.5m prize fund, however from a betting perspective it’s as you were last year when the Tour visited the Hills G&CC for the first time. Swedish golf is represented well with former Open Champion Henrik Stenson heading the betting at 8/1 generally and 10-time European Tour winner Alex Noren rating as an 11/1 chance. Matt Fitzpatrick and Erik Van Rooyen complete the 4 players at the top of the market, however as ever there are plenty further down the betting who have more than a sporting chance here this week.
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 6,865 yards for its par of 70 (down 66 yards on last year with changes to the par 4 1st, 2nd, 14th and 16th), 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 Bentgrass 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 Scandinavian Invitation that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well in this event. This week’s venue, Hills Golf & Country Club, was used for the event for the first time 12 months ago, so tournament history stats should be considered accordingly. Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Top 20 Finishes | Combined Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2018: Paul Waring, 125/1; 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.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here. Sunshine and showers are expected on Thursday with winds up to 15mph before the weather clears and calm, sunny conditions see temperatures rise towards the low 70s Fahrenheit by Sunday.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Other than the Dubliner Challenge played on the Challenge Tour in 2008 (final leaderboard here), last year was the only time that this venue has been used on a relevant professional Tour. The final player stats from the top 5 last year are below:
- 1st, Paul Waring (-14). 306 yards (10th), 63.5% fairways (56th), 75% greens in regulation (4th), 38.9% scrambling (51st), 1.67 putts per GIR (4th).
- 2nd, Thomas Aiken (-14). 271 yards (66th), 80.8% fairways (5th), 73.6% greens in regulation (12th), 68.4% scrambling (4th), 1.74 putts per GIR (23rd).
- 3rd, Max Kieffer (-13). 278 yards (61st), 82.7% fairways (4th), 80.6% greens in regulation (1st), 50% scrambling (34th), 1.74 putts per GIR (23rd).
- 4th, Thorbjorn Olesen (-12). 295 yards (28th), 65.4% fairways (48th), 70.8% greens in regulation (29th), 42.9% scrambling (47th), 1.67 putts per GIR (4th).
- 5th, Lucas Herbert (-11). 291 yards (38th), 53.8% fairways (66th), 70.8% greens in regulation (29th), 57.1% scrambling (19th), 1.76 putts per GIR (32nd).
A mixed 4 days last year with some calmer, drier weather and some breezier, wetter weather leading to a 14-under total, however in more favourable conditions rounds of 62 and 63 were recorded which shows that Hills G&CC is a typical exposed layout that needs a bit of wind for protection. Other than Thursday, I’m not sure that the course is going to be afforded that luxury this time around – potentially leading to a lower winning total.
At 6,931 yards for its par of 70 last year, it was clear that the layout suited shorter hitters with patience and strategy outweighing brute force. The par-5s still offer scoring opportunities of course, however Paul Waring – who recorded the longest Driving Distance of the top-5 finishers – only played the 12 long holes in 2-under for the week which suggests that scoring on the par-3s and par-4s is more important on this layout. Indeed Waring led the field for par-3 scoring, shooting 6-under for the short holes on the week.
Large, top quality bentgrass greens offer birdie opportunities for those who can find the putting surfaces in the requisite number, whereas scrambling from off the greens is tough given their sheer size and undulations, making it difficult to get chips close to the pin.
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 and Paul Waring last year, each other winner had recorded a top-10 finish in one of their previous 5 starts globally:
- 2018, Paul Waring: 9/11/52/MC/MC/MC/72/MC
- 2017, Renato Paratore: MC/45/MC/8/MC/18/23/MC
- 2016, Matt Fitzpatrick: 35/27/38/7/MC/MC/MC/47
- 2015, Alex Noren: 11/43/56/44/26/56/8/21
- 2014, Thongchai Jaidee: 41/33/6/37/24/5/MC/38
- 2013, Mikko Ilonen: 9/52/MC/17/2/MC/2/12
- 2012, Lee Westwood: 17/12/2/4/4/29/21/3
- 2011, Alex Noren: 5/11/MC/1/51/37/MC/MC
- 2010, Richard S Johnson: MC/63/MC/MC/MC/33/72/74
Event Form (back to 2010): Event form of recent winners is listed below, however it’s worth considering that the event has moved location at various points and this week’s venue was played last year only:
- 2018, Paul Waring: MC, MC, 40, 36
- 2017, Renato Paratore: MC, MC
- 2016, Matt Fitzpatrick: MC
- 2015, Alex Noren: 18, 52, MC, 30, MC, MC, 1, 10, 4
- 2014, Thongchai Jaidee: MC, MC, 52
- 2013, Mikko Ilonen: MC, MC, 1, 20, 38, MC, 3
- 2012, Lee Westwood: MC
- 2011, Alex Noren: 18, 52, MC, 30, MC, MC
- 2010, Richard S Johnson: 12, MC, 24
Last year’s event was played in challenging conditions at times and although it’s expected to be a little more straightforward this year with less wind in the forecast, the requirement for a little strategy as opposed to all-out attack is still the preferred route.
My selections are as follows: