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Viking Challenge

Mark Tullo - strongly fancied to contend in Norway at the 'Viking'

Mark Tullo – 1.5 points each-way @ 22/1

 Simon Forsstrom – 1 point each-way @ 33-1

Cristofer Blomstrand – 0.75 points each-way  66-1

I’m really not sure what to make of the last couple of weeks. At the Finnish Challenge, our 50-1 pick played superbly through three days in difficult conditions and took a one shot lead after a third of Sunday’s play. The the heavens opened and play was abandoned, meaning the result was based on the 54-hole leaderboard and a narrow win for Paul Howard.

The eventual victor described himself as very nervous going into the final round and was surrounded by a number of potential challengers when play was halted and whilst I don’t wish to decry the result, I doubt he could have got the job done through the final dozen holes.

Add fury to the fire when virtually ignoring the Northern Ireland Open last week. Amended to a three-round stroke-play event before a series of six-hole matchplay shootouts it wasn’t for me, so imagine my delight when seeing Robin Sciot-Siegrist finally get his head in front after a couple of weeks of support. To be fair, his play had been eye-catching and he was just failing to kick-on when in a real winning position so this short format clearly helped. Ah well….

The Tour returns to normality this week with a return to Miklagard, Norway, known as one of the best courses in Scandinavia. Used twice before at this level, the most recent event took place in 2014, when Benjamin Hebert became the only player to twice win three events in one season. A Robert Trent-Jones design, it was built to be a championship course and has a number of holes that will require accuracy in driving with thick forest and/or water in play for much of one side. I guess the best indication of the type of track facing the players is the 2012 victor here on the lower levels, the very accurate and great putting Kris Broberg, later to sluice home in four events in his first season at Challenge level.

So to the bets.

Looking at Broberg’s four wins at this level, it is highly significant that three are all in this part of the world. Wins in Finland, Denmark and Norway sit nicely alongside the win at the prestigious Rolex in Switzerland and form from the Nordic events has to be taken very seriously.  As such I looked very carefully at a few of the Nordic league players, eventually plumping for both Simon Forsstrom and Cristfofer Blomstrand of the ten or so on the list.

It isn’t just that the Swede deserves to win, although he clearly has a point to prove after the Finnish event, but his overall efforts in this part of the world make him impossible to ignore.

Multiple placings on the NGL sit well with his sole victory at that level, whilst if his form through ‘that’ event wasn’t enough he has confirmed he can cope with tricky conditions and courses with his play in Ireland and at the Hydro.  He seems to play well at the same locations – his record at the Finnish Challenge in the past couple of years reads 2/7 whilst he has 23/8 in Scotland – and the runner-up position behind Broberg in 2012 is the icing on the cake. Sure, his price is coming down week-by-week but justifiably so and currently 35th in the rankings, he will need to earn a few quid to guarantee a place in next week’s Rolex (top-42 qualify).

Talking of the rankings, this is yet another chance for our ante-post pick, Aaron Rai, to open up a big lead on the rest. Second place Suri doesn’t run, giving him a 60k+ lead over the next ranked player, Julien Guerrier. From a pure class angle, it is hard to argue the case against the Englishman chasing his fourth win of the season, but this may well be a warm-up for next week. Having rested since the end of July, he has used these breaks with great effect but tends to need a run or two before hitting peak form and he doesn’t play in this part of the world very often. He is opposable at the price but if there is any sign of his undoubted talent, they’d all better prepare properly for the Rolex!

Second up for betting purposes is another Swede, Cristofer Blomstrand. 

Currently around 10k short of a place in the top-45 and thus qualification for the final events of the season, I felt his play has been a tad better than that lowly ranking. Winner of two events including the difficult Race To Himmerland on the Nordic tour, he confirmed his liking for conditions with a top-15 at the higher level at the Nordea Masters, whilst he went into Payday at the shortened Finnish in 4th place. Of other interest is his form at the Czech Challenge reading 4/16, an event that appears in the stellar 2014 season of Hebert. I am happy to ignore the form from Ireland last week and having backed him in Denmark where he finished T22 after a very poor final round, I am happy to take similar prices in an equally suitable event.

The three-off-the-tee are concluded with what was going to be the nap of the week. I’ve thought long-and-hard about the price aspect but decided I have to put up Mark Tullo as the case is compelling.

Looking through Hebert’s form through 2014, where the Frenchman was the Chilean wasn’t far behind. The three victories saw Tullo record form figures of T4 (Norway)/T9 (Brittany where past course winner Fahbring also goes well)/T14 (poor final round cost him a top-10 in the finale), whilst he recorded high finishes at the Hydro and Saint Omer alongside a victory in Finland.

He has been very up-and-down in the intervening years but this year has already posted a top-5 in France, top-10 at the Hydro and latterly T3 to Rai at Le Vaudreuill.

From just eight starts, Tullo lies safely ensconsed in the mid-20s of the rankings, certain to play next week and with a real chance of competing in the final restricted field events.

Form in similar conditions was simply too compelling to leave and I just felt anything around 22-1 was worth playing.

Respect to the likes of Chase Koepka, continuing to play well every week but who i think will be suited by a different test, and Richard McEvoy, winner of the Hydro and continuing to play well, but these few stood out so lykke til.






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