This week we are in Sweden, more specifically Upplands-Bro, Stockholm County. This is the only event that is hosted in Scandinavia and the Staidum Course at Bro Hof Slott Golf Club is a great venue.
Between 2010-2013, Bro Hof hosted this event and after a two-year hiatus, we are now back at this stunning venue. The course has only been opened since 2007, but it has already proven it’s worth.
On the four occasions the event was played here, there have been two Swedish winners (Alex Noren & Richard S. Johnson), a fellow Scandinavian winner in, Finland’s Mikko Ilonen and an Englishman, Lee Westwood.
In 25 renewals of this event, there have been 7 Swedish winners in total, so although you could easily side with those playing in their home event, it is not a banker by any means. There have been more British winners (11), 6 of them English here and that may well be down to the links nature of the course.
This wind-exposed, 7,511 yard par 72 course will definitely require some distance off the tee, or superb play with the long irons all week.
All the winners at this course finished the week double-digits under-par on the par-5s, including Richard S. Johnson who finished the week -11 in total. He did this by shooting -11 on the longer holes and level par elsewhere. It is clear you need to take advantage of the five par-5s in each round and if you can do so, you are going to put yourself in contention.
This was the worst winning score at the course by some distance, with the next three winners winning with scores of -15, -19 and -21 so although you can make your scores up on the longer holes, you do need to also find some birdies elsewhere.
Key stats and trends:
Driving Distance – Due to the length and nature of the course, distance of the tee will be advantageous. Shorter hitters can compete but longer hitters tend to get the job done here, barring the first winner, Johnson.
Links form – Again barring Johnson, the other three winners; Noren, Westwood and Ilonen all have a previous win around a links track.
Pa-5 performance – Although they have shortened the course this year by 96 yards this year, there are still five par-5’s on the course and they need to be taken advantage of if you have any chance of winning here.
Holes 17 and 18 are a combined 73 yards shorter, making the 18th hole 432 yards, instead of the 472 yards the last time the players teed it up here and the par-3, 17th has been reduced from 164 yards to 131 yards, making it nothing more than a flick of a wedge. Whilst they have shortened the 17th, the par-3 11th has gone from 175 yards to 209 yards which compensates for the par-5 being reduced from 622 yards to 574.
These are the changes to the back-9 and similar changes have been made to the front-9. The most significant of them though is the reduction the par-3 7th which has gone from 208 yards to 164, whilst the next hole the par-4 8th has been increased from 454 to 493. There should be a significant scoring change on the 7th now as it makes for a different club choice altogether so scoring may will be different this time around than it has been in past editions.
Overall the changes made have balanced out, with some holes shortening and others by contrast getting longer, it just needs to be determined how much of a difference these changes are going to make overall. I think scoring may well be easier this time around than it was back when the course was first used and Miko Ilonen’s score of -21 in 2013 will be the marker in my opinion.
With all this in mind, here are my picks for the 2016 Nordea Masters.
Alex Noren 18/1 (Bet365 & StanJames) 2pts e/w:
I wouldn’t normally like to back a player at such short odds, when they are not playing their best golf but this week I am making an exception for Alex Noren.
In four starts at this course, two-time Nordea Masters winner, Noren missed his first cut before going 1-10-4 since. His win came in 2011 and although he had already won that year his previous two starts were missed cuts at the Scottish Open and the Open Championship so he wasn’t in glittering form then.
When he came 4th here in 2013 his last three starts read 32-41-6 as well, so although he was playing a bit better he can still up his game when he arrives at this course and I fully expect him to do that this week.
Wentworth was playing tough last week, so although his T42 is hardly inspiring, making the cut at least was good enough preparation for a course he clearly loves.
Given how much injuries have affected his career, his four wins so far on the European Tour show he is capable of getting over the line and given two of those wins came at this event, albeit the first at a different course, there’s no reason to not feel comfortable with backing him this week.
He is my sole selection and although probably unoriginal and not at all a difficult pick by any means I just don’t see much point in adding many picks in this event, with no one particularly standing out.
You could argue that Lee Westwood at 14s is just as easy to pick, as he won on his lone start here and is playing well but I don’t want to get involved in two from the top and thought I would take a chance on Noren given he has won on the European Tour more recently, is playing in his home event and is a bigger price.