This week, we stay in mainland Europe on the European Tour as players make the journey to Malmo, Sweden for this year’s renewal of the Nordea Masters.
The Nordea Masters, previously known as the Scandinavian Masters has a new venue this year, as PGA Sweden National plays host to this event, and its first European Tour event this week. Kyle Phillips designed this course, with the help of Peter Hanson, a former winner of this event in 2008.
Phillips has played a part in designing/re-designing several courses around the world, but in Europe his most notable designs are Kingsbarns, The Grove, Verdura and Valderrama. Kingsbarns is used every year at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, so that although it may be a tedious link, you could look for players who play well there.
The Lakes Course, at PGA Sweden National is a 7,475 yard, par 72 and features large fairways and small greens, so hitting it long and straight should give you an advantage here. Distance comes in to play a little bit more than usual for me this week, as I feel with the small greens it would be ideal to be able to play your approach shot with a short iron or a wedge, compared to the mid-irons shorter hitters may have to use.
Good wind players may well factor in this week as well if the conditions demand such a test, as the course is exposed and this may well be an important part of the decision-making this week. All in all I feel those who rank highly in both Driving Distance and Greens in Regulation will excel here, and good form at some of the aforementioned courses is a bonus to. Accuracy off the tee will always be important, but I have put less emphasis on it this week, despite the 74 bunkers in play, as the fairways are quite generous.
With Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy all playing on the PGA Tour this week, the head of the market has a different look, although home favourite Henrik Stenson comes in as 7/1 favourite this week. Stenson is the strong favourite in this home event, but Francesco Molinari (16/1), Thomas Bjorn (20/1), Jonas Blixt (22/1) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (25/1) will no doubt all be well fancied as well.
Blixt, another home favourite will be keen to add to his 2nd place finish at the Masters and his 16th place finish last week at Wentworth, with a good finish here. He finished 2nd behind Mikko Ilonen in this event 12 months ago, and although it is at a different course this week, he will no doubt fancy his chances once again, and hope to bolster his chances of a Ryder Cup spot in the meantime.
Here are my picks for the 2014 Nordea Masters.
Ross Fisher 45/1 (StanJames) 1.5pts e/w: Ross Fisher seems the ideal candidate for me this week, for several reasons, and because of that I think he represents great value, at 45/1.
Firstly, I expected a lot more from Fisher last week at Wentworth, as he went of pretty well fancied at his home club, but missing the cut has meant a welcome inflation in his odds here.
Fisher, who has ties to The Wisley Golf Club, a course designed by Robert Trent Jones II, and assisted by Kyle Phillips, should have the perfect game for this course. Fisher a member at Wisley, is also instructed by The Wisley Head Pro, Denis Pugh and while this may hold no relevance this week, his style of play should.
He consistently hits greens in regulation (ranking 15th on the European Tour) and can also hit give it a good hit off the tee, ranking 37th in Driving Distance (averaging 293.3 yards) so if my predictions of the type of player who will play well here ring true, he should go well.
He lost out in a play-off to Robert Karlsson at the 2008 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and his cause was helped greatly by his opening round 64 at Kingsbarns. As aforementioned Kingsbarns was also designed by Kyle Phillips, so it’s possible Fisher may take a liking to this track.
Although I am using a little bit of guess-work about the suitability of the course this week, Fisher has looked in resurgent form in the last year, and his win at the Tshwane Open in March highlighted that. He won with a -20 score, beating his nearest competitors Danie Van Tonder and Michael Hoey by three strokes, proving he can take advantage of low-scoring course/event. All of his wins have been won by double-digit under-par scores and that sort of the score looks to be expected this week.
I really like his chances this week, he is a fine player, and after clinching his first win three years, in March, he has restored confidence that he can get over the line. He is now a five-time winner, and that coupled with decent current form suggests 45/1 is pretty generous.
Alvaro Quiros 60/1 (PaddyPower) 1pt e/w: Quiros, like Fisher fits the bill perfectly for me this week, we all know you can’t talk about long hitters, without throwing Quiros in the reckoning, as he’s always amongst the longest on Tour every year. He currently ranks 10th in Driving Distance, averaging over 305 yards, and 10th is a false position considering how many more rounds he’s played than those above him. Lucas Bjerregaard is the only player to of played more rounds than Quiros and rank higher than him, with a 307.7 average.
Why else do I rate Quiros’ chances this week? He is a proven winner, he has shown glimpses of a return to form and also ranks in the top-4o for Greens in Regulation. I do think it’s important to combine power off the tee with good approach play, and that’s exactly what the Spaniard does.
The wide fairways will suit Quiros this week, as it gives him freedom to give it his best off the tee, and should he achieve that, he is good enough to hit the right part of these small greens. Only three starts ago, Quiros was in contention at the Volvo China Open, but a level par 72 in the final round left him six shots adrift of eventual winner Alexander Levy. The course in China also featured generous fairways, and hosted a European Tour event for the first time, so Quiros may well adapt to this course in similar fashion this week.
He has made four straight cuts, which include finishes of 3rd and 13th and his six European Tour wins are amongst the most of any player in the field this week. Tour veterans Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn have obviously won a lot more than Quiros, but it’s easy to forget that he is still only 31 years old, with all his wins coming before his 30th birthday.
His last win was in 2011, and a player of his obvious quality and somewhat maturity, will be looking to return to the winners circle sooner rather than later. This course should be right up his street, and 60/1 about a player who has won multiple times on tour, whilst also showing some good form in the last few weeks, again looks generous.
Alexander Levy 66/1 (General) 1pt e/w: As aforementioned, Levy won the Volvo China Open last month, and has managed to keep up the good form since.
Last week, on his first visit to Wentworth Levy finished T12 and that was following finishes of T57 and T24 in the two starts between his win and last week. He looks in rock solid form, and he may prefer the setup this week, than the three courses he’s played since winning in China.
Like both Fisher and Quiros, Levy shapes up well in both Driving Distance (15th, averaging 300.3 yards) and Greens in Regulation (38th) and this should serve him well.
Levy looked great in contention, when getting the job done in China, hitting two solid approaches on the final two holes in order to seal the victory, and once again showed his quality in a good field last week.
The field is not as deep, in terms of strength this week, and the Frenchman may take advantage of that, and seal a second victory in an already memorable season.
After watching him on the range and round the course last week, I was impressed further by his game, and he should be able to keep the good run of form going this week.
He looks good value at 66/1, considering he’s a recent winner and only missed two cuts all season.
Lucas Bjerregaard 150/1 (General) 1pt e/w: My last tip of the week is Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard, who has once again gone out to a triple-figure price.
Bjerregaard has been in good form, in his first full season on the European Tour, and had it of not been for a disqualification and a withdrawal in his last two starts, I wouldn’t have thought he would go off at, what looks like a very good price. He withdrew on his last start, in the Open de Espana due to the passing of a close family member, it wasn’t an injury concern.
Bjerregaard put personal problems aside yesterday as he was one of fourteen players to qualify for the U.S Open at Walton Heath and I hope he can take that confidence into this week.
He currently sits 5th in Driving Distance, so he should relish the return of generous fairways this week. Hopefully he uses his length this week, in order to contend for his first European Tour title, something that didn’t look too far away in recent events.
His game is by no means complete yet, but we are seeing younger players win all the time now, and unlike most of the field, Bjerregaard does in fact have some course form to go by.
He won the Nordic League in 2012, and amongst many top finishes, he finished 4th at this course in the PEAB PGA Grand Opening event, so hopefully he can draw on some positive memories from that week.
At 150/1 I am happy to chance that he will return to the steady form he was starting to show before his last two starts, and hopefully a past look at this course will serve him well, en-route to a good week. His distance off the tee is the biggest strength of his game, and this course looks as good as any to display his power.
Points staked on the European Tour this week: 9
Profit/Loss for 2014: + 56.91
Last week was very disappointing, as I was very keen on my selections on both sides of the Atlantic, and it was only Chris Kirk in the Crowne Plaza who ended up playing anywhere near how I expected them too. I am always wary of a new course hosting an event, and this week is no different, however I am confident my selections can go well here, and I have gone for a mixture of youth and experience.