The European Tour returns to the mainland for this week’s Nordea Masters in Sweden, a tournament first contested at this level in 1991 when Monty beat Seve by a shot.
Gamers have a tough puzzle to solve as a new course, Hills Golf & Sports Club, is used for the first time.
After the huge purses of Firestone and Bellerive, it’s back to much reduced offerings in Gothenburg this week.
Named after American architect Arthur Hills, who co-designed it with Steve Forrest (surely they should have called it Forrest Hills), Hills GC can play nearly 7,500 yards from the tips although the European Tour website has it down as 7,169 yards. Looking at YouTube and reading around, it seems to be set in a forest with lakes and lots of tall trees. One review says the early holes are reminiscent of Florida tracks. The official website mentions rugged, hilly terrain and the course having generous fairways and well-placed bunkers. Tour player Johan Edfors was involved in a redesign in 2014 while seven greens were further shaped in 2018. Looking at the scorecard, it’s a par 71 with back-to-back par threes at the 5th and 6th. It closes with a 549-yard par five which could bring eagle into play. We also have some clues provided by a Challenge Tour event it held in 2008. Reviews of that said the front nine was by far the tougher and that players endured 35mph winds on day one. Heavy floods meant the tournament was reduced to 54 holes and only six players finished the week in red figures.
Past winners at Nordea Masters
2017 Renato Paratore -11 (Barseback GC)
2016 Matthew Fitzpatrick -16 (Bro Hof Slott GC)
2015 Alex Noren -12 (PGA Sweden National)
2014 Thongchai Jaidee -16 (PGA Sweden National)
2013 Mikko Ilonen -21 (Bro Hof Slott GC)
Notes: For the record, that’s an Italian, an Englishman, a Swede, a Thai and a Finn winning the last five. However, if we extend to search to the last ten years, we see four home Swedish winners. Add in Finland’s Ilonen and five of the last ten have been won by Scandinavians. Oh, and when it staged that 2008 Challenge Tour event, the winner was a Dane, Mark Haastrup.
It looks a mixed bag in Gothenburg this week with the chance of a storm on Friday and rain in the forecast on both weekend days. Thursday is the best day with temperatures in the high 70s but they drop 10 degrees after that. The winds are set to be around 8mph-12mph most of the week so nothing as ferocious as those of 2008.
The Leading Contenders
After his top three at Firestone, many gamers expected big things from Olesen at the PGA but he never really got up a head of steam. T53 was a disappointment although he did shoot 68 on both Friday and Sunday. In regular European Tour events, his form reads 6-MC-2-1 which puts him in a different league to his rivals here. He played this course on the Challenge Tour in 2008, taking T34, while he was T4 in last year’s Nordea Masters. He’ll have huge support too from all the Danes who reside in Sweden or cross the border to cheer him on.
With Stenson and Noren absent, Bjork is the big local here this week. He’ll hope to do a better job of impressing his countrymen as his Swedish form reads 30-MC-MC so far. Bjork played some great golf from April to mid-July, landing his first win and adding a pair of top 10s and two further top 20s. After struggling in the big events (MC at Carnoustie and Bellerive and T48 at Firestone), he should benefit from this drop in class.
Kaymer’s form has been confusing since May with six MCs, a second and an eighth. It was hard to know what to expect at Bellerive but he did okay with 69-67-70 over the final 54 holes for T42. However, this isn’t the time for ‘okay’ if the German wants to make a late push for the Ryder Cup and he’d need to have a huge end of the season for that. He’s not played in Sweden for ten years but in three starts there from 2006-2008 he posted 2-2-14 so he’s enjoyed previous trips.
Runner-up at PGA Sweden National on his last start in this event in 2015, the Dane will feel very much at home and he’s gone 7-for-7 on the European Tour since early June. That run includes T7 in the BMW International Open and T22 at the European Open, both events in Germany. Looking at a wider view of his Swedish form, Kjeldsen has four finishes of T14 or better in his last six starts there.
Now for three Swedish players who sit 44th, 45th and 46th on the Race to Dubai. Lagergren (44) took victory in the Rocco Forte Sicilian Open in May and added T12 in the Irish Open and T23 at the Scottish. He’s rested up since and now will hope to improve a poor record in this event which shows MC-MC-48-68 from 2014-2017.
Kinhult is 45th on the RTD courtesy of some big cheques at the BMW PGA Championship (T12) and the Open de France (T5) in recent times while he was also third in Qatar earlier this year. He was the 54-hole leader at Le Golf National and first came to the attention of most European Tour observers when holding the 36-hole lead in this event as an amateur (finished T33) in 2015. Kinhult was also T21 the year before while T8 in the 2016 Made In Denmark adds to some promising play in the region. Says this is his favorite tournament.
At 46 on the RTD, Dantorp owes his position to banking by far the biggest pay-day of his career with a tied third at last month’s Scottish Open, a Rolex Series event. He shot 64-65-68-68 that week and it rather came out of the blue as he’s had just one other top 20 (T16 Indian Open) this season. A two-time winner on the Challenge Tour (2013 and 2017), he’s got some nice form in this event with T3 in 2015 and T18 in 2016.
Given the good record of Scandinavians in this event, Bjerregaard should be fairly near the front of the queue when constructing a line-up. He had a burst of four top sixes in five starts from April to June and is 30th for GIR this season. The Dane has cashed in all four starts at the Nordea Masters, with T20 two years ago his best.
A closing 65 gave Southgate a nice payout at the Open de France (T5) and he’s 3-for-3 since, including T23 in the Scottish Open where he ranked fourth for greens in regulation. Currently 54th on the Race to Dubai, he’s not managed anything better than T65 in three starts at the Nordea Masters but if you like the inspiration angle – Southgate is good friends with recent European Open winner Richard McEvoy and they co-hosted a charity golf day last week.
The Belgian has had a decent summer with three top 20s in five European Tour events – T18 at the BMW International Open, T16 at the Open de France and T13 in the European Open. The frustration for gamers is that those finishes don’t really bank much and, in fact, he’s not had a better worldwide finish than T9 for over a year. MC in this event last year.
The Next Rung
If you’ve been following the Asian Tour, Vincent’s name has been a leaderboard staple. Last four starts – 6-7-2-2, the latest second place coming in last week’s TAKE Solutions Masters in India where he shot 65-68 on the weekend. Long rather than straight so should like the wide fairways and his recent GIR numbers are superb.
Rai banked a top four in Sweden at a Challenge Tour event a couple of seasons ago and he’s definitely regarded as a winner waiting to happen at full European Tour level. Recent positives include a top five in the BMW International Open and T9 at the Scottish Open. Very straight hitter although his usually trusty putter has gone rather cold.
Nordea specialist. The tournament has been played at three different venues the last three years and Colsaerts has finished 8-3-7. He’ll hope he can stretch that to a fourth top ten at Hills GC. Has missed five of his last nine cuts but also posted a third, seventh and T19 in that sequence.
‘Beef’ likes the unusual and also venues with lots of trees so you’d imagine he’d take to this test. A T12 in his last start in the Nordea Masters is another tick but the obvious negative is that he’s not pegged it up since withdrawing from the Open de France seven weeks ago after a R1 82.
If you’re looking for a fast starter, Rock was T2 after round one at both the Scottish and Irish Opens on his last two appearances and actually led the way after 36 holes at Gullane before slumping to T49. He ended T28 in Ireland. He’s 7-for-8 since March which is good but, for some reason, Rock finds Sweden a hard place – ten starts, eight MCs, T66 and T67.
The World No. 147 returned to form in the European Open last time out, shooting four consistent rounds for a share of fifth spot. That was his first top 30 since T9 back in April’s Open de Espana. This will be his first start in Sweden.
After his incredible July when he followed up a Challenge Tour win in France with a first European Tour success the very next week in Germany, what will August bring for the Englishman? Surely, it’s fair to expect a little breathing out and reflection on his achievements and three missed cuts in this event perhaps helps make a decision.
We’ve not seen much of the Spaniard since he had a real shot at victory in his home Open de Espana in April. He rode that good display to another pair of top 25s but has failed to crack the top 40 in six of his latest seven starts although did post T9 in Germany in June. He’s 2-for-3 at this event.
The Austrian has popped up a few times this season and was on the leaderboard for all four days of the Porsche European Open in Germany on his last start, eventually finishing T7. Good iron player and sits 23rd for GIR this season but 132nd in SG: Putting. Tournament debut.
Gallacher was runner-up in the 2014 Nordea Masters at PGA Sweden National and T24 at the same course 12 months later. This new venue could suit as he likes a bit of space off the tee and T9 in the Scottish Open last month was a good sign after missing three of his four previous cuts.
Last year’s winner when shooting 11-under to edge out English pair Matt Fitzpatrick and Chris Wood by a shot at Barseback. Suffered a mid-season dip with six cuts out of seven but warmed up for his title defense with second place in the European Open in Germany, displaying a hot short game.
Local man finished runner-up at the European Open last time and also banked a top 15 finish in the 2017 Nordea Masters so has an interesting mix.
The man behind the redesign but has hardly played of late and missed the cut easily when he has. T10 in the 2016 Nordea Masters.
Only eight players in the field took part in the Challenge Tour event held at this venue in 2008 and local man Sjoholm was the best of them, finishing T28. Has been struggling on the Challenge Tour recently however.
T43 at this venue in 2008 and has top tens in Qatar (February) and Belgium (May) but has swallowed seven missed cuts in succession since the latter.
Three top 25s in his last four starts, highlighted by T9 in the European Open. T24 in this event three years ago.
Another Matthew. This one was T9 in the Fiji International and T11 in Indonesia before that so in fine form. The Aussie is a very straight hitter.
Flashed a bit of form when T7 in June’s Shot Clock Masters. The Swede won his home event in 2008 when it was known as the SAS Masters.
Another veteran Swede with a Ryder Cup past, Karlsson has a T12 (2016) and a T6 (2014) in two of the last four editions of his home event. T15 in Belgium but just 1-for-7 since.
Two-time European Tour winner was T11 in the Fiji International on his last start.
Who’s On The Team?
Nicolas Colsaerts loves this event and should enjoy this new course too.
I’ll reveal my full six-man line-up for the official European Tour fantasy game in Tuesday’s Playing The Tips feature.
One To Swerve
I think recent winner Richard McEvoy will find it hard to hit the heights again so soon after his incredible fortnight.