If you’ve been a follower of DownThe18th you will know Scandinavia holds a big place in our hearts, so it’s a great honour this week to be previewing the Nordea Masters in Sweden! It is a shame that tournaments like this are losing their appeal to the top golfers out there with the purses being no comparison to those on the PGA. Peter Hanson, Francesco Molinari, Manassero, Donaldson and Paul Lawrie are the only representatives from the world’s top 50 here this week. But fear not as this does make for an interesting few days with a lot of outside bets looking very, very tasty.
The tournament has been played on the 7,607 yard Bro Hof Slott Golf Club for 3 years now, with Swedish nationals Richard S Johnson and Alexander Noren claiming the title for the first two years before Lee Westwood romped to victory by a massive 5 shots in 2012. Now it seems like stating the obvious on a course with such long yardage, but emphasis really will be on distance off the tee this week! This is where the top 10 ranked in driving distance in last year’s event. Westwood (2), Fisher (13), Garcia (4), Hanson (10), Ilonen (18), Lagergren (14), Aguilar (52), Singh (23), Sterne (11), Edberg (1). Only Felipe Aguilar (ranked 32) of the same golfers ranked outside the top 20 in putts per GIR as well, so you better be hot with the short stick. Even Lee Westwood managed to come 3rd in putts per round in 2012. Like most weeks, GIR will be key. Accuracy of the tee would be nice, but it is not essential.
Lets have a great 4 days in beautiful Sweden!
Peter Hanson (25/1 Various)
It is only fitting that we start off proceedings with Mr Sweden Peter Hanson. The 6-time European Tour winner will be itching to do well on home soil and his statistics are a great fit this week. Apart from the World Golf events, this is the 1st time Hanson has participated on the European Tour since late January, so he will really mean business. The Swede finished 34th here in 2010 before a 3rd place last year. On the way to his finish last year Hanson ranked 10th in driving distance (295 yards), 9th in GIR and 3rd in putts per GIR. On the PGA Tour this year he ranks 31st in driving distance and 21st in strokes gained–putting. Meanwhile on the European Tour he ranks 19th in driving distance, 2nd putts per GIR, 3rd putts per round and 30th in stroke average. Hanson is the man to beat this week.
Mikko Ilonen (40/1 Ladbrokes)
Of course we are sticking with the Scandinavian theme again, this time in the shape of Mikko Ilonen from Finland. Mikko was relatively unknown to us a few months back but has done nothing but impress us since! Question marks were raised by us as to whether he could do it on the bigger stage and he certainly proved that last week with a T12 finish at the BMW PGA in which he was 2nd place at the end of day 1. But with the Fin recording a T3 here last year and his current form reading very healthily, it would be silly for us not to go with him this week. Last year he ranked 18th in driving distance, 2nd in GIR and 12th in putts per GIR. Mikko had not even registered a top 15 last year coming into this event, so he is a very dangerous and different prospect considering the 3 top 10’s he has already recorded this year. His putting on the tour this year also needs a quick mention, he is 5th in putts per GIR and 10th in putts per round. Safe to say he loves it on the greens. Mikko is a great prospect for this week.
Morten Ørum Madsen (100/1 Various)
Pick number 3 and you guessed it, Scandinavian number 3. The man from Denmark is fast becoming a recognised name on the European circuit after a string of impressive performances this year. His latest effort was a 2nd place a couple of weeks ago at the Madeira Islands Open behind American Peter Uihlein. And most recently over the past 2 days, Madsen has been involved in the US Open Qualifying event. The Dane impressively booked himself a place at Merion in a few weeks time, he shot -5 to be just 2 shots off the winner Simon Khan and finish outright 4th place! You can’t ask for better form from him right now. One thing that could worry you is that he has never played in this tournament but Morten has the ability, youthful exuberance and form to overcome any challenges a new course throws at him. And don’t worry about his ability off the tee either, Madsen averages it easily over 300 yards! He ranked 2nd place in driving distance in his last outing, averaging over 314 yards whilst he also came 5th in GIR. Get on the Dane this week.
Joakim Lagergren (125/1 Various)
Now it is always nice to back a local in these events across the globe, and Joakim gets the nod from us this week. The Swede was born and raised in Stockholm which is a mere 45minutes from the course and will have definitely had a few rounds on this track in his time. The 21 year old finished 6th here last year on his 1st try and was certainly not fazed by the likes of Westwood and Garcia in the field. And his statistics that week were definitely impressive. He ranked 14th in driving distance and 1st in both putts per GIR and putts per round! The Swede certainly has some local knowledge on these greens. That alone is enough for us to want to back him this week. His last 2 outings have been a 21st and most recently a 30th in Portugal where he was in contention for the most part. That week again he ranked 7th in putts per round, so watch out for his talents on the greens.
Roope Kakko (150/1 Various)
It is only fitting that we that we ‘finish’ off our picks this week with another man from Scandinavia. The man from Finland really stood out to us after studying recent form, his last 4 starts read 9th, 5th, MC and 7th! The performances have been on the Challenge Tour but either way it is hard to deny that he is playing great golf at the moment. His 5th place at the co-sanctioned Madeira Islands Open shows he can mix it with the best of them. And last week his 9th place finish was only 3 shots off the eventual winner. If you are worried whether he can hack it around this course, well he did come T17 last year! It seems the locals have a knack for putting on these surfaces, Roope ranked 6th in putts per GIR and 15th in putts per round. He also importantly ranked 8th in driving distance for the week which will be vital over the 4 days. Quick fact for you, Roope is married to LPGA star Minea Blomqvist, which is arguably the perfect scenario for any golfer. What better way to practice for this event than a few rounds with your wife! Perhaps a win could be a step too far, but definitely look out for a top 10 from Kakko this week.