Prize Money: €1,500,000
Winner’s Share: €250,000
Another quality field has assembled on the European Tour this week as Sweden takes the turn to host. Rory McIlroy overcame his very public split with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki and whilst many in his position would be at home knocking back a very expensive bottle of scotch, the Northern Irishman decided to win the BMW PGA Championship. Amazingly, his first ever win on European Soil.
The Nordea Masters moves to the PGA National (Lakes Course) in Sweden for the very first time. As with every new course comes a lot of uncertainty regarding how the course will suit certain players. But what we do know is the track is a links course. It features plenty of bunkers on the fairways as well as typical small, deep links-style bunkers around the greens. It will test the players’ sand game to the max. Water and wind will be prevalent and it will make accuracy both off the tee and from the fairway pivotal. The course measures 7,390 yards and will still require length off the tee. All of this makes GIR a key area to be looking at.
And if you know us, we love a course where the iron gurus thrive. When you think links and irons, you can already write down a few names…
Scandinavians Stenson, Blixt and Bjorn will lead the charge for the locals this week.
Stephen Gallacher (35/1 BetFred)
The past couple of months have made us realise that Gallacher could have big tournament wins in his locker. 2014 saw him retain his Omega Dubai Desert Classic title but it is since then he has impressed us even more. He managed a T6 at the Cadillac Championship and with it a cheque for nearly €200,000 whilst he followed that up with a T34 at the Masters. His August appearance was marred by an 81 on the Saturday. These results gave him the chance to have a pop over in America on the PGA circuit but found life tough and missed two cuts.
But last week saw Gallacher record a T5 at Wentworth on his return to the European Tour as well as coming 1st in the GIR statistics, perfect coming to this Swedish track. Ryder Cup great Tony Jacklin last week came out and said Gallacher lacks the bottle to keep at the highest level. But with the way Gallacher is currently striking his irons, we strongly disagree. And we can’t forget that Gallacher is a quality links player too.
Peter Hanson (40/1 Ladbrokes)
In his home country on a course which he opened in 2010, we feel this is a great bet. His form on paper does not look impressive but after his T3 start at the Zurich Classic and being round 1 leader at the Byron Nelson a couple of weeks back, his game is on the verge of being back to where he would want to be.
His record at this event is as you would expect for someone of his talents, winning in ’08 as well as runner up and third place in ’04 and ’12 respectively. After going off the radar through injury over the past couple of years this is the perfect place for him to reassert himself as one of the best in the game. His length off the tee and links experience will also be vital.
Alvaro Quiros (66/1 Stan James)
This is a bit of a hunch from us but last week at Wentworth we saw signs that his game could be setting up perfectly for the Swedish track. We know that he is slowly coming back to the game that saw him win 6 European titles, a couple of those wins being on links style tracks. Besides his well-documented length off the tee, the Spaniard’s irons are also a joy to watch on their day. His short game and accuracy off the tee is sometimes questionable but he ranked 31st in accuracy last week at Wentworth which combined with 2nd for distance makes a deadly combination.
He has recorded a couple of top 10s this year but has yet to make his mark properly on the tour once again. Sweden could definitely suit his game and if he finds fairways consistently has the ability to walk away with it.
Mikko Ilonen (70/1 Stan James)
We see the man from Finland as great value considering he won this title last year, albeit on a different course. His irons are genuinely up there with the best on his day and we have seen signs throughout this season that he has another win in his locker. Despite never contending at Wentworth, his 2nd in putts per round made us think a bit. If he can bring that to Sweden in more familiar surroundings, he could content once again at the very least.
His T8 at the Volvo China Open is the only recent performance to speak of but his record in this event is unquestionable, winning twice and also coming third here in 2012. He will thrive off the coastal conditions and his irons we can assure you will be a joy to watch.
Rikard Karlberg (80/1 Various)
It’s always nice to finish off the picks with a man from the home nation. Karlberg is a promising talent from Sweden and at only 27 years of age already has two Asian Tour wins to his name.
His form of late has been very respectable finishing T11 at Laguna National and T5 at the Malaysian Open. Last year saw him make the cut at this event for the very first time, coming 4th shooting all four rounds in the 60s. He is yet to properly prove himself at this level but what better place to do it than his native Sweden.