After the drama and excitement of last week’s Open Championship, the European Tour heads to Sweden for the Nordea Scandinavian Masters, played over the Robert Trent Jones-designed Bro Hof Slott golf course.
The course is a par-72 at nearly 7,700yards in length and its design is reminiscent of traditional American courses with plenty of water hazards – the 17th hole being a near-carbon copy of its equivalent number at TPC Sawgrass.
The course is relatively exposed to the elements so is likely to play to its full length. Swede Richard S. Johnson is the defending champion, and the field has a strong look with several players who contested the Open Championship reappearing here, including runner-up Dustin Johnson although Open champion Darren Clarke doesn’t feature this week.
The first name on the shortlist this week is Wales’ Jamie Donaldson, who comes into this event in decent form following a top-30 in France and a top-10 in Scotland two weeks ago at Castle Stuart Golf Links.
Donaldson didn’t qualify for Royal St. Georges so will arrive at Bro Hof Slott fresh and the big-hitting Welshman finished in a tie for 8th last year after scuppering his chances with a third round 74. Indeed, Donaldson’s record in the event is solid with just one missed cut in seven outings, yielding three top-20s and three top-10s.
Although he’s yet to win on the European Tour, he looks to be one of the leading contenders this week at 22/1.
This course should really play to the major strength – distance – of Open Championship runner-up Dustin Johnson, but the big-hitting American disappointed in this event last year, and blew another chance at major success when in contention with a poor choice of shot, hitting a 2-iron out-of-bounds on the 14th at Royal St. Georges to effectively hand the Claret Jug to Clarke.
Prior to the Open, however, he had been in decent form on both sides of the Atlantic but there must be a concern about Johnson’s state of mind so soon after that error. If he can shrug off that latest disappointment, I’d expect him to figure prominently but I feel on the balance of another opportunity missed allied with his poor showing in this event last year, his 8/1 odds is just far too short.
A rising European Tour star, Dane Thorbjorn Olesen looks ready to win soon and he could be value for his 28/1 odds.
Olesen almost denied Robert Rock his first European Tour victory a few weeks ago in Turin with a closing 62 to get within one shot, and then in France he missed a 3-footer that would have forced a playoff with eventual winner Thomas Levet. Those results suggest that Olesen’s turn in the winners’ circle might not be too far away.
The Dane disappointed somewhat when up against the likes of Luke Donald and Lee Westwood in the Scottish Open and Open Championship, but the player is not one to lack for confidence, and its worth noting that he won in Sweden last year on the Challenge Tour.
At 18/1 odds, Bubba Watson also sticks around for another week on the European Tour and he will have no problem bombing his way around this layout. However, he struggled to adapt to the European Tour on his last visit to Europe outside the Open Championship when missing the cut at Le Golf National in the French Open – citing homesickness as his reason for his poor showing. And it seems Bubba isn’t fond of golf away from the PGA Tour – he didn’t play as well as he can in the Ryder Cup last year, while he largely struggled with the conditions last week.
Add in the fact that Bubba had seemed to suffer a dip in form on the PGA Tour prior to coming to Europe, it all adds up to make him a very risky betting proposition and I think he’s one to avoid this week.
Home player Henrik Stenson is a player who has spent some time in golf’s wilderness, but is slowly beginning to find his form again, as evidenced by three successive cuts made in recent events, including two majors.
After finishing 23rd at Congressional in the US Open, Stenson then headed to Germany where he led for the first two rounds before slipping to 9th place. He then headed to Royal St. Georges where he finished well down the field after a dismal weekend.
However, it’s worth considering that Stenson was just 3-over par at halfway and still in touch in the Open Championship, and he wasn’t the only player to be blown off course by the foul weather over the weekend. At odds of 22/1, a return to Sweden might be the boost he needs to take another step towards recapturing his best form and he’s too good a player to be languishing in the doldrums.
Similar comments can be applied to perennial tipster pick and Stenson’s fellow Swede, Johan Edfors, whose form has tailed off somewhat following a fruitful couple of months in May and June. Edfors certainly has the distance to compete around this course, and his accurate iron play will be an asset around this layout. He’s worthy of strong consideration this week at 33/1.
Selection: Jamie Donaldson
Savers: Johan Edfors, Thorbjorn Olesen