The European Tour summer schedule moves from Royal County Down and the Irish Open to PGA Sweden National for the Nordea Masters. Both tournaments take place over links courses but it would be something for the challenge this week to be as tough as last. The three players who made it to the playoff at last year’s Nordea Masters ended up with scores of 16-under-par, compare that to just a handful of players who ended up in the red last week.
The relative strength of the field assembled in Sweden also contrasts with last week. There’s no world number one Rory McIlroy but there is the world number four, Henrik Stenson, who’s playing in his first event in Europe this season. Stenson is joined by fellow Swede Alex Noren at the top of the betting.
Both players have good chances of delighting the home fans with a victory. Stenson is a powerful player who has victories all over the world, as well as topping the money lists on both the European and PGA Tours in 2013. He has decent form on links courses and hits the ball high allowing to land it softly on small greens, though he’ll have to control the flight more should the wind blow.
Noren doesn’t have the pedigree of Stenson but he has been impressive since returning to competitive golf following wrist surgery. He’s yet to miss a cut and has three top 10 finishes this season. The 32-year-old has also won this tournament before and is feeling positive on his return to Malmo. Stenson (9/2 with BetVictor) and Noren (20/1 with Bet365) should both be included in your betting this week.
There is something to be said for the strengths of players who possess good distance off the tee this week but PGA Sweden International is not a course which excludes the chances of more position-based players as shown by Thongchai Jaidee’s victory last year. That means that Miguel Angel Jimenez could well have a strong week. The 51-year-old has shown time and time again that he is by no means beyond competing with the young bucks of the European Tour. He’s playing plenty of tournaments and looks capable of adding to his 21 European Tour wins at some stage this season. 33/1 with Ladbrokes is a good price given he’s hit almost 70% of greens in regulation and 65% of fairways this season – elements that bode well for a links test.
Finally, there’s a 100/1 shot with Bet365 who could come up trumps with a return to form. Rikard Karlberg shot two under par last Sunday in horrific conditions around an incredibly difficult course. He’s not had a great season so far but that encouraging performance around a links track means his price stands out. At last year’s Nordea Masters he finished in the top 20 so he has form at PGA Sweden National and is another Swede who will receive wild support from the galleries. Karlberg hits the majority of greens but he will likely need to improve on a season driving accuracy of 56% to make sure he can put himself in good positions on the greens and on the leaderboard. At 100/1 he’s great value though and could go close.