Nordea Masters: Francesco Molinari Each Way
Henrik Stenson, is the undoubted star attraction at this weeks Nordea Masters, which moves to a new venue this year, the PGA Sweden National at Malmo. The 7,390yd Par 72 Lakes Course, was designed by the much sought after golf architect Kyle Phillips, and only opened in 2009 . The Lakes Course is a parkland track with wide fairways, small greens, and water hazards feature on four holes, including the final two holes which could have a deciding factor come Sunday. This is an exposed track, so wind can certainly feature at this venue, and accurate iron play will be the main requisite for the field, with small heavily bunkered greens to contend with. Sunshine and showers, with winds of 10-15mph are forecast for the four days. Expect the normal huge crowds, which give these events in Sweden such a great atmosphere.
It is a tough week for punting purposes, with no previous course form to work from, but the obvious starting point has to be market leader and current world No 2 Henrik Stenson, who produced a solid, if slightly frustrating Tied 7th place finish at Wentworth last week. His tee to green stats were excellent again last week, but his putter again let him down, which in truth has been the story of his season. At a best price of around 7s, on a new track, with an ice cold putter, I am prepared to look elsewhere for a bit of value this week.
My main fancy this week is the ultra consistent Francesco Molinari, who just finished outside the place money for us at Wentworth, with a strong finishing Tied 7th place finish. The London based Italian has been in cracking form on both Tours recently, with a Tied 5th in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Tied 6th in the Players Championship at Sawgrass, and a 4th place finish in the Volvo China Open. This type of test should certainly suit this superb iron player, and hopefully his current link up with putting guru Dave Stockton, will start to improve his putting, which continues to be his nemesis. He is desperate to make the Ryder Cup team for Gleneagles this year, so expect a bold display this week.
I also fancy another Ryder Cup possible, the exciting birdie machine Jonas Blixt, who finished runner up to Mikko Ilonen in this event last year. The colourful Swede, who has won twice on the PGA Tour is certainly a man for the big occasion, having finished Tied 2nd at Augusta this year, and showed a welcome return to form with a Tied 16th place finish at Wentworth last week. He will love the atmosphere of this event, and I expect him to be right in the mix come the sharp end of the event.
At a bigger price I am going to include in form Aussie veteran Richard Green in my staking plan. He lost in a play off to Miguel Angel Jiminez in the Open de Espana a couple of weeks ago, and backed it up with a really solid Tied 16th place finish at Wentworth. His long game seems in good shape at the moment, and this demon putter seems cracking each way value, on a course that should really suit this accurate ball striker.
Other notables are Thomas Bjorn, who has to recover from his Wentworth meltdown, and Peter Hanson, who should at least know the venue, having been involved in the course design.