Nordea Masters Preview, Picks & Analysis
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
HENRIK STENSON returns to competitive action in his native Sweden for the first time since winning The Open at Royal Troon in July last year, when he plays in the Nordea Masters at Barseback Golf and Country Club. And he can be certain of a heroes' welcome. The Swedes love their sporting superstars, and Stenson is most certainly one of those.
He is the only man from the country to won won a major, and did so in astonishing fashion in Scotland, beating Phil Mickelson with a display of golf on the final day that bordered on the miraculous. The Nordea Masters always attracts big crowds and more than 100,000 people are expected to attend the tournament to pay tribute not only to Stenson but also to his fellow Swede, Alex Noren, who won four times on the European Tour in 2016.
The geographical location of the event this year also means Stenson can stay at his Swedish summerhouse, which is located just around the corner from Barseback GCC. Stenson said: “To me, playing in the Nordea Masters is always special and an opportunity to give something back to my Swedish fans.
"This year it is even better, as I can sleep in my own bed and drive my own car for the week, small things that means a lot. To have my extended family coming to watch is also adding to my experience."
Barseback is his home club and he was made an honorary member 10 years ago. Stenson has played solidly enough in recent months while battling a foot injury and he would love nothing more than to win on home soil on a course he knows well.
The course last staged the tournament in 2009 when Ricardo Gonzalez triumphed. The most recent player to lift the trophy was Matthew Fitzpatrick whose victory at Bro Hof 2016 came in his only second appearance in the event. Noren won in 2011 and again in 2015, the champion in 2012 was Lee Westwood, in 2013 it was won by Finland's Mikko Ilonen, and in 2014 the champion was Thongchai Jaidee.
The locals would love nothing more than to see Stenson and Noren going head to head for the title, and Noren will surely fancy his chances of adding title number three to his resume. Now firmly established in the world's top ten, Noren is currently playing the game with a new-found confidence. He arrives at tournaments and expects to play well. He is a brilliant ball striker who drives the ball well. If he has a weakness it is on the greens, but if he putts well at Barseback then he will be an extremely difficult man to beat.
Fitzpatrick arrives in Sweden this year looking for a good performance after playing poorly at both The Masters and The Players Championship. One of the things that marked him out when he first burst on the scene was his temperament. He took everything in his stride, and it was no real surprise when he won the British Masters in his debut season on the European Tour, beating a top-class field in the process. But in recent times he has allowed his emotions to get the better of him. He remains a fabulous prospect but you get the sense that he needs to once again tap in to the feelings that allowed him to make such an impact early in his career.
Fitzpatrick has long accepted that he is never going to be able to keep up with the world's big hitters, but he possesses the touch of an angel around the greens, and that is what marks him out as being such a special talent. He is still learning his way around the professional game, and it would surprise nobody if he were to make a successful defence of his title, just in time for the start of a run of huge tournaments.
Westwood is in desperate need of a few top-10 finishes to arrest his slide down the world rankings. Yes, he had another top-20 finish at Augusta but he has taken a lot of time off in recent weeks and needs to sharpen up his game, and quickly, if he is to get back into the all-important top 50 in the world rankings.
After winning in Sicily at the Rocco Forte Open, it will be fascinating to discover whether Alvaro Quiros has really rediscovered the form that saw him reach the top 25 in the rankings back in 2012. After building a seven-shot lead in the final round, he very nearly threw it all away, and was fortunate to win in the end. He is a hugely entertaining player but has surely been around long enough to realise that there are times when you just have to stop attacking the course. Had he played conservatively coming down the stretch in Sicily, he would have won by four or five shots at least.
Your correspondent is a big fan of the Spaniard and would love nothing more than to see him back where he belongs, contending on a regular basis. Golf needs characters, and Quiros is a character.
Alex Noren. Adores playing in Sweden
Henrik Stenson. Class act
Alex Levy. Proven winner
Alex Noren. Looking for third win
Henrik Stenson. Will be inspired by home crowd
Alex Levy. Getting better all the time
Lee Westwood. Always produces when he needs to - and he needs to
Matthew Fitzpatrick. Will surely make a stout defence
Thorbjorn Olesen. Another Swede who could thrill home fans
Alvaro Quiros. Hit it, find it, hit it again. We just love it
Nicolas Colsaerts. Will surely draw comfort from what Quiros achieved in Sicily
Zander Lombard. Quality South African player
Jordan Smith. Gone off the boil slightly, due a good tournament
Tags: european tour
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