Nordea Masters Preview & Picks
The race to qualify for Team Europe at the Ryder Cup is approaching its conclusion, with crucial points available for players in the Nordea Masters at Hills Golf Club in Gothenburg. With his place in balance, Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen will be hoping for one more solid week to edge up the standings or catch the eye of his compatriot, captain Thomas Bjorn.
Martin Kaymer knows that his chance has probably gone, but if he can win in Sweden, who knows? The two-time major champion has not had much to shout about this season but he has a fine Ryder Cup pedigree, holing the putt that ensured Europe could not be beaten at Medinah in 2012. And if he was anywhere close to his best form, then he is a man Bjorn would want to call upon.
Olesen has been a revelation this season. Apart from winning the Italian Open, during which he held off Open champion Francesco Molinari, he was second in the BMW International, 12th at The Open and third at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. He is in the form of his life and is rapidly climbing the world rankings. The wonder is that it has taken him so long because he has been a very fine player for a long time. The 28-year-old is a five-time winner on the European Tour. He has always been renowned as a magnificent ball striker but he is also a wondrous putter and he copes superbly under pressure - a quality Europe will need at Golf National.
As things stand the automatic eight qualifiers for Europe are Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Alex Noren and Ian Poulter. Olesen is next on the list. When it comes to a wild card pick, the following players all coming into consideration: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Russell Knox, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Alex Levy, Ross Fisher and Eddie Pepperell. It is clear that there are going to be several very unhappy European golfers but how good is it to see such a stirring battle to make up the 12 who will attempt to win back that magnificent little gold trophy?
Aaron Rai may be a Ryder Cup golfer of the future, but for now he is focused simply on living up to his vast potential and ensuring he makes it through to the Dubai World Championship at the end of the season. He finished on top of the pile on the European Challenge Tour in 2017 and three top-10 finishes already this year have propelled him to 61st place in the Race to Dubai. A three-time winner of the Challenge Tour, this 23-year-old has a big future ahead of him and it can surely only be a matter of time before he wins for the first time.
Stephen Gallacher, Marc Warren, Richie Ramsay and Scott Jamieson are four Scottish golfers who should have achieved more than they have done. Gallacher was a member of Paul McGInley’s successful Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles back in 2014, the only Scot to make the side. Having played wonderful golf in the run-up to the event, he struggled during it and has been battling to rediscover his best form ever since. There have been some encouraging signs this season but he just cannot seem to find a level of consistency. And the same applies to Warren, Ramsay and Jamieson - all of whom are just about as good as anybody in Europe on their day. Sadly, those good days are few and far between.
The cult figure that is Andrew Johnston is also in the field for the Nordea Masters. A much-loved character, there is a growing sense that Johnston needs to focus more on his game than on his interaction with the spectators. “Beef”, as he is universally known, possesses plenty of talent but this has been another relatively disappointing year for the big man. He is a breath of fresh air, playing the game with a smile on his face, constantly chattering away to all and sundry. But when all is said and done, it is the victories a player records that determine whether or not he will go down in the record books as a proper player. To date, Johnstone has a solitary win to his credit. He needs to do more - and he needs to do it soon.
This is a decent tournament which has seen some quality winners in recent years. It was won in 2011 and 2015 by Alex Noren, in 2012 by Lee Westwood, in 2013 by Mikko Ilonen, in 2014 by Thongchai Jaidee, in 2016 by Matthew Fitzpatrick and last year by Renato Paratore.
Thorbjorn Olesen. Now looking certain to make his Ryder Cup debut
Andrew Johnston. Needs to start focusing on his golf
Thorbjorn Olesen. Genuinely world-class golfer now
Andrew Johnston. Has the talent
Brett Rumford. One of the most consistent players around
Alex Bjork. Hugely underrated
Nicolas Colsaerts. Big hitter with the heart of a lion
Richie Ramsay. Looking to turn around a disappointing season
Marc Warren. In the same boat as Ramsay
Aaron Rai. One of the best young talents in Europe
Martin Kaymer. Too good to keep struggling like this
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