The Scandinavian Invitation is a new name on the European Tour but, hey, gamers get thrown this sort of curveball on a regular basis.
The full-field event was previously the Nordea Masters and has been held annually in Sweden since Colin Montgomerie won at Drottningholms in Stockholm in 1991.
For the second straight year, the tournament is hosted at Hills Golf & Sports Club in Gothenburg and, pleasingly for the organisers, the two big Swedish names – Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren – both return home to contest the event.
It’s a modest purse again so this won’t have much impact on the year-long official European Tour fantasy game but there’s the weekly puzzle to solve.
And while the PGA TOUR season reaches its climax at East Lake this week, we still have 14 events to play on the European Tour, starting with this one.
Last year, England’s Paul Waring captured his first European Tour win while the top five featured five different nationalities.
We got a first look at Hills Golf & Sports Club last year, a short par 6,865-yard 70 designed by Arthur Hills and Steve Forrest before European Tour player Johan Edfors was involved in a revamp in 2008. Seven greens were reshaped ahead of the 2018 event. Set in the stunning Sandsjöbacka nature reserve, there are lots of trees, lakes and rugged, rolling terrain. After a standard outward half of 36, the home nine has three par 3s and just a single par 5 (530-yard 18th).
Top Five and Stats from 2018
Paul Waring -14 (DD: 10, DA: 56, GIR: 4, Scr: 51, PA: 4, AA: 12)
Thomas Aiken -14 (DD: 66, DA: 5, GIR: 12, Scr: 5, PA: 23, AA: 6)
Maximilian Kieffer -13 (DD: 61, DA: 4, GIR: 1, Scr: 34, PA: 23, AA: 10)
Thorbjorn Olesen -12 (DD: 28, DA: 48, GIR: 29, Scr: 47, PA: 4, AA: 28)
Lucas Herbert -11 (DD: 38, DA: 66, GIR: 29, Scr: 19, PA: 32, AA: 47)
Notes: Waring made 443 feet of putts and gained 12.6 strokes with the putter (ranked 1st). Two straight hitters occupied second and third and that backs up the quotes below.
There wasn’t much said last year but at least there was some common ground.
Christofer Blomstrand: “If you hit the fairways then I would say that you will have a lot of chances.”
Martin Kaymer: “Once you hit the fairways here you have so many chances.”
We have rain in the build-up and a chance of showers too on day one. Temperatures get hotter each day and should be a pleasant 76 degrees for Sunday's closer. It can get windy but it looks modest on that front (8-10mph) across the whole week.
The Leading Contenders
Home advantage doesn’t extend to extra course knowledge. This is a relatively new track and the best Stenson had in his press release was that he’d played a bit of junior golf in Gothenburg (and not here). He missed the event last year but did play the previous four, posting 5-13-4-26 from 2014-2017. It’s one he’ll be desperate to win for the first time and if accuracy off the tee is required it looks a great fit. Had a nice run of top tens through the summer and it will be a big surprise if he’s not in contention. This could also be a key quote: “After a busy spring and summer, the choice was the FedEx Cup or the Scandinavian Invitation, and my decision now allows me to be in Sweden to practise and recharge my batteries looking ahead to the final part of this season.”
He didn’t play this event last year so will be seeing the course for the first time but in his two previous trips to the country, Fitzpatrick won this title at Bro Hof Slott in 2016 and finished runner-up when defending at Barseback in 2017. The Englishman will seek more Swedish success on the back of a top four in the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and T20 at Royal Portrush. Ranked 12th in Driving Accuracy, he’s likely to be a very popular pick.
“I have so many wonderful memories from this event, obviously winning in 2011 and 2015 was very special for me and my family, so I would love to add another national Open to my name this year.” Noren’s triumphs came at Bro Hof Slott (2011) and PGA Sweden National (2015) while he’s cracked the top 15 in each of his last six attempts although didn’t play this course last year. It’s been a fairly flat season for Noren but he showed some recent spark when T11 at Royal Portrush followed by T12 at St. Jude so the timing of his return home could be ideal.
One of Europe’s form horses this summer. He took victory in the BMW International Open in Germany, added a top four in the Scottish Open and made a strong defense of his Czech Masters title last week when closing with a 65 to take third spot. Also T25 on a first regular PGA TOUR start at the Barracuda, Pavan fired a Sunday 64 at this course last year to finish tied sixth. Lots to like.
That first win still eludes him but the South African has been extremely gamer-friendly this summer. Confidence lifted by a top ten in the PGA Championship, he’s delivered four top 20s in his last five starts. That run includes T20 at Royal Portrush and T5 in last week’s Czech Masters. Van Rooyen has played in Sweden just once previously, finishing tied 25th at the second tier’s Swedish Challenge in 2017.
After his compatriot and World Cup-winning teammate Thomas Pieters won the Czech Masters last week, perhaps it’s time for Detry to land his first trophy. Unlike some of those at the front of the betting, the Belgian has notable course experience after T13 here last year. With five top 25s in his last nine starts, Detry brings consistency too so the only worry is rust as this is his first start since mid-July’s Scottish Open.
A dubious relationship with links golf didn’t help Luiten over the summer although he did post T32 at Royal Portrush after missing the cut in the Irish and Scottish Opens. T20 at Valderrama on his last start in mainland Europe, this course could be a good one for him. It’s his first start there after MCs in the last two editions although he did play well at Bro Hof Slott the time before that when T11.
The Frenchman shot three 67s here at Hills Golf & Sports Club last year but a Saturday 75 hurt him and meant a finish of T24 when it promised much better. The year before he took T8 at Barseback while there was another top 25 at PGA Sweden National in 2015. Hebert has twice finished runner-up in recent months, the first at May’s China Open and the most recent in July’s Scottish Open where he closed with 62.
Another who skipped the first edition at Hills Golf & Sports Club but prior to that the happy-go-lucky Englishman was T8 at Barseback in 2017 and T14 on debut at Bro Hof Slott in 2012. A runner-up at the Irish Open last month, Sullivan’s stats show him in the 25 in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and with some strong Putting Average numbers (1st BMW International Open for example) over the summer.
Handle with caution. Lewis (reasons unspecified) pulled out of last week’s Czech Masters when hitting double digits over par. He’s a starter this week and, having posted T11 at Royal Portrush, a fit and healthy Lewis would be an obvious contender. T29 here last year and also third in a Challenge Tour event in Sweden in 2018 but it may be best to await further news before pulling the trigger.
Course form/Neat fit
Won here last year on his 200th start on the European Tour and the memories will be particularly special as it was his first victory at this level. As noted above, clearly his putter was red hot so it’s a big ask to repeat his heroics on the greens. Not in great form of late although did make the top 30 in Prague on Sunday.
The most extreme example of course/location form v current form. The bad news first: Kieffer has missed five of his last six cuts on the European Tour, the sequence broken by T37 in June’s BMW International Open. The good: he was third here last year and also third in this event in 2015 and T11 in 2014. Sits 21st in Driving Accuracy.
Really took to Hills Golf & Sports Club last year when getting better as the week went on (72-67-67-65) to take tied sixth. Add in T11 in last week’s Czech Masters and T9 in a home Sunshine Tour event back in South Africa a fortnight earlier and he has current form too.
Always one to look out for in the low-key summer events, Slattery opened with 64 and finished T10 here 12 months ago. That adds to his T7 in this event at PGA Sweden National in 2015. Last three events on the European Tour: 39-9-27.
Shot all four rounds in the 60s to crack the top five here last year. That’s the simple bit. More tricky is to work out his current form. He’s making cuts (seven of his last eight) but has just two top 35s in that run and it came back in May.
The highly-touted Spaniard had missed six cuts in eight starts but now has two second places and a T15 in his last four events after finishing runner-up in the Czech Masters on Sunday.
Take out the links events in Ireland and Scotland and he has form of 21-3 on mainland Europe. Big talent and his whole game looked sharper (2nd All-Around) when third in Prague last week.
It may be the very start of trending in the right direction again but last week’s T23 in the Czech Masters was his best finish since early May. MC last year but the Swede will have plenty of local support.
Another Swede who is clicking at just the right time. Karlberg flashed some form on the Challenge Tour with fourth and sixth and then brought it to the main tour with T5 at the Czech Masters. Missed the cut here last year but T7 at his home event in 2016.
The Chilean rookie has improved (53-39-18-5) in his last four starts, his top five in the Czech Republic last week based on strong putting. Tournament debut.
Seems we have a theme this week: Swedish players returning to form ahead of their return home. Karlsson belongs in that category after T10 in Prague represented a first top ten since October 2017. T17 here last year.
T10 at Hills Golf & Sports Club 12 months ago and ended run of four missed cuts with T30 on Sunday.
Keeps missing cuts (although not by a distance) but T17 last year and won this tournament at Barseback in 2006.
Top four in Scottish Open and T17 on course debut could combine well. Seems to enjoy rugged terrain.
If you want a straight hitter, Chesters (5th DA this season) is very near the front of the queue. Made the top 30 here in 2018 while T18 in the Czech Masters was his best finish since March.
T25 in this event in 2016 and, after missed cut after missed cut after missed cut, he’s posted T20 and T14 in his last two starts (Scottish Open and Czech Masters).
Enjoying the greater variety of tests on the European Tour after failing to crack America and this one should appeal, especially if it gets a little windy. Two top 25s in last three ET starts.
Quietly putting good run together. Straight hitting served him well when T15 at Valderrama and backed it up with T14 at Czech Masters. Course debut could be a strong one.
1. Henrik Stenson
2. Matthew Fitzpatrick
3. Alex Noren
4. Andrea Pavan
5. Erik van Rooyen
6. Thomas Detry
7. Benjamin Hebert
8. Andy Sullivan
9. Joost Luiten
10. Robert MacIntyre
11. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
12. Edoardo Molinari
13. Victor Dubuisson
14. Julian Suri
15. Aaron Rai
16. Haydn Porteous
17. Jordan Smith
18. Romain Langasque
19. Adri Arnaus
20. Marcus Kinhult