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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Hungry Stenson can outclass his rivals to start Barseback party

It's time to back Henrik Stenson
1 of 1

Live on Sky Sports from 10am Thursday
Event starts at 6am

Palmer's top tip
Henrik Stenson 5-1
Alexander Noren made headlines the world over on Sunday, the super Swede conjuring a magical final-round 62 for a remarkable BMW PGA Championship victory, and the Wentworth hero is looking to follow up this week with glory in his home country.

Noren is likely to be a popular choice with punters and obviously has every chance on the form he showed in Surrey, but there are reasons for leaving the general 7-1 alone.

There was a touch of fortune about his PGA success – the heavens opened soon after he set his clubhouse mark and the chasing pack suffered in the rain.

Noren is clearly in great nick – he made a brilliant Sawgrass debut prior to Wentworth – but it may pay not to get too carried away by a Sunday birdie-fest which he described as the “best putting round of my career”.

The putter is the most fickle club in a golf bag and Barseback is not the ideal place for the 34-year-old Stockholm man to continue his gallop. His form figures at Barseback, the premier course in Malmo, are 52-MC. His last round there was an 80.

And Noren's results in his first starts after victories is unimpressive – 23-51-53-MC-46-34-37-23 on the eight times he has teed off in the wake of a win. Preference at a slightly shorter price is for Henrik Stenson, who finished third in the PGA and appears to be warming up his engine nicely for the summer ahead.

Stenson made a ragged start to his 2017 Stateside campaign, the Open champion perhaps struggling for motivation and focus after the best season of his career, but 16th place at Sawgrass was tidy enough and Wentworth was even more encouraging. Expect the Iceman to have his game-face on for Barseback.

Stenson is hungry for a first Nordea Masters title – it is an anomaly that the best player Sweden has produced does not have his name on this trophy – and Barseback is the perfect venue to set the record straight. He moved to Skane when he was 15 and Barseback is his home club. His summer house is just around the corner from the course.

The Nordea's return to Barseback thrilled Stenson, who said: “This year is even better, as I can sleep in my own bed and drive my own car for the week, small things that mean a lot. To have my extended family coming to watch is also adding to my experience.”

The 7,729-yard course sets up superbly for long, straight hitting, which is Stenson's forte, and he finished runner-up there to Luke Donald in 2004. Bumper crowds always turn out at Barseback and the world number five can give them what they want this time.

There is a lack of strength in depth in this Nordea field and many of the runners are arriving short of energy after competing in the 36-hole US Open qualifier at Walton Heath on Monday. The favourite, fifth, 13th and fourth in the last three Nordeas, looks an each-way steal.

Next best
Bernd Ritthammer 225-1
Playing 36 competitive holes in England on a Monday before a tournament which starts in Sweden on a Thursday is a significant handicap.

Jordan Smith, Dylan Frittelli and Thomas Detry all look likely to shed their European Tour maiden tags soon enough, but all three were at Walton Heath for the US Open qualifier.

A chunk on Stenson and two much smaller each-way investments on a pair of lively outsiders who were not at Walton Heath on Monday seems the best plan of attack. Bernd Ritthammer is showing positive signs of settling on the European Tour and the 30-year-old German can make an impact at Barseback.

Ritthammer won three times on the Challenge Tour last season and one of those triumphs came in Denmark. His last appearance in the Nordea Masters resulted in seventh place in 2015, so he seems to like Scandinavia.

Some bright efforts in the last three months – 22nd in the Tshwane Open, 14th in the Shenzhen International and 40th in the high-class PGA on Sunday – suggest big Bernd is getting to grips with his upgrade from the Challenge Tour. BoyleSports are a fifth the first six.

Other selection
Stephen Gallacher 100-1
Few players in the field have as much Barseback experience as Stephen Gallacher, who made his debut there in 1999, and a stiff ball-striking test by the seaside is right up his alley.

Gallacher possesses the long-game solidity to handle this layout and eight of his last 12 tournaments have yielded a top-30 finish.

The 2004 Dunhill Links champion, two-time Desert Classic victor, and 2014 Ryder Cup winner retains plenty of ability at the age of 42 and should be relishing this assignment after a five-under-par weekend at Wentworth claimed 21st spot.

Gallacher was a playoff loser in the 2014 Nordea Masters. Coral go a fifth the first seven.

Others to note
Florian Fritsch
The capable German, 30th at Wentworth, almost joined Ritthammer in the staking plan at 150-1, but Fritsch's fear of flying meant a difficult land journey from Surrey to Sweden.

Sebastian Soderberg
The 26-year-old Swede fired a 61 in the opening round of the Rocco Forte Open the week before last, eventually finishing in 18th place. Tied for third in the 2015 Nordea.

Chris Wood
The Ryder Cup star failed to get in contention when defending his PGA title last week, but is probably one of the biggest threats to Stenson.

Matthew Fitzpatrick
The defending champion will be disappointed with the venue switch, but he closed with a 66 at Wentworth on Sunday and must be respected.

Marc Warren
The Scot is one of only three course winners in the field and is worth considering at 100-1. His last victory came in Denmark.

Lee Westwood
The Englishman was Barseback champion in 1996 and is a three-time Nordea victor. Decent efforts at Augusta and Wentworth rise hopes of a fourth success.

Staking plan
H Stenson
4pts each-way 5-1 general
B Ritthammer
0.5pt each-way 225-1 BoyleSports
S Gallacher
0.5pt each-way 100-1 Coral

Nordea Masters
Masters Course, Barseback Golf and Country Club, Malmo, Skane, Sweden
Prize money €1.5m (€250,000 to the winner)
Length 7,729 yards Par 73 Field 156

Course records – 72 holes 268 Colin Montgomerie (1999) 18 holes 67 Lee Slattery (2009)

Course winners taking part Lee Westwood, Marc Warren, Ricardo Gonzalez

When to bet By 6am Thursday

Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 10am Thursday

Time difference Sweden is one hour ahead of the UK and Ireland

Last week – BMW PGA Championship 1 A Noren (20-1), 2 F Molinari (18-1), T3 N Colsaerts (200-1), H Stenson (14-1), H Tanihara (110-1).

Course overview Barseback's Masters Course was designed by Ture Bruce and opened in 1969. It has hosted this event ten times (1992, 95, 96, 97, 99, 2001, 03, 04, 06 and 09).

Most of the holes are in a parkland setting, with tree-lined fairways and a few lakes, but some holes run alongside the sea. There are several doglegs.

The par-fives – the fifth, ninth, 12th and 16th – are the best birdie opportunities. There are only three par-threes. Huge galleries can fit into Barseback, so home players should enjoy considerable support.

Story of last year Matthew Fitzpatrick cruised to a three-shot victory at Bro Hof Slott, near Stockholm, successfully defending a five-shot advantage in round four.

Weather forecast Cloudy with light winds. for the most part, but plenty of showers over the weekend.

Type of player suited to challenge This is a varied and well balanced track, with some tight holes and some open ones.

Accuracy seemed to be the key to winning at Barseback in the distant past, with Nick Faldo, Lee Westwood, Colin Montgomerie and Adam Scott among the champions, but the last three winners were Luke Donald, Marc Warren and Ricardo Gonzalez – two great putters and a wild slugger.

This has become a seriously long layout, so power is probably the most important quality to possess, but the trees and numerous doglegs make accuracy essential too.

Key attribute Power

It is an anomaly that the best player Sweden has ever produced does not have his name on this trophy
E.W. Terms
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