The European Tour takes another brave step into the unknown this week when it teams up with the Ladies European Tour for the Scandinavian Mixed, a tournament where the men and the women compete for the one title with legendary figures Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam hosting it.
78 men and 78 women will line up on what could be a historic week not just for the European Tour but also for the game of golf as a whole. We are back to a Thursday start out in Sweden after the Saturday start last week.
We are at the Vallda Golf and Country Club in Sweden this week. This course hasn’t been used for an event at this level before so there is a fair bit of the unknown about it. That might help the cause for the ladies, particularly with a number of the men coming from Germany where they weren’t finished until Monday afternoon. The course for the men is a par 72 which measures 7,060 yards and for the women it is 6,138 yards.
When you read up on this course it is described as a heath course but the website itself calls the course ‘a piece of Scotland’ so we are probably looking at a links sort of course, one like Hillside which hosted the British Masters a few years ago or Royal Birkdale where Jordan Spieth won The Open. It is said that conditions will be firm so I’m looking for players comfortable on a links course who are decent enough in the wind this week. I’m also looking for those who can go low as I suspect the course might be set up slightly easier than a regular European Tour event.
Unfortunately this tournament comes the week after the last ladies major and the week before the next men’s major so the field isn’t what a tournament like this probably deserves it is fair to say. There are still some decent names attracted to the event given that the hosts are iconic figures in the game. Among the female stars who are here are Emily Kristine Pedersen who led the LER Order of Merit last year and Pia Babnik, the current leader of those standings.
The better men in the field include Sam Horsfield, who won on a similar track to this last season, Joost Luiten, Ryan Fox and the Scandinavian pair of Kalle Samooja and Alexander Bjork. Jamie Donaldson is another leading name in the field this week while the likes of Matthew Southgate and Maverick Antcliff will be looking for their first European Tour wins this week with Aaron Rai and JB Hansen among those looking to add to their collection.
The market leaders for this tournament are all men with Sam Horsfield the 14/1 favourite to land his first title of 2021 to add to the two that he won last year. He didn’t win on an out and out links course last year which would be one concern of mine and another would be that he has been trotting to America and back for events for the last six weeks or so. He isn’t in the US Open next week so at least that means he might be committed to this one but that is only a minor positive.
Jason Scrivener and Joost Luiten are 18/1 to win the tournament. If I was backing either of these it would be the former. I think he is better suited to a links like course whereas Luiten tends to perform better on the tougher circuits where there isn’t as much of an emphasis on holing putts, something which is a clear weakness of his game. As it is though both are just a little too short to me even allowing for Scrivener’s suitably to conditions.
Ryan Fox finished well in Germany last week and he arrives here as a 20/1 shot to win the title. He also has form on links courses from his Irish Open exploits back in the day and as I highlighted last week he is working his way back to maximum intensity after a lengthy period off after the tournament in Saudi Arabia. He might well come here with a leading chance but he doesn’t win over often so the price puts me off a little bit.
The leading woman in the market is Atthaya Thitikul. She has played twice on the LET this season and she has finished second and sixth, the latest of those results coming last week in France so she comes here in good form. In both of those tournaments she was among the longest in the field off the tee and hit a lot of greens as a result of that. Those are the credentials which will be key this week so she may well prove to be a fair price at 28/1.
This is a home game for Alexander Bjork and with two Swedish legends hosting the tournament I doubt he’ll need too much added motivation to go well. I was on Bjork last week and for 36 holes he was there or thereabouts but faded down the back nine on Monday but I’m going to chance him again because he has form on heath type track. He was second in the British Masters at Walton Heath and sixth in the Made in Himmerland two weeks ago when he was a lot closer than that for much of the final day. He isn’t quite finishing tournaments off yet but the more times he’s in the mix things will fall into place at some point and even at 20/1 I like his chances this week.
Matthew Southgate probably should have won the Porsche European Open last week and the fact he didn’t is something of a concern but I still think he can be a feature here. He is known for liking links like conditions and if you take last week of out of the equation, many of his best results have come on this sort of layout. It isn’t ideal that he is still looking for a first win but the thing to take out of last week was how well he putted. We know he is hitting the ball well. That is largely what he does. He’s had enough downs to get over last week and on a track that should suit, in a weak looking field, there is enough juice in his price to lure me in.
There really isn’t a lot in this field that I like so I’m going to play a man I’ve followed all season and one of the form women as my outsiders this week. The former is Jacques Kruyswijk, a player who caught the eye in the events in Kenya and Austria and who has continued his good form in South Africa since then. In all he has seven top 20 finishes in his eight starts this year and I’ve a real feeling that form could mean a lot this week with the course an unknown for most. The other advantage the South African has is he wasn’t pottering around in Germany on Monday afternoon and that might also be significant. There is a European Tour win in Kruyswijk of that I’m sure and this feels like the sort of event it might come in.
I’m not one for backing the winner of the previous week but at 17 years old, Pia Babnik clearly has a huge future in the game and her win in the tournament in France last week at the same resort where one of the majors is held says plenty about her quality. This is only her second year on tour and the first year was Covid disrupted so to win so soon clearly says something. She won on a longer track than this as well and for someone who was second in the field in driving distance that is another thing to note. It should be said that a lot of the leading lights on the LET were at the US Open last week but winning is winning and the youngster will have taken a lot of confidence from that. That win wasn’t a fluke as she was leading the field in South Africa a few weeks ago after 54 holes but a bad final round saw her finish fifth. She is clearly talented so I’ll pay to see if she can mix it in this company.
Back A.Bjork to win Scandinavian Mixed (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 21.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-7)
Back him here:
Back M.Southgate to win Scandinavian Mixed (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Coral (1/5 1-6)
Back J.Kruyswijk to win Scandinavian Mixed (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 61.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back P.Babnik to win Scandinavian Mixed (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back them here: