Scandinavian Mixed Betting Tips: Six selections against the field in Sweden
For the second year in succession, the Porsche European Open at Green Eagle’s North Course provided not just a brutal test throughout the week but opened up for a player to come from well behind in the final round to steal the trophy.
Finland’s Kalle Samooja the man in question, flying up the leaderboard 21 places on Sunday to pick up the trophy, an emotional first DPWT title of his career for the 34-year-old. He did this thanks to a sublime 8-under 64 in the final round, not just the best round of the day but the best of the week by a brilliant three-shots.
Scandinavian Mixed Tips
- John Catlin 33/1 – 1/5 6 places (William Hill – Each Way Extra) – 1.5 pts ew
- Thriston Lawrence 40/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365 – Each Way Extra) – 1.25 pts ew
- Meghan MacLaren 70/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365 – Each Way Extra) – 1 pt ew
- Lee-Anne Pace 70/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365 – Each Way Extra) – 1 pt ew
- Nacho Elvira 125/1 – 1/5 8 places (Boylesports) – 0.75 pts ew
- Alfredo Garcia-Heredia 125/1 -1/5 7 places (Betfair) – 0.75 pts ew
This week we head to Sweden for the second renewal of the Scandinavian Mixed Invitational, an event that pits the players of the DP World Tour against the Ladies European Tour. Where both male and female players compete on the same course (though different tees for men and women), at the same time, and on the same leaderboard for the same prize money.
Though this type of event is still in its infancy on the world golf scene, with last year’s iteration the first such event on the DPWT, they’re becoming more common, with similar events held on the Asian and Australian tours this season, and they have been a great success. A truly innovative, game-growing introduction and hopefully something that we start to see more and more of.
In last year’s event, played at Vallda Golf and Country Club, we saw Northern Irishman, Jonathan Caldwell triumph over Adrian Otaegui by a single shot. With the LET’s Alice Hewson finishing a superb 3rd, the highest finisher of the LET contingent.
We have a new venue hosting this year’s event, as the players get to experience one of the highest rated courses in Sweden, Halmstad Golf Club. This densely tree-lined course dates back to the 1930s and was most famously the host of the 2007 Solheim Cup. Along with this it has hosted many amateur events, the 2011 European Amateur the most prestigious and going back over 20 years, did host some events on the LET and Challenge Tour.
The course will play to a par 72 for both men and women, with a rather standard setup of ten par 4s, four par 5s and four par 3s. Measuring 6909 yards for the men and 6053 yards for the women.
The sheer volume of trees here give it a very claustrophobic feel and even though there are plenty of generous fairways, they’re countered by many doglegging holes, meaning if you don’t find the right part of the fairway, you face a potentially blocked out approach into these greens. This and with the undulations in the fairways possibly resulting in uneven lies, is the main defence of the course off-the-tee, as there are remarkably few fairway bunkers and rough not expected to be too punishing.
The greens look tricky and possess some severe undulations, as well as many two-tiered. They’re protected by run-off areas and bunkers, though not many again, with a brook that runs throughout the course and in-play on a few holes.
Accuracy tee-to-green will be key here, though as a par 72 measuring under 7000 yards for the men and just over 6000 yards for the women, very short by both tour’s standards, birdie chances should be plentiful, and I’d expect low scoring here throughout the week.
What of the Mixed element?
As mentioned, these types of events are very new to professional golf though in the small sample size we’re starting to see some interesting results.
Take the first staging of this event last year. Where Alice Hewson’s superb 3rd place finish doesn’t quite tell the full story of how competitive the LET players were throughout the week. Though it is true that there were more DPWT players at the top of the leaderboard, there was an LET player at least tied for the lead through the first three rounds. As Christine Wolff tied the first-round lead with Sam Horsfield at -8, Caroline Hedwall held the outright lead at -13 after round two and she again, along with Alice Hewson was involved in a four-way tie for the lead after round three, heading into the final round.
Though some of these players had dropped down after the 4th and final round, there were six LET players in the top 25 and I believe the more these events take place and the more the LET players get used to the event, we’ll see more sticking around at the top of the leaderboard.
We’ve had a number of similarly formatted events since this event last year, amongst the PGA of Australia and Asian Tours.
In Australia, the tour held four such events in their TPS series. The second of these events, TPS Murray River the most important of them, as LPGA star Hannah Green became the first female winner of a true mixed gender event, winning by four shots. Not only that but there were more women in the top 5 than men as Grace Kim and Momoka Kobori both tied for 4th.
Though the men generally dominated the other three events, there were still some notable performances, Kobori once again showing her quality, losing out in a playoff to Aaron Pike in TPS Hunter Valley, whilst there were a further top 5 finishes for female players across the three other events.
Onto the Asian Tour, which held a mixed double header in Thailand a couple of months ago with the LET, the Trust Golf Asian Mixed Cup and Trust Golf Asian Mixed Stableford Challenge. The first of these events had many LET players contend throughout the week, though they ultimately faded as the week went on, we still finished with 5 female players in the top 10.
The next week was a different story, as the hugely talented Maja Stark contended throughout the week, eventually finishing two points behind winner Sihwan Kim in 2nd, effectively a birdie away from tying the lead. Not only that but in 3rd was Thailand’s Budsabakorn Sukapan. Meaning two of the top three places were occupied by female players.
Now ultimately still only one of these events has been won by a female player, which means I am inclined to think the best plan of attack is to largely concentrate on the players of the DPWT. Though in Hannah Green’s win and Maja Stark’s superb runner-up finish, amongst many of those other top performances, my thoughts get split. When the top female players turn up to these events, as Hannah Green is and Maja Stark will undoubtedly become, they have to be taken seriously and the more we see this progressive format of golf, the more I believe we’ll see female players contending and winning.
A wet week is in store for the players, as rain is forecast to fall everyday prior to the start of the event and continuing into the Thursday and Saturday. Combined with a merely modest breeze on the forecast currently and you have to believe that, providing they’re not actually playing much golf in the rain but on a softened course, it gives greater potential for low scoring.
Both players who put their names to this event last year, 10-time major winner Annika Sorenstam and 2016 Open Champion and next Ryder Cup captain, Henrik Stenson, both tee it up again. They’re joined by the presence of Alex Noren on the men’s side, though the two players I’m most intrigued to see this week are young Swede’s Maja Stark and Linn Grant.
Both of these players finished 18th in this event last year while still amateurs. Since then they’ve turned pro after their excellent amateur careers, that saw Grant reach 2nd in the WAGR and Stark 4th, collecting 8 pro titles between them, Grant 5 and Stark 3.
Coming back to this event as professionals and producing the kind of results they have, they could well go even better this year. They’re also joined by current #2 amateur, Ingrid Lindblad, who arrives off the back of an excellent 11th place finish in the Women’s US Open last week.
The market is headed by Alex Noren at 10/1. He’s followed by Alexander Bjork and Edoardo Molinari at 22/1, then the two aforementioned Swedes of the LET, Maja Stark and Linn Grant at 25 and 28/1 respectively.
I’m not interested in taking Noren at that price, for all he’s a worthy, clear favourite. Bjork and Molinari are also on the short side for players with just one win between them in four and a half years. Of these market leaders, it was Linn Grant who appealed the most but with all known evidence saying a DPWT player is still the most likely winner, I don’t really want to chance LET players from the top of the betting at the moment and would prefer to roll the dice on larger prices.
Instead I start the week by going back in on a player who went well last week before fading a little on Sunday, John Catlin. There’s enough in his game right now and the way he’s played on these types of setups before that tempted me back in.
Though dropping to 25th last week it was his second top 25 in three starts and represents an upturn in form for the American. As he’d failed to hit the top 25 on his first six DPWT starts of the year.
Catlin entered the final round of the European Open 5-shots off the lead and sat just outside the top 10, with that final round 74 dropping him down to 25th. He struck the ball well all week, ranking 20th tee-to-green, 13th off-the-tee and 31st in approach. Also the 2nd most accurate player with the driver.
This quality, accurate ball-striking, particularly off-the-tee has been the story of Catlin’s game this year and on a shorter, easier and more suitable setup, he looks to have the game in a good place for this test.
I’m also taken by the other top 25 Catlin recorded a few weeks ago in Belgium, finishing 23rd in the Soudal Open. Another short, heavily tree-lined course. These types of courses are where Catlin has made his name on the DPWT with wins at Valderrama in the Andalucia Masters and Galgorm Castle in the Irish Open.
Those two wins part of three victories on this tour for Catlin in the last couple of years, making him one of the most reliable players in the DPWT field in terms of getting the job done. If he can continue hitting the ball the way he has in recent starts and find a little with the putter, he can add victory #4 this week.
After opening with a 6-over 78 last week, South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence sat well outside the cutline and was looking at a weekend on the side-lines. However he shot a 2-under 70 in round two to make the cut on the number and over the weekend proceeded to rise further and further up the leaderboard, eventually finishing 18th. Actually shooting the third best score in the field through rounds 2-4.
This was the latest result in what’s been a really solid first year on the DPWT for Lawrence. Gaining his tour card at the end of last year in rather fortunate circumstances, by winning the Joburg Open after the event was called after two-rounds, in which he sat atop the leaderboard by four-shots.
He’s taken this opportunity with both hands this year, missing just two of thirteen cuts on the DPWT and hitting the top 25 on seven occasions, which includes three top 10s and a best of 2nd in the Kenya Open at Muthaiga.
The strength of Lawrence’s game comes in the ball-striking, particularly off-the-tee, where he ranks 25th this season, combining both power and accuracy. Also a good putter, ranking 42nd and has been producing some quality approach performances of late, including last week, where he ranked 11th in the field and ranks 49th for the season.
That combination of power and accuracy, with a hot putter means Lawrence is capable of just about performing at most courses. We see that in his form this year, where that 2nd in Kenya should serve as a good guide to this week, being another tight, heavily tree-lined venue, but he’s also gone well at more open courses, like his 8th place finish in the Steyn City Championship.
It feels like Lawrence has been around forever, though he’s still only 25-years-old. He turned pro as a teenager in 2014 following a successful amateur career, that saw him win the prestigious Lytham Trophy as well as his own national amateur title. This meant he turned professional with plenty of expectation and was hotly tipped to make a name for himself, the signs have been there this year that this is starting to come to fruition, and he can take another step forward this week.
Meghan MacLaren has been in fine form on the Ladies European Tour this season, picking up her 3rd LET title just four starts ago. Along with some quality experience of similar events to this, where she finished 2nd in the 2019 Jordan Mixed Open, she can count on that experience to put up a strong performance in Sweden this week.
After spending much of last year on the Epson Tour in the states, the development tour to the LPGA, in which she picked up her first title last year, MacLaren took the decision to play much of her golf back on the LET this season, a decision that is paying dividends.
She’s had six starts this year on the LET, hitting the top 25 in all but one and picking up that 3rd LET title in the Australia Ladies Classic – Bonville, at the end of April, in which she beat Maja Stark by one shot. A course which bares many similarities to this week’s venue, as a heavily tree-lined, undulating track.
The stats on the LET website are a little skewed, as they include players who’ve played only a handful of rounds this year. So we can pretty much upgrade each of her stats this year, where she ranks 18th for GIR, though is actually one of the highest ranked players in the field on the LET side in that regard and 42nd in driving accuracy in real terms puts her amongst the top 10-15 players from the LET this week. She’s clearly in very good ball-striking form and with accuracy looking important this week, she should enjoy the setup.
As mentioned, she has plenty of experience in this innovative, format. She played and made the cut in both of the events in Thailand earlier this year, finishing 22nd and 33rd. In addition to that 2nd in Jordan Mixed Open in 2019, an event that pitted the players of the LET against the Challenge Tour and Euro Seniors Tour. She held a two-shot lead going into the final round there, unfortunately losing out by two shots to Daan Huizing but she was the only LET player in the top 10 and beat the next best player by an impressive seven shots, highlighting how she relishes playing in these events.
Many will know MacLaren as an intelligent and opinionated observer of the modern golf scene and the issues within it, through her blog and podcast appearances. Indeed this week she has been bang on in calling out the cash grab that is the LIV Golf Invitational trying to dress itself up as anything remotely progressive, highlighting that the breath of fresh air that is this week’s event and others like it are the real ways to grow and move the sport forwards.
I feel she’ll be as motivated as anyone to perform this week and with the quality of golf she’s been playing this year, along with the past form at the similar event in Jordan and her win in Australia potentially being a good guide, she looks the best value of the LET players.
As an 11-time LET winner and 1-time LPGA winner, amongst many titles in her homeland, South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace is one of the winning-most players in the entire field. Showing some good form this year she can use her experience to improve on her 25th place finish in this event last year.
The majority of Pace’s success came at the start of the previous decade, with her solo LPGA Tour title coming in 2014, whilst she won nine of her eleven LET titles between 2010 and 2014. However, after losing her LPGA card at the end of 2019, she has gone on to find further successes back down on the LET.
They have come in the shape of back-to-back wins in the South African Women’s Open in 2021 and 2022. Whilst she contended a few more times throughout 2021, the consistency of her results have stepped up this year. She hasn’t missed a cut and finished top 25 in all but one start, that a 27th place finish and includes three other top 10s, aside from her win in South Africa, a 6th place finish in Italy last week the most recent.
Her game is underpinned by general all-round quality. She ranks 34th in driving accuracy, 42nd in GIR and 67th in putting. Again, all of these stats can be upgraded significantly due to the skewed stats on the LET website.
That accuracy and quality on the greens should be ideal for this week’s test and I see her scoring well. I also find confidence in her best ever major performance coming courtesy of a 6th place finish in the 2015 Evian Championship, at Evian Resort. A quirky, tree-lined, undulating course.
Pace has been playing excellently all year, not just continuing her strong form from last year but improving on it. No doubt full of confidence she can use her experience this week around this favourable setup and contend at Halmstad.
Nacho Elvira’s year has been an inconsistent one, with more letters than numbers in his recent form figures. Though there’s been plenty of good golf and despite missing the cut on his last two starts, has seemed to have found something with the irons. Combined with some encouraging form at similar courses, he can bounce back from those two MCs this week.
Elvira picked up that memorable first DPWT title of his career last year in Wales. A result that came out of the blue, with him missing ten of his previous twelve cuts. Since then, despite being inconsistent there’s been much more good golf amongst the poor, something well on show this year.
He’s missed six of thirteen cuts in 2022, though has recorded two top 10 finishes when he has made the weekend. The most recent of those coming three starts ago in the Soudal Open in Belgium, encouraging as I’ve previously highlighted it as a course that should correlate with this week’s venue.
Each part of his game had fired this year, though often intermittently, besides the irons. This has changed in the last two starts, where despite missing the cuts he’s gained in approach in three of the four rounds. With the short-game predominantly causing the problems in recent starts, as the driver was in good enough shape last week in Germany.
This a surprise as the short-game has been solid enough this year, where he ranks 50th around-the-greens and 85th in scrambling. Though has recently dropped outside the top 100 in putting thanks to a disappointing run of performances on the greens.
This is not of real concern for a player who is generally streaky, indeed in his recent top 10 in Belgium, where he finished 9th, he found a good week on the greens after consecutive weeks of poor putting.
That 9th at the Soudal Open not the only piece of form that should work well here, as he’s also got a strong record at Crans-sur-Sierre in the Omega European Masters, finishing 4th in 2018 and 13th last year on that densely tree-lined setup. A combination of decent accuracy and length off-the-tee meaning he should be able to set himself up well this week, as he has done at these similar venues.
There are so few players in this DPWT side of the field with recent winning experience. Elvira is one and with some encouraging signs in approach in recent starts, along with the solidity of his driving, he can find enough this week to contend.
Of the LET players at three figures, the one I was closest to backing was talented, strong ball-striking Italian, Virginia Elena Carta. She turned pro last year after a strong amateur career and continues to put in consistent performances on the LET. Though ultimately, without a top 10 on the LET this year I felt it unlikely she would rectify that this week.
Instead I’ll finish with another Spaniard in the shape of Alfredo Garcia-Heredia, who’s had a decent enough season back on the DPWT, with all parts of his game looking in good shape at various points, contributing to his consistent form figures. If he can put it all together he can produce his best result of the year this week.
Having not played regularly on the DPWT since 2011, Heredia earned his return to the tour last year thanks to a strong year on the Challenge Tour, picking up one title and producing multiple other top 10s.
His form on the DPWT this season has been mixed but plenty to be positive about. His best finish coming courtesy of a 17th in the Kenya Open. However in recent starts we’ve seen a step up.
This started with a confidence building 13th place finish in the Challenge de Espana when he dropped back down briefly to the Challenge Tour. He’s followed that by making two cuts on the bounce on the DPWT for the first time this year, recording a 24th place finish in the Dutch Open and was 47th last week in Germany.
Ball-striking has been the key to him this year, with approach play generally engineering his better performances and he ranks 38th on tour in that regard. In addition to being 24th for GIR and a solid 45th off-the-tee, possessing power though isn’t too wayward. Ideal for this week.
The short-game would be the concern but even there, there has been positive performances in recent starts, gaining strokes in four of his six most recent starts around-the-greens and in two of his last four on the greens. Also ranking an impressive 8th for the season in scrambling, which I expect to be key this week and if able to put it all together, he can go well.