Damien Kayat takes a look at this week's Scandavian Mixed event.
2021 European Tour
Vallda Golf & Country Club
You have to admire the European Tour for pushing the boundaries. This event was originally scheduled to be played last year but had to be postponed due to the pandemic. This event actually has its origins in the 1973 Volvo Open. This became the first Swedish stop on the European Tour schedule. It has gone through various incarnations since then, alternatively known by names such as the Scandinavian Masters and Nordea Masters. But it was in a general state of decline for some years.
The tour decided to shake things up last year and decided to collaborate with the Ladies European Tour. A stroke-play event was envisaged that would see 78 men playing against 78 women in a regular event. This year’s delayed event will be the first-ever mixed event to be co-sanctioned at this level. Ordinarily, I would be having a go at the European Tour for being gimmicky. But perhaps this week’s event is connected to something bigger than dollars and cents.
Henrik Stenson and the indomitable Annika Sorenstam will be co-hosting this year’s event. Both of these players have been pioneers in Scandinavian golf and need no introduction. Stenson’s game has been in decline of late and he may welcome a slightly more relaxed environment, providing that’s what we get. You are never too sure how the professionals will treat a new event: will it have the slightly jovial atmosphere of a glorified Pro-Am?
I hope not, because Annika Sorenstam wouldn’t deserve that. The ten-time Major Champions is one of the most iconic figures in golf. In a fearsome display of her competitive spirit, the Swede returned to the LPGA in February and actually made the cut (this hot off the heels of her highly publicised acceptance of Trump’s Presidential Medal of Freedom). The 50-year-old would want this event to be played in the most competitive spirit possible.
Vallda Golf & Country Club was opened 12 years back. It is located on the outskirts of Gothenburg and measures just a tick above 7,000 yards. It was designed by Martin Hawtree and is a Heathland layout. It features undulating greens and fast running fairways. The quick putting surfaces all add up to a pretty brisk experience. It is said to have a links feel that should accommodate both the men and women.
I have to be honest, I’m not exactly sure what the handicap will be between the men and women. I assume the women will just start off slightly advanced tees as opposed to a handicap system. We all know in the space of two days whether the event has been calibrated correctly. Regardless, it should make for interesting viewing.
This isn’t exactly going to be an elite field. I will try my best to accommodate some women’s predictions despite having little grounding in the Ladies European Tour (a fact that probably underlines why events such as this are necessary). Helsinki-born Sanna Nuutinen has finished inside the top in all three events on the Ladies European Tour. Emily Pedersen leads the markets while Caroline Hedwell should thrive in home conditions. Sam Horsfield is a mercurial talent who just needs to eradicate those big errors. This should prove an intriguing diversion ahead of next week’s US Open.
My Picks to Win this week
Joost Luiten – 18/1
Dutchman Joost Luiten had been showing some signs of his best golf lately. He has four top 15 finishes in his last five starts. He’s one of those players who just hasn’t won as many events as he should have. He should view this as a real opportunity to add to his six European Tour titles. This course is slightly shorter than average and should play into his wheelhouse. He can be an electric putter and he could shoot some ridiculously low scores this weekend.
Lee-Anne Pace 70/1
South African Lee-Anne Pace is a 40-year-old veteran who could prove a standout this week. The 10-time European Tour winner recently broke a seven-year title drought at last months Investec South African Women’s Open (she has been consistently successful on the Sunshine Ladies Tour). She also arrives in in Sweden on the back of playing all four rounds at the US Open in California.