Swedish Challenge

Aaron Rai goes for his fourth win of the year, and is very hard to oppose

Bjorn Hellgren – 0.35 points each-way @ 175-1 

*I have requested a w/o Rai market, remains to be seen if it occurs, updates will be via the Twitter feed

As Jordan Spieth was producing brilliance at Birkdale, a lesser-known Englishman was performing in similarly spectacular style at Le Vaudreuil.

The 22-year-old Wolverhampton ace, Aaron Rai, was winning his third event of the year in just nine Challenge Tour starts, and in thirteen overall and has now already secured his European Tour card for next year.

Losing his overnight lead and falling two back after just three holes, the future star went into overdrive eventually sauntering clear down the home stretch to win by five shots on the snaff. For fellow backers of the ante-post 25-1 Road to Oman bet this was bittersweet news. He could easily have jumped ship immediately to the big league meaning we were unlikely to collect the win part of the bet when settled in November, but confirming that he would honour his entry in Sweden this week was a nice boon, as was his hint that he would return for the lucrative Rolex at the end of August, the event limited to just the top 42 in the current rankings. It is hoped he then comes back for those huge paydays at the end of the year. Let us pray.

Only one book has gone up so far this week and if having to avoid last weeks 8-1 quote, there is no option but to avoid this weeks 11-2.

I mentioned in last weeks’ preview that Rai had incentive to play well given main RTO rival Julian Suri was at Birkdale, and he again has that scenario, the American entered in Germany.

Ignoring the price though there is absolutely no reason to oppose the favourite. Clearly at the top of his game with potential improvement, he has proven himself in tight finishes throughout the Matchplay9, especially in the 18-hole final when going down early in the match before winning comfortably. Top that with his ability to shrug aside poor holes as per France last week, a corking short game and putting prowess and it’s hard to ignore his massive chance. Any tightening of the track won’t matter whilst he really should have won here last year, a final round 72 being the second-highest score of the final top-10 but eventually finishing just one shot shy of the playoff.

Simply, the only negative seems to be trying to win back-to-back and his motivation to do so but other than that, I couldn’t stop anyone playing along.

This weeks’ host, Robert Karlsson looks about right at 18-1. Sure, take this back a few years and he would be much shorter than Rai is, but apart from the occasional good effort (3rd in the Porsche last year, top-15 at the Czech and Made In Denmark) he hasn’t done much to encourage. Being host never helps the concentration and I expect he’ll be busier away from the course.

I have looked and looked for a bet this week and whilst there are cases for Denmark one-two Oscar Stark and Victor Perez I can’t pull the trigger on current form, whilst both Simon Forsstrom and Mark Haastrup have claims on good Nordic form, the latter gagging up on the OOM after multiple wins. Quite honestly though, it is Rai and little else. However I have been tempted by a small wager on Bjorn Hellgren at 175-1 (may get bigger when more books are out).

The Swede had an aim to be on the main tour by 2016 and whilst that hasn’t occurred, that 4th via invitation to the Nordea Masters is a sign of what is possible under the right conditions.

Tying with Henrik Stenson after a best-of-the-day 67 should have been something to inspire but progress has seemed to slow down although a run at this level of T15/12/6/T19/T20 is admittedly perfectly acceptable. Intermingled with that were a few top-10s back on the Nordic League, all boosting the victory at the season-opener beating several winners proven at a slightly higher level.

2017 hasn’t been great with a T20 in Denmark in June the best finish of the year. However, he has thrown in some half-decent rounds, recording rounds of between 65 and 69 on a few occasions. 12th here last season backs up the thought that he finds a bit at home and at the price he looks worth a few shekels. As an aside, watch Hellgren for anything like progression. Next week’s event is in Finland, where he had his best finish of 6th last season.

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