Finnish Challenge

Time for another few quid, Bjorn?

Bjorn Hellgren – 1 point each-way @ 66-1 (early 75-1)

Simon Forsstrom – 0.75 points each-way @ 50-1

Mark Flindt Hasstrup – 0.75 points each-way @ 70-1

If there was any doubt about the quality of player that the Challenge Tour produces, last week should have destroyed any that remain.

2016 Road to Oman victor, Jordan Smith, confirmed what many believed when winning the European Open in a titanic duel with Alex Levy, whilst the current R2O ranked 2, Julian Suri had a chance to win on Payday although ultimately outclassed. Stick in previous and current Challenge Tour players such as Fahrbring, Chesters, Edfors et al, and in a real test it was clear there was not much between the grades.

Whilst Suri was getting upset about his final round, our 25-1 ante-post bet Aaron Rai looked laboured over in Sweden. This was a moderate effort that added just over a grand to his winnings for the year but I am sure he isn’t quite done with yet. Indeed, that he turned up after gaining his full card was a surprise and it is hoped he takes a few weeks off in order to be ready for the lucrative Rolex at the end of August.

To qualify for that and really to have any chance of gaining a top-15 place at the end of the year, players need to be ranked in the top-42 and some will need to start moving up quickly and those on the cusp might start feeling the pressure.

One of those is a regular of this column and with a certain preference for Nordic courses, I give one last chance to Mark Haastrup.

Winner of four events on the Nordic League last year, he was the longshot for the Oman title due to his penchant for this region. He hasnt really delivered on that but went through a little spell in June of 28/3/14/28 that all contributed to his current ranking of 46th and pennies outside that Rolex opportunity. The Dane showed up much better last week with a T19 in Sweden and if he is going to achieve any more this year, it will surely be here. In a field containing none of the stars, 70-1 looks too big.

There has to be interest in both the local players Tapio Pulkkanen and Oliver Lindell with the former preferred at the price (50-1) given his winning experience. Having destroyed the opposition with four wins on the 2015 Nordic tour, he was going off much shorter than this earlier in the year and currently lies 4th in the rankings. However, young Lindell also managed to win in that year, as an amateur, and is easily the best long-term prospect, one well worth keeping an eye on.

As for bets though, I am sticking with Simon Forsstrom and last week’s hint, Bjorn Hellgren.

Looking through the form of last year’s victor, Sam Walker, he has his best form at Kazakhstan (winner) and also at the Hydro and Irish. If we can take that form clue and the players view that this will be a wind-affected event on a tree-lined course, both the suggested bets also have formlines that compare.

Forsstrom was 26th in Kazak and T30 in the Irish last year but T8 at the Hydro reads nicely alongside his victory in Belgium. Best this season has been a T15 in the better-class Lyoness but the return to the Nordic region (where he has won and had multiple placings) may well inspire an improvement on last week’s T25 in Sweden.

For the nap of the week though, I have to go with Bjorn Hellgren.

We were on the Swede at big prices last week and he performed well enough, gaining a T20 after looking slightly more threatening. Indeed he stood at 8-under after 15 holes of the second round but somehow bogeyed all three final holes which seemed to set him back for the weekend. Plenty was written about him last week and I don’t really want to go over the same ground but the facts are there – his best effort is tying with Henrik Stenson when 4th in the 2016 Nordea and his mini-run of form through Sweden/Finland looks too obvious to ignore.

Hellgren is a multiple winner at Nordic level, but crucially had form figures of 12/6 through these two events last season and after hinting that he must be watched for anything approaching form in Sweden last week, that T19 is enough to force me to play. I went 50-1 but managed to snaffle the early 75-1 (posted on Twitter). However, I am happy to suggest a bet at anything approaching 60-1.

We aint finnish yet.