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Friday, 19 March 2010
The Challenge Tour makes its first visit of the year to Sweden this week for the NCC Open at its regular home, Soderasens Golf Club in Billesholm.

The NCC Open, which has also featured under the banner of the Siab Open, dates back to 1989 on the Challenge Tour so this will be the 11th playing of the event. Apart from the first year, when Jon Evans of England triumphed, plus David Higgins's victory in 2000, the title has been the property of Scandinavian players.

A year ago, the NCC Open was the first of three titles to fall to Higgins, which enabled him to go on to finish second on the Rankings behind Henrik Stenson and to secure his card to the main Tour.

The Irishman carded a closing 71 for 274, ten under par, to win by three from Martin Erlandsson of Sweden, who gave Higgins a close fight until the final few holes.

This week's tournament, which is worth 840,000 Swedish Kroner, with 140,000 going to the winner, has attracted a strong field with all but one of this season's title winners lining up alongside six of last year's champions.

England's Andrew Sherborne and Mark Foster, Greig Hutcheon and Euan Little from Scotland will be hoping to consolidate their positions among the leaders on the rankings, but South African Ashley Roestoff is taking two weeks off and is not competing.

However, the tournament will see the first Challenge Tour appearance of former Ryder Cup player Steven Richardson.

Soderasens as a typical Swedish parkland course, which is famous for its greens and doesn't surrender shots easily. The winning score is never much below par but changes in recent years have made it slightly easier, Higgins' 10 under 12 months ago being the lowest aggregate in the tournament's history.

It measures 6,617 metres (7,236 yards) has a par of 71 and its defence is its quick, sloping greens. Many players believe that the opening four holes hold the key to a good score with three tough par fours and a par three of over 200 metres.

Water, in the form of small ponds, comes into play on a few holes but the secret of unlocking Soderasens is how often you leave your ball below the pin.

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