Peter Hanson defends his SAS Masters title this week hoping that the trappings of home life can inspire him to victory over a course which will claim the record as the longest in the history of The European Tour.
The 31 year old Swede lives close to the Barsebäck Golf and Country Club near Malmö where a strong field will compete over the 7,665 yard, par 73 course, which supersedes 2008 US Open Championship venue, Torrey Pines, as the longest on Tour.
Barsebäck has a habit of delivering high quality champions. In eight previous editions of the tournament, the roll call of winners reads: Sir Nick Faldo (1992), Jesper Parnevik (1995), Joakim Haeggman (1997), Colin Montgomerie (1999 and 2001), Adam Scott (2003), Luke Donald (2004) and Marc Warren (2006).
Hanson, who became the latest Swedish winner on home soil at Arlandastad Golf near Stockholm last year, is relishing the opportunity to become the first player to successfully defend the SAS Masters title so close to the family home.
“I live 20 minutes from the course and that makes it a little bit more special. I love playing in front of the home crowd and I think that you can see that from my results in Sweden. It meant a lot to win it last year – I came straight back from the US PGA Championship and led from the start. It was just fantastic and it is nice to be back to defend.
“I might not have won the SAS Masters on the course we are playing this year but I love Barsebäck – I finished second to Luke Donald there five years ago and I have also finished seventh and ninth there in the past.
“It is going to be tough to defend because this will be my sixth week in a row on Tour and there have been two Majors in that time so I am a little tired! But I can take it very easy in the build up. I know the course well so hopefully I can take my energy from the crowd and go from there. “
Hanson, who played in all four rounds of The Open at Turnberry last week, finishing in a tie for 24th place, has a growing conviction that the crowd will be a huge ally this week, but knows that he faces a tough assignment against his fellow Swedes alone.
Among the typically talented Swedish contingent are European Tour champions Henrik Stenson, winner of The Players’ Championship in the United States this year, Johan Edfors, Niclas Fasth, Peter Hedblom, Per-Ulrik Johansson and Patrik Sjöland, along with the two past champions from the nineties, Haeggman and Parnevik, the latter who, in 1995, became one of only two European Tour players to win a title without dropping a shot.
The presence of so many players from the host nation convinces Hanson that the SAS Masters is recapturing its old status and quality. He said: “We all have to apply ourselves to get the tournament back to where it belongs. There are around 20 Swedes on The European Tour and we all need to work together with the right people back home to make the tournament big again.
“That is especially looking forward to our bid for The Ryder Cup. We know that we have to put on strong events to show The European Tour that we can host The Ryder Cup. “
There is a strong Scandinavian flavour to the 2009 edition of the SAS Masters. Mikko Ilonen from Finland attempts to regain the title he claimed in 2007 while Denmark is strongly represented by Thomas Björn, Jeppe Huldahl and Søren Kjeldsen, the latter duo having both won on The European Tour International Schedule already this season.
A number of changes have been made to the Barsebäck course since the SAS Masters was last played there in 2006, while the clubhouse has been rebuilt at a cost of €1,775,000. The club celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and owner Gösta Carlsson said the sweeping changes would make it a great test for Europe’s elite golfers.
“The course has been under a great amount of reconstruction,” he said. “We started last year by changing the 11th hole back to a par four. On top of that the bunkers on the holes next to the sea have been given new characteristics.
“This year we have rebuilt all the other bunkers so that all of them have the same features. They are smaller, deeper and placed strategically throughout the golf course and with new grass on the sides of them.”
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