Open runner-up Dustin Johnson joins the established stars of The European Tour this week for the Nordea Masters at Bro Hof Slot Golf Club, looking to continue where he left off at Royal St George’s.
Last year, the tournament featured the Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen immediately after his victory at St Andrews and, 12 months on, the Swedish fans will once again have cause to celebrate with one of the leading challengers for golf’s oldest Major.
Johnson finished joint runner-up with fellow American Phil Mickelson, three shots behind Darren Clarke, and is sure to receive a warm welcome as he continues his stay in Europe with a second visit to Stockholm.
The new World Number Seven – having moved up from 12th following his performance at Sandwich – is joined by his Ryder Cup team-mate Bubba Watson, the World Number 14, as the two highest ranked players in the field.
Johnson started the final round of The Open just one stroke behind Clarke and was two behind with five holes to play, but his title hopes evaporated when he hit his second out of bounds on the 14th hole.
It was a third near-miss in the Majors in just over a year for Johnson. The 27 year old took a three-shot lead into the final round of the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach, but fell away on the final day as Graeme McDowell took the title. Johnson then took a one-shot lead down the 72nd hole of last season’s US PGA at Whistling Straits, buta bogey five and then two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a bunker before playing his second shot allowed Martin Kaymer to take the title after a play-off with Watson.
"The more I put myself in this situation, the better,” he said. “The more I learn, the more I understand my game and what happens in this situation."
Johnson got his first taste of Bro Hof Slott last year when he finished joint 19th while Watson will make his debut in the event on the back of a tied 30th place finish last week.
Johnson and Watson are joined among the invites by 2010 Amateur Champion Jin Jeong - the first Asian golfer to win the game’s most prestigious amateur title - and American Scott Pinkney, a close friend of Rory McIlroy who makes his professional debut in Stockholm.
They will face the cream of Swedish golf, including former European Number One Robert Karlsson, the winner of the end of season Dubai World Championship presented by DP World last year, Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, winner of the SAAB Wales Open last month, and defending champion Richard S Johnson.
Noren, the only Swede to have tasted victory on The 2011 European Tour international Schedule, said: “After winning the SAAB Wales Open, it will be awesome to play in Sweden and the Nordea Masters. Bro Hof is one of my favourite tracks, and always fun to play. It will be interesting to see how the changes of hole 17 affect the result.”
The Robert Trent Jones Jnr-designed Stadium Course, which opened in 2007, was built with spectators in mind with the capacity to take 70,000 fans and stadium points located across the course. The par three 17th, with its island green, also provides all the drama and excitement of the famous 17th at TPC at Sawgrass to add to the experience.
The 17th has been altered slightly since last year with a new wall around the green adding to the challenge.
The course measures 7,603 yards this year, extended from 7,551 yards last year, making it the longest course to host a regular European Tour event on the 2011 circuit.
The Swedes have enjoyed their fair share of success on home soil with Johnson’s victory following those of Joakim Haeggman (1997), Peter Hanson (2008) and Jesper Parnevik (1995 and 1998). A sixth victory this week by home grown player would make the Nordea Masters the most successful Tour event for Swedish golfers.
Johnson’s victory last year certainly provided the winning moment of the year as his caddie embraced the champion after Johnson holed a 30 foot birdie putt on the final green to become the first winner at the acclaimed Bro Hof Slot.