After a one-year interruption to go to Silkeborg Ry Golf, the home of Thomas Bjorn, the Made in Denmark tournament returns to the Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort for its sixth staging. This place could have been used last year as it also has a symbolic relationship with the victorious Ryder Cup captain – it was the scene of his first victory on the European Challenge Tour, the 1995 Himmerland Open.
The course would host three further events on the Challenge Tour in the next three years but, aside from the time involved, they have very little relevance for this week given that the course underwent a major renovation in 2012. Every bunker and green was renovated, relayed and reshaped respectively, and the old eighth hole is no longer in use, replaced by a new hole which will play as the first hole.
Despite those renovations, the course has been home to nine OWGR-ranking Tour events in the last five years: four on the Nordic Golf League (used for two of three rounds with the Garia course used for the other round); once on the Challenge Tour and four times as the host of the Made in Denmark event on the European Tour.
That means that there is plenty of course history even if the shot stats are only collated on the European Tour event. The course itself is exposed so the wind is typically a factor here and, while the last two Made in Denmark events here have been won by long-hitters off the tee, it isn’t a feature of the other Tour events played on this course. Instead, the following are stronger angles to follow.
Angles to consider
1. Current form important heading into this event
The event has moved from its August slot in the schedule to May, but it retains its position in the week after the PGA Championship, so the schedule change shouldn’t be too significant, though the Tour is firmly settled in Europe in August, but not so by May. With that caveat in mind, the four European Tour winners here were: Julian Suri (2017) who had finished 16th in his previous European Tour start; Thomas Pieters (2016) who finished had finished 4th and 2nd in his previous two European Tour starts; David Horsey (2015) who had finished 66th in his previous European Tour start; and Marc Warren (2014) who had finished 15th in the PGA Championship in the previous week.
The obvious exception is David Horsey, but of those who finished 2nd, Kristoffer Broberg has finished 10th in his last European Tour start and Soren Kjeldsen had finished 12th in his last European Tour start. There was no European Tour event staged here last year, but the Challenge Tour event staged here, the Made in Denmark Challenge, was won by Joachim B. Hansen, who had finished 2nd in his previous Challenge Tour event, and the Nordic Golf League event staged here, the Race to Himmerland, was won by Aksel Krisoffer Olsen, who had finished 2nd-2nd-3rd in his last three Nordic Golf League events.
2. The par-4s are key to scoring this week
There are only three par-5s this week on this par-71 course and one par-5 is so short (471 yards) that it averaged 4.40 in 2017 with more eagles than bogeys across the whole week. It played more like a tough par-4 rather than a par-5. With five par-4s under 400 yards as well as two very difficult par-4s at the end of each nine, there is a good variety of par-4s at Himmerland and mastering them has been the key to success here.
In 2017, Julian Suri ranked 1st in par-4 scoring (36th and 15th in par-3 and par-5 scoring respectively); in 2016, Thomas Pieters ranked 1st in par-4 scoring (12th and 14th); in 2015, David Horsey ranked 3rd in par-4 scoring (59th and 1st); and in 2014, Marc Warren ranked 3rd in par-4 scoring (15th and 2nd). While there was some support for par-5 scoring being important in the early Made in Denmark events, it has been wholly focused on par-4 scoring recently and that was also borne out with the Challenge Tour event here last year: Joachim B. Hansen ranked 1st in par-4 scoring (5th and 15th in par-3 and par-5 scoring respectively).
3. The short game will be tested around Himmerland
The 2012 renovations, particularly to the bunkers and greens, have made these features a real test of short game skill. That has been borne out by the winners here. There are no shot stats for Julian Suri in 2017, but Ben Evans and Chris Paisley ranked joint-1st for scrambling and both finished 3rd. In 2016, Thomas Pieters ranked 5th for scrambling and 2nd for putts per green in regulation, while second-placed Bradley Dredge ranked 3rd and 1st, respectively, in these two categories. In 2015, David Horsey was once again the exception to the rule, but second-placed Terry Pilkadaris ranked 2nd for scrambling and 1st for putts per green in regulation. Finally, in 2014, Marc Warren and second-placed Bradley Dredge didn’t scramble particularly well, but ranked 3rd and 1st, respectively, in putts per green in regulation.
The above angles have been used to create a shortlist from which the following players have been selected.
Westwood may be 46 years old, but he showed that he can still be competitive on this Tour when winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge six months ago. More recently, he has shown that he has the form needed when ranking inside the top-10 after rd1 and rd2 of the British Masters, the last European Tour event, and he was unlucky not to win last year’s Made in Denmark, losing out in a playoff to Matt Wallace. That was on a different course, but his good scrambling skills (only four players in this field rank higher in scrambling on the European Tour) should be useful around Himmerland. He is also one of only a small number of players who is cumulatively under-par for the par-4s on the European Tour so far in 2019.
Another who fits the current form angle, having finished 6th in the British Masters two weeks ago, which was his third top-6 finish in seven starts in 2019. Like Westwood, he also won on the European Tour in the latter end of 2018, but his win in Scandinavia, the Nordea Masters, which may have a (albeit tenuous) PMA for this week. He also has a decent record on this course having finished 22nd in 2014 and 31st, although as high as 7th after rd1, in 2017, so he should be confident of carrying his good form over to this week.
Elvira’s recent finishes have been compromised by poor final rounds. In the British Masters, he had been 14th with one round to play, but shot 75 to finish 42nd, and in the China Open, he had been 6th with one round to play, but shot 74 to finish 32nd. But this is the exception with Elvira. He had finished 2nd-2nd-6th across three events in March, including a playoff loss in the Maybank Championship, so he is very competitive at this level. He also secured a top-20 finish in 2017 when this course was last used on the European Tour, but he is a better player now and is capable of improving on his two 2nd place finishes so far in 2019.
This is only Herbert’s second season on the European Tour, but the young Australian has already made a significant impact. He led the Dubai Desert Classic at the mid-point against a very strong field in January, before finishing 7th and he recorded four top-5 finishes, including the Nordea Masters, last year. He finished last season ranked inside the top-20 for putts per green in regulation. He is now inside the top-100 in the World Rankings and, even though he played all four rounds in last week’s PGA Championship, Marc Warren showed in 2014 that competing in that event doesn’t necessarily harm the chances of winning on this course.
0.75pts e.w. Lee Westwood 33/1 (Coral, Betfair Sportsbook 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7)
0.75pts e.w. Paul Waring 50/1 (Boyle Sports 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8)
0.75pts e.w. Nacho Elvira 60/1 (Paddy Power, BetFred, Betfair Sportsbook 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7)
0.75pts e.w. Lucas Herbert 66/1 (Boyle Sports 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8)