It may be held at a different venue this year, but Lasse Jensen’s aim is the same at this week’s ECCO Tour Championship hosted by Thomas Björn & Mercedes-Benz: put on a show for the home crowds, and start climbing the Challenge Tour Rankings as the current campaign approaches a crucial phase.
Jensen will draw on the memories of his tied fourth finish 12 months ago – which marked the best performance of his 2011 season – as he bids this week to become the first Dane to win the €160,000 event, which is being played for the first time at the stunning Stensballegaard Golf, in Horsens.
Jensen has struggled to build on the highest finish of his Challenge Tour career at this year’s Barclays Kenya Open, where he was beaten in a play-off by England’s Seve Benson, and by his own admission the 27 year old has perhaps been guilty of playing too much in his eagerness to secure a place on The European Tour for the first time.
As a result of his over-exertions, Jensen has lost the consistency which was a hallmark of his campaign in 2011, when he made 20 cuts from 23 appearances en route to finishing in 43rd place in the Rankings.
His debut appearance at last year’s season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final continued the progress he had made since graduating to the Challenge Tour as the winner of the Nordic League’s Order of Merit in 2009, and Jensen is now keen to regain his early momentum as he seeks to climb into the all-important top 20 from his current Ranking position of 33rd.
He said: “I have some good memories of the tournament last year, when I was up in contention for most of the week. Obviously I would’ve loved to have won, but finishing fourth was still a pretty good result, and I hope I can play as well again this year.
“Even though I’ve missed the last couple of cuts, my swing feels much tighter and I’m on the right track. This would definitely be a good week to start finding my best form again. My ball control is far better than it was a few weeks ago, so I feel much more comfortable now. And because of that, I’m playing with a smile on my face and enjoying myself a bit more, which is what professional sport should be about. If you’re not enjoying yourself out there, you should give up and do something else!”
Playing with a smile perhaps comes more easily at a venue as picturesque as Stensballegaard Golf, built on land overlooking the Horsens Fjord.
Jensen first visited the links-style layout shortly after it opened three years ago, and was suitably impressed with what he saw. Since then, it has matured into a visually arresting venue which, at a daunting 7,577 yards in length, will also test the players to their limits this week.
He said: “I came here in the Autumn two years ago, and it was quite new. I haven’t been out there yet, but I’m playing the Pro-Am today so that will be my practice. But looking from the balcony here, the course seems to have matured since I was last year – it looks absolutely beautiful. So I’m looking forward to getting out there to see how the course has developed. It has quite a linksy feel to it – it’s quite open, and some of the greens have run-off areas.
“Normally it gets pretty breezy here, so that could make things interesting. Fortunately the fairways are quite generous, because it’s a long course and if the wind really gets up, I think the players will need all the help they can get from off the tee. Strangely I’ve never played a proper links course, so I don’t really know if I’m a good links player or not – I guess we’ll find out this week!”
Whilst Jensen is understandably eager to impress on home soil this week, he also has one eye on a potentially critical run of events coming up, starting with next week’s limited-field Rolex Trophy and culminating in the money-spinning Kazakhstan Open in mid-September.
Strong performances in those two tournaments would provide a serious boost to Jensen’s prospects of graduating at the end of the season and, after his recent travails, the man from Copenhagen is now hoping to peak at just the right time.
He said: “I have a similar feeling going into the week as I did last year. Normally I start the season well, but I have a habit of playing too much and then my tank is empty. That was the case last year, and I’ve made the same mistakes again this year.
“I should’ve chosen quality rather than quantity. It’s a lesson to take forward, because it’s a long season so you need to pace yourself. It’s like when you’re a child, you shouldn’t put too much food in your mouth – take smaller bites! I would’ve been better playing two weeks on, one week off, so these are the sort of lessons you need to learn if you want to become a better player. But I’ve recharged my batteries and I feel much better about my game now, which was how I felt coming into the tournament last time.
“It’s all about finding form at the right time. We’ve got some big events coming up, with the Rolex Trophy next week and Kazakhstan next month. If I do well in those two tournaments, I can really start climbing the Rankings and hopefully finish in the top 20. That has been the goal from the start, and if I can finish the season strongly, there’s no reason why I can’t achieve it.”