Denmark is the destination this week as 2018 Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjørn prepares to make a memorable 500th European Tour appearance in front of a home crowd…
Last year Thomas Pieters produced a brilliant finish to win his third European Tour title and send a message to 2016 Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke.
The Belgian arrived at Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort as the form man on Tour with top five finishes in his last two events but knew that automatic qualification for the European team to go to Hazeltine was out of his reach.
He played the first two rounds with Clarke and opened with a course record-equalling 62 before giving a masterclass in scrambling in a level par 71 on Friday.
On Sunday he remained incredibly cool under pressure, shrugging off the distraction of a four hour weather delay to almost make a hole-in-one on the 16th and put his approaches on the 17th and 18th holes to close range for three closing birdies.
That gave him a 17 under par total and a one-shot win over Bradley Dredge of Wales, and went a long way towards making his first appearance at The Ryder Cup.
The Ryder Cup theme continues into 2017 as captain Thomas Bjørn returns to his homeland for his 500th European Tour appearance.
Since he first teed it up at the Dimension Data Pro-Am in February 1996, the Great Dane has gone on to seal 15 European Tour wins and record a further 94 top ten finishes. His glittering career also includes three appearances at The Ryder Cup as a player and four outings as a vice captain.
Bjørn’s own pick for vice captain, the 2008 Race to Dubai winner Robert Karlsson of Sweden, will also compete at Himmerland alongside two double Major Champions – German Ryder Cup star Martin Kaymer and golf legend John Daly. The flamboyant American is also a talented musician and will be packing his guitar for a set at the tournament’s accompanying music festival.
There will be a strong Danish challenge with four-time European Tour winner Thorbjørn Olesen and his ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf-winning partner Søren Kjeldson both competing in their home tournament.
Young Italian star Renato Paratore will be aiming for more Scandinavian success after sealing his first European Tour win at the Nordea Masters in Sweden.
Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort’s Backtee Course is hosting Made in Demark for the fourth consecutive year.
The tournament is known for its special atmosphere and passionate supporters, particularly around the dramatic 128 yard uphill par three 16th hole, dubbed ‘Himmerland Hill’ by local fans.
With steep banks horseshoeing a postage stamp two tier green, the natural amphitheatre has space for around 3,500 fans and creates a cauldron of noise for players making the short journey from tee to putting surface.
The Backtee Course is one of three layouts at Himmerland and its most celebrated, having officially re-opened in 2013 following one of the most extensive golf course renovations in Scandinavian history.
Designed by renowned course architect Philip Spogárd, it sits 20km outside of the city of Aalborg in the exposed landscape of northern Jutland. Although it’s not coastal, the course has a links feel and is often windswept, so the 7,382 yards can feel longer.
Did You Know?
• This week Bjørn will become the 34th player to reach 500 appearances and the second Dane to do so following Kjeldsen, who reached the landmark figure two years ago. Stephen Gallacher of Scotland and England’s Anthony Wall also celebrated the milestone in 2017.
• Kjeldsen has been the leading home player at Made in Denmark for each of the last two years, tying for second in 2015 and sharing eighth place last year. Bjørn led the Danish charge in 2014 with a tie for fourth.
• If Pieters’ is successful again this week, he will become the first Belgian in history to retain a European Tour title.
• In last year’s first round Tom Lewis had a chance to make history by shooting the first ever 59 on the European Tour. After reaching the turn in 28, the Englishman was 12 under through 13 holes but eventually signed for an opening 62.
• With that score, Lewis tied Kristoffer Broberg’s course record from 2015, which was also matched by Pieters and Joakim Lagergren on day one.
• The famous 16th hole witnessed two holes-in-one last year, from Karlsson in the opening round and Denmark’s own Sebastian Cappelen on Saturday.
• The inaugural edition of the tournament in 2014 was the first time the European Tour had played an event in Denmark since 2003, when Ian Poulter won the Nordic Open at Simon’s Golf Club.
• Prior to the first staging of Made in Denmark in 2014, Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort hosted the 1998 Navison Open Golf Championship on the European Challenge Tour.