The 2014 Race to Dubai is off and running and first out of the blocks is a young Dane by the name of Morten Ørum Madsen.
With just the one season and 28 European Tour events under his belt, Madsen captured his maiden title with a two stroke victory in the South African Open hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni to become only the third Continental European to lift the second oldest open championship in world golf.
It could easily have been a Danish double on Sunday as Thomas Björn challenged for the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf, eventually finishing second to Jason Day in Australia, and while it was not to be for the elder statesman, Denmark still had plenty to cheer about as Madsen became the ninth Dane to win on The European Tour.
“To have the SA Open as my first victory on the European Tour is extremely special,” he said. “If you look down the list of names that have won this tournament in the past there are Major champions and really great champions all around, so it’s an honour.”
The home Sunshine Tour players dominated the co-sanctioned events last season, Scotland’s Scott Jamieson being the lone European winner during the last campaign when he too won the opening event of the season.
“When we Europeans come down to South Africa if can be difficult to compete as the South African players are more used to the conditions,” he said. “But from the very first time I played down here I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
It has been a rapid rise through the ranks for the 25 year old, who was part of the Danish amateur team who finished second to France in the 2010 Eisenhower Trophy before progressing through the Challenge Tour and then onto The European Tour.
A year ago he was one of three Danish Challenge Tour graduates, finishing in 19th position in the Rankings, behind compatriots Andreas Hartø (third) and JB Hansen (fourth), before improving his category by claiming the 19th card at Qualifying School.
Madsen’s rookie season on The European Tour included five top 20 finishes and a tied 28th place in his US Open Championship debut as he finished the season in 81st place in The Race to Dubai, a commendable performance which in another year could well have made him a strong contender for the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year title. Instead, the award went to the Peter Uihlein, the player who denied Madsen his maiden title in Madeira a few months earlier.
Bring on a new season and Madsen is a European Tour Champion. In beating the 2011 Masters Tournament Champion Charl Schwartzel among others, Madsen has proven he can cut it with the best in the world.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the 2014 Race to Dubai,” he said. “I hoped to come here to South Africa to build a solid foundation to take into the new year. But to start with a win – I couldn’t have wished for more. It’s onwards and upwards now.”
His goal is to follow in the footsteps of his hero Björn by reliving that winning feeling many times over.
“He has always been my idol,” he has said of Björn. “Being from the same club and all the success he has had on The European Tour, everything about how he approaches the game and how he works and how he prepares for tournaments - I've always been very inspired by him so I try and emulate some of those things and apply them to my game.”