Made in Denmark Preview, Picks & Analysis
Matt Wallace will defend his Made in Denmark title at Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort in Farso, with the tournament being brought forward from its traditional August date. It will take the place in the calendar traditionally held by the BMW PGA Championship in England (which is now being played later in the season), and follows the US PGA Championship at Bethpage in the revamped global golfing calendar.
The move is part of a five-year deal which will see Made in Denmark secured on The Race to Dubai until 2023, and one which will see the tournament’s prize fund rise significantly to €3m, with the winner pocketing an impressive €500,000.
Flemming Astrup, Made in Denmark promoter, said: “When we got this outstanding opportunity, we could not decline. The new date is great, and we are excited to be offered this week in 2019. The fact the tournament has now moved to the date occupied by the event at Wentworth, shows how quickly Made in Denmark has become a highly regarded tournament on the European Tour.”
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “This is a further boost not just for Made in Denmark itself but for golf in Denmark as a whole. We sincerely thank Lars Larsen, Chairman of the Made in Denmark Golf Trust, and Flemming Astrup for their passion and their commitment in making this happen. We have seen over the years how the tournament has developed, not just for the players but for the thousands of spectators who flock to Made in Denmark every year. Everyone at the European Tour looks forward to returning to Himmerland.”
It is a big week for Wallace but one that will surely cause him some mixed emotions. Despite winning his third tournament of the season last year he was overlooked for Europe’s Ryder Cup team. It is something that is unlikely to happen again, with the Englishman now firmly established in the world’s top 50. He won in dramatic fashion in 2019, prevailing after a four-man playoff.
Wallace birdied five of his last six holes in a 67 to get to 19 under alongside fellow Englishmen Steven Brown, Jonathan Thomson and Lee Westwood before birdies on both extra trips up the last handed him a fourth European Tour win at Silkeborg Ry Golf Club. Brown and Wallace both put their approaches inside six feet on the first playoff hole for a pair of birdies before Wallace went even closer on the next with Brown only able to make a par.
In the battle for a place in Thomas Bjørn's team to take on the United States at Le Golf National, Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen secured the final automatic place in the team. Many pundits felt that Wallace had surely done enough to earn one of Bjorn’s wild-card picks, but the captain had other ideas and Wallace was overlooked. He made no secret of his disappointment and vowed that he would do his utmost to ensure that he claims one of the automatic places in the team for the 2020 match in the United States.
Johan Edfors is the only other player to win three times in a Ryder Cup year and not make the team in 2006 and Wallace clearly believed he had done enough. “I stepped up to the mark and showed him exactly what I'm about,” he said. “I set myself positions where I have to do things and, more often than not, I get it done. I'm very fortunate to have done it when I needed to in a few tournaments now. When my back's against the wall, I don't shy away from pushing myself off there.”
Although it is serious business out there, the atmosphere in Denmark is always something a little special and Westwood summed it up perfectly when, with his girlfriend Helen on the bag, he said: “It's a great week when we come here. I was lucky enough to have played well in 2018, which is a huge help, obviously. I played lovely, hit a lot of good shots and was a bit unlucky in the play-off. We had great fun out there, it's been brilliant. It's lovely to have your girlfriend on the bag and the week was really light-hearted and I was doing all my own yardages. Just fun from start to finish.” That performance was the catalyst for Westwood to go on and win the Nedbank Challenge and his form has consistently improved ever since.
It was won in 2014 by Marc Warren, in 2015 by David Horsey, in 2016 by Thomas Pieters, in 2017 by Julian Suri. Pieters’ success in 2016 clinched his place in the Ryder Cup team, where he performed heroics in a losing cause as a rookie. But Warren and Horsey provide a salutary lesson that winning a golf tournament does not necessarily guarantee a continued road to riches. Both men have struggled horribly in recent seasons, with their focus turned to maintaining their playing privileges rather than seeing their names on leaderboards. It was Horsey’s fourth win and Warren’s third - and Warren found himself in the top in the world rankings as a result of that performance. At one point he even managed to get inside the top 50, which meant he would look forward to playing in all the majors. Now? He languishes in 492nd place. After an opening round of 78 at the British Masters he was disqualified. This was on top of three missed cuts, a best finish this season of tied 24th at the South African Open and total prize money of a paltry £30,000.
Horsey, on the other hand, has shown signs of a return to form. He missed two cuts early in the year but was 11th in Abu Dhabi and 12th in Oman. He is still only 34 years old (Warren is 38) and will believe that his best years may still lie ahead of him. Horsey adores this tournament and enjoys the unique atmosphere in Denmark. It may just be enough to kick-start his season and his career once again.
In truth, Pieters is another who has failed to kick on as he might have been expected to do. He is one of the best ball strikers in the game but he is incredibly hard on himself, setting impossibly high standards. And he just doesn’t seem to play enough golf. Most pundits (your correspondent included) believe that the Belgian has everything it takes to win majors but before that can happen he needs to rediscover the consistency that brought him to our attention in the first place. And you just sense that he is one of those golfers who also needs to learn to count to 10 after a poor shot.
What the local fans want to see, of course, is a victory for Lucas Bjerregaard, who has taken his career to a different level this year with a stunning performance at the Dell Technologies WGC Match Play, where he finished fourth and showed the world just how good a player he is; something that those who have followed him in Europe have known for quite some time. He was also 21st at The Masters. The Dane will surely be lifted by playing in front of a passionate home crowd who will cheer his every move. Golf in Denmark is in a good place just now, with Olesen having also consistently proved himself on the biggest stage. One can only imagine the atmosphere should these two be going head to head coming down the stretch in the final round.
Thomas Pieters. Must win again soon, surely?
Kurt Kitayama. Enjoying a fantasy season
Bernd Wiesberger. Too good to keep struggling
Thomas Pieters. Needs to find some confidence
Kurt Kitayama. Couldn’t have had a better start to the season
Bernd Wiesberger. Battling back to fitness and form
Lee Westwood. Still one of the best from tee to green
Alex Levy. Can produce incredible bursts of low scoring
Matt Wallace. Now a world-class performer
Lucas Bjerregaard. Would be a hugely popular winner
Mikko Korhonen. Joining a long list of top Scandinavian golfers
Aaron Rai. Looking to kick on after first win
David Horsey. Showing some encouraging signs
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