Made In Himmerland Preview, Picks & Analysis
WHAT used to be called the Made in Denmark makes its return this week after a two-year Covid-enforced break and will now be known as the Made In Himmerland. It hardly rolls off the tongue but, weather permitting, Himmerland is a spectacular course that should serve up a feast of birdies. Coming the week after the PGA Championship, it doesn’t exactly boast the strongest field you have ever seen but it does provide another opportunity for some of the European Tour’s lesser lights to tuck a victory under their belts.
South African golfers have enjoyed something of a purple patch in recent weeks, and Wilco Nienaber and Brandon Stone will be looking to continue that.
Nienaber won the recent Dimension Data Pro-Am in his native South Africa. It was a Challenge Tour event and he defeated Henric Sturehed in a play-off. The pair were tied on 19 under par after 72 holes at Fancourt Golf Estate, but Nienaber triumphed on the third extra trip up the 18th hole as Sturehed was unable to match the South African’s third successive par.
Nienaber posted a closing seven under par round of 65, which included a birdie on the last hole to draw level with Sturehed, and his victory completes a clean sweep for local players in the European Challenge Tour’s South African Swing - which has been co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour - following wins for Brandon Stone in the Limpopo Championship and JC Ritchie at the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open.
The 21-year-old was overwhelmed after his victory which, in addition to collecting Road to Mallorca ranking points, earned him an exemption into the WGC – FedEx St. Jude Invitational later this year.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “I definitely forgot how it felt to win. I’m a little bit emotional but I just know it’s the hard work I put in. It’s a special week. I wanted to win this event and I’ve done so. It was a little tougher than I wanted it to be but I pulled it through in the end.
“I had a target to get to minus 20 and I did mess it up on nine. I felt like I gave it away on nine. I was in a good spot and I don’t know what I tried but I messed it up and ended up in the water and made six. That was basically two shots lost. I knew I wanted to make six [birdies] on the back nine and I made five, so six would have been enough and it would have been a lot less stress. I like to play attacking golf and I needed to win it. He played so well, I played with him yesterday as well and he was just holing everything he sees.”
As good as that felt, Nienaber is desperate to land his maiden European Tour title. He is one of the biggest hitters on the planet - at the Joburg Open last November he hit his drive at the 597-yard fourth hole an astonishing 439 yards. He eventually finished second after having had a great chance to win. He is still learning his craft and many pundits tip him for great things - your correspondent among them.
Stone is something of an enigma. His swing is a thing of beauty and he possesses a wonderful temperament but just three European Tour wins is a pretty poor return for a man of his obvious talents. And the most recent of those came at the Scottish Open in 2018. However, the 28-year-old did win the recent Limpopo Championship in South Africa and will return to Europe with his confidence high.
And nobody will arrive in Denmark with more confidence than 48-year-old Richard Bland. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as he won the British Masters at The Belfry to became the European Tour’s oldest first-time winner at his 478th attempt. The most remarkable feature of the Englishman’s week was the fact that he recorded just one bogey all week. He said afterwards that he felt a win was coming and said he believes that it could be the first of many. It will be fascinating to see how he performs.
Bernd Wiesberger is the defending champion. He played in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island last week and most definitely has an eye on securing a place in Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup team. A seven-time winner, the 35-year-old Austrian has had mixed fortunes this season, the highlight coming with a tied-fourth finish at the RSM Classic - but that was way back in November. However, Wiesberger has a happy knack of not missing many cuts and there is always a sense that is very best form is just around the corner. And, of course, he will return to Denmark with some fond memories.
It is also encouraging to see Thorbjorn Olesen starting to turn things around. The Dane’s off-course troubles are well documented but there have finally been some signs that he is able to focus on his game again, with a couple of outstanding performances during the European Tour’s Tenerife Swing.
And it is surely only a matter of time before Matthias Schwab makes the big breakthrough. He is churning out top-10 finishes for fun and the 26-year-old Austrian looks like the real deal. When he wins his first title it is a safe bet that the floodgates will open.
It was won in 2015 by David Horsey, in 2016 by Thomas Pieters, in 2017 by Julian Suri, in 2018 by Matt Wallace and in 2019 by Bernd Wiesberger.
Himmerland is a par 71 that measures just 6,751 yards. There are plenty of hills and trees and the field will almost certainly have wind to contend with. This is where Thomas Bjorn achieved his first victory, way back in 1995.
Thorbjorn Olesen is slowly getting back to his best. He finished fifth at the Lopesan Open and tied 12th at the Tenerife Open and played all four rounds at The Belfry. And his stroke average of 70.47 is highly encouraging. Richard Bland’s victory at The Belfry really shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise - ahead of that win, he finished eighth at the Lopsen Open and 27th at the Canary Islands Championship. Matthias Schwab is due a win - his last five appearances on the European Tour have seen him finish seventh, seventh, eighth, 33rd and 11th.
Wilco Nienaber. Brilliant prospect
Bernd Wiesberger. Defending champion, with some great memories
Brandon Stone. Glorious golf swing
Five to Follow:
Wilco Nienaber. Nobody hits it further
Bernd Wiesberger. Determined to make the Ryder Cup team
Brandon Stone. Flying high after recent win on home soil
Thorbjorn Olesen. Almost there
Matthias Schwab. Must win soon
Andrew Johnston. Fit, healthy and happy again
Richard Mansell. Challenge Tour graduate finding his feet in the big time
Mikko Korhonen. Encouraging performance at The Belfry
Lucas Bjerregaard. Looking to recapture past glories
Haotong Li. Needs a big week
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Tags: european tour