The change in date of the PGA Championship has had a knock-on effect for the European Tour.
This week would usually be the flagship BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in England but they were never going to play that prestigious tournament straight on the back of a major on American soil.
Instead, Wentworth moves to September and the Made In Denmark is moved forward from its usual August slot to May.
While that could change the dynamic a little, gamers are helped by the fact that the event returns to its original venue, Himmerland, after being staged at Silkeborg in 2018.
It means we have four years of course form to go on for an event which only debuted on the European Tour in 2014.
As does this week’s defending champion Matt Wallace, the only European to crack the top seven at Bethpage.
Re-opened in 2012 after a re-design, Himmerland is a short, par 71 measuring 6,851 yards. Undulating and exposed, the big ‘wow’ factor is provided by the 16th, a 128-yard par-3 framed by ‘Himmerland Hill’. Fans sit on steep banks surrounding the two-tiered postage stamp green, creating an amphitheatre which generates raucous noise akin to the 16th at TPC Scottsdale. It follows good birdie opportunities at 14 and 15 so offers the chance for late momentum to continue. However, drama still awaits at the 461-yard par-4 18th which played as the hardest hole (4.44) in 2017.
Winners and stats at Himmerland
2017 -19 Julian Suri (No stats recorded. No, really.)
2016 -17 Thomas Pieters (DD 4th, DA 29th, GIR 41st, PA 2nd)
2015 -13 David Horsey (DD 36th, DA 52nd, GIR 8th, PA 10th)
2014 -9 Marc Warren (DD 8th, DA 61st, GIR 16th, PA 3rd)
Notes: Evidence is sparse, especially as we have nothing for Julian Suri. But hitting it long rather than straight seems to work and Warren, Horsey and Pieters had strong putting stats.
It’s a mix of sun, rain and cloud all week while temperatures are struggling to climb beyond the mid-to-high 50s. And the wind will make it feel even more chilly. Thursday is windy throughout at around 18mph while it could gust up to 20mph+ in Sunday’s closer.
Thomas Bjorn (2014): “You have to have an all-round game to succeed. It is not a bomber’s paradise but it’s not by any means a tactician’s golf course either. Certain elements of the course will suit one player, and certain elements will suit another. So it is an all-round golf course and you have to been on your game.”
Lucas Bjerregaard (2014): “I play Himmerland nearly every day when I’m home. The facilities don’t get better than those we have here. It’s always a little windy here so I’m used to that.”
Morten Orum Madsen (2014): “It’s not a super tricky course so if you get some good practice in, you should know how to play it. I have played it in different winds though, which could help me. The wind will play a big role in how the tournament plays.”
Thorbjorn Olesen (2017): “From the start there was a lot of people and it was just an honour and a pleasure to walk around out there. I tried to keep my head down a little bit and keep myself in the zone. When you play in your home country you understand what everybody says, it's a little bit different."
David Horsey (2017): “I have great memories of this place and it always helps when you return to a venue where you have played well in the past and that suits your eye. This is one of those places for me and it's always one of the first events I put on my schedule at the start of every season."
Soren Kjeldsen (2017): “It's special for me because it's sort of my area, I have a lot in common with people from this area. For me it really is like coming home. It's a double-edged sword. This year I probably felt a little more relaxed coming into the tournament but the last three years every time has been a little bit of a nightmare coming into it because I really desperately want to play well.”
Julian Suri (2017): “I like this course, the greens are in good shape and you've got to go and make birdies.”
The Leading Contenders
If we ever think Wallace is getting ahead of himself by first targeting the world’s top 10 so from there he can challenge for World No. 1, a tied third in the PGA shows he continues to walk the walk. Also T6 at Bay Hill and runner-up in the British Masters two weeks ago, the Englishman is up to 25th in the OWGR. He produced a brilliant late charge to win this event at Silkeborg last year when under the pressure of trying to secure a Ryder Cup wildcard while he was T6 on his only start at Himmerland in 2017.
Pieters also has the talent to be a top ten player but has stalled in recent seasons having made this tournament one of his three wins in a 12-month spell from August 2015 to August 2016. But there are some encouraging signs of late. The Belgian finished T23 at the Byron Nelson and recovered from an awful start to occupy that exact same position at Bethpage after closing with a 69 in tough conditions. Paved the way victory here in 2016 with an opening 62 although only T35 and MC either side.
After racking up top tens galore to finish 13th on last season’s Race to Dubai, the local man is having a blast in America too. He took Tiger’s scalp on the way to the semis of the WGC-Dell Match Play, was T12 at the Honda, T21 at the Masters and T16 at last week’s PGA when shooting a hole-in-one at his penultimate hole. T6 at Silkeborg last year, he’s only 2-for-4 at Himmerland but the best of those (T28) came on his most recent visit in 2017.
Had to sit and watch the action at Bethpage after failing to qualify but probably felt he could have done some damage after some hot form (7-14-5-6) on the European Tour in his last four starts. His GIR figures have been superb during that run and the Englishman is up to 29th on the Race to Dubai. Himmerland form? None. This is his course debut although he did take T20 at Silkeborg last year.
One of several slightly under-the-radar European Tour regulars to show up well at Bethpage, the South African finished in a tie for eighth to land his first top ten at a major. We shouldn’t have been too surprised though as he’s a two-time runner-up this year (Qatar Masters and Trophee Hassan II) while he now has four top eights in his last seven worldwide starts. Also T5 in this event at Silkeborg last year although this is his first time at Himmerland.
Currently being outshone by fellow Dane Bjerregaard although he did take T21 at Augusta National and played all four rounds at Bethpage, a closing 77 relegating him to T64. The Dane attracts huge galleries in his home event and has three top 20s in five appearances with a best of T7 in the inaugural event in in 2014. Just a sense that he’s not quite on it although inspiration could kick in here.
He’s been an absolute stud in regular European Tour events with a win (Trophee Hassan II), two seconds and two thirds since the start of March. The Spaniard found the PGA Championship a step too far (77-73 at Bethpage) but will be back in his comfort zone here. Course form is a slight concern but his finishes of 61-MC came a few years back (2014 and 2015) when he wasn’t the player he is now. Currently 14th in GIR and SG: Putting.
Consistency isn’t really a word we associate with the enigmatic Frenchman but it applies to his form in the last few months. Starting with T18 at the Saudi International, he’s been outside the top 30 just once in seven starts and just needs a big weekend somewhere to turn the promise to a victory. Dubuisson has played Himmerland just once, taking T31 in 2017.
Made an early exit at the PGA but probably just needs some golf under his belt after such a light schedule so far this season. Started off well in the Middle East with T16 in Abu Dhabi and T7 in Dubai but we’ve not seen much of him since. Westwood is making his first start at Himmerland and may feel he should be the defending champion having had a golden chance to win at Silkeborg last year before losing in a play-off.
Still awaiting that first win the but the Belgian is rewarding gamers with some good finishes in recent times with T9 at the Trophee Hassan, T11 at the Qatar Masters and T15 at the British Masters. Talking of top 15s he has two out of two in this event via T14 at Himmerland in 2017 and T7 at Silkeborg last year. Third for Putting Average at Hillside on his last start.