Congratulations to Steve Bamford who picked up a cracking win on Brooks Koepka for the second consecutive US PGA Championship last week as the 29 year-old vaulted back to the summit of the OWGR with his 4th Major victory in his last 8 starts. The change in scheduling clearly didn’t affect the American who flew out of the blocks and led from wire-to-wire to become the first player in history to successfully defend the US Open and US PGA Championship.
The well-documented schedule changes imposed by the PGA Tour this year have understandably had a knock-on effect in Europe with the Made In Denmark seemingly becoming the sacrificial lamb that follows the second Stateside Major, however the field hasn’t suffered at all by its move to May which is to be applauded. Matt Wallace heads the betting this week after silencing any remaining doubters last week in New York by finishing in an impressive tie for 3rd place and instantly earning himself Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour. Before he can even start re-jigging his schedule though he has business to attend to here as the defending champion, having won at Silkeborg Ry Golf Club last autumn which hosted this event last time around.
For course form students, this year’s return to the Himmerland Golf Resort and Spa in Farso will be welcome news as we have renewals from 2014-17 to analyse as well as a smattering of Challenge Tour and Nordic League events that have been staged on this property. A young Thomas Bjorn won his first professional event around these parts on the Challenge Tour way back in 1995 before a 2012 renovation saw every green re-laid with A4 bentgrass and every bunker re-modelled, so only those who have played since that date have any practical experience of the track in its current guise with the notable exception of Lucas Bjerregaard who’s attached to the club and plays the course regularly when at home.
Backtee Course, Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort, Farsø, Denmark. Designer: Jan Cedermolm, re-designed by Philip Spogaard, 2012; Par: 71; Fairways: Bentgrass/Festuca; Rough: Rye/Festuca; Greens: A4 Bentgrass; Stimp: 11ft.
Course Overview. From its tips the Backtee Course can stretch to nearly 7,400 yards for its par of 71, however the tournament yardage in 2017 was just 6,851 yards which meant less of a penalty for the shorter hitters and organisers have the choice of 5 tee boxes on each hole to flex the yardage as they see fit.
An exposed, inland track with water in play on 5 of the holes and linksy in style, the main defence is the breeze in what is often a windy part of the world – the forecast is for moderately breezy (15 mph) conditions at times and any wind tends to be accentuated on this type of exposed track, however at those levels the course should still encourage a reasonably low score.
In terms of the layout itself, 5 of the par-4s measure under 400 yards plus there’s a 128 yard par-3, however the par-5 11th measures well over 600 yards making it a 3-shotter for the vast majority of the field. The par-5 4th and 7th holes played by far the easiest of the 18 in 2017 and produced 40 eagles between them over the course of the 4 days. The greens are excellent quality bentgrass that run very true and they tend to favour the better putters on Tour.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Made In Denmark that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event. As previously noted, we’re back at Himmerland this year which hosted this event for the first 4 years of its existence, so the results from last season should be considered accordingly: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Current/Event Form Stats
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2018: Matt Wallace, 40/1; 2017, Julian Suri: 60/1; 2016: Thomas Pieters: 12/1; 2015: David Horsey, 80/1; 2014: Marc Warren, 30/1.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Farsø is here. Largely cloudy with occasional sunny spells are expected this week with temperatures struggling to get much higher than the low 60s Fahrenheit. Winds will be moderate at 10-15mph each day.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the winners from the first 3 years played here at Himmerland gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
- 2016: Thomas Pieters (-17). 57.1% fairways (29th), 66.7% greens in regulation (41st), 70.8% scrambling (5th), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2015: David Horsey (-13). 50% fairways (52nd), 76.4% greens in regulation (8th), 52.9% scrambling (38th), 1.69 putts per GIR (10th).
- 2014: Marc Warren (-9). 44.6% fairways (61st), 68.1% greens in regulation (16th), 56.5% scrambling (31st), 1.67 putts per GIR (3rd).
No stats were captured for Julian Suri in 2017 as he was plying his trade predominantly on the Challenge Tour at the time.
From what we’ve seen over the 4 renewals, Driving Accuracy is seemingly less important than some tracks and the course neither alienates the shorter hitters nor overly favours the bombers – the common denominator from the stats above is primarily the ability to putt well on these slick bentgrass greens. Although the stats are patchier for 2017, of the 7 players with recorded stats who finished inside the top 9, all of them ranked inside the top 27 for putting average included in which we had 1st, 3rd, 7th and 9th place finishers in that stat.
Event Winners – Incoming Form
Marc Warren arrived in Denmark 4 years ago in decent form having finished 3rd at the Scottish Open, 39th at the Open Championship then a creditable 15th at the US PGA Championship. He’d been putting consistently well for a few weeks, ranking inside the top-20 for putts per GIR on each of his last 4 starts and found enough greens on the week in windy conditions to compile a winning score. David Horsey’s form the year after was less obvious having recorded 4 top-20 finishes in the season, however he too had been putting reasonably well recording 3 top-20 putting performances out of his most recent 4 cuts made.
Thomas Pieters was 2nd favourite for this title 3 years ago having arrived after finishes of 4th at The Olympics and 2nd the week before when defending in the Czech Republic and his chance was a fairly obvious one, whereas Julian Suri was still relatively under-the-radar as he was still playing predominantly on the Challenge Tour, however a runner-up finish in Portugal and 16th on his previous start – where he was 4th going into the final day – suggested that he wasn’t far away from winning at this kind of level.
Matt Wallace arrived in Denmark 12 months ago following a disappointing 36th in the Czech Republic when chasing an unlikely Ryder Cup qualification. With his only remaining chance to win here and impress an on-looking Thomas Bjorn, the Englishman did just that by birdieing 5 of his final 6 holes to make a 4-man play-off which he won with birdies at both the first and second extra hole. Wallace had already won the Indian Open and BMW International Open in the season:
- 2018: Matt Wallace: MC/3/20/51/MC/1/MC/MC/MC/MC/19/36
- 2017: Julian Suri: 31/1/3/23/11/MC/27/23/MC/16
- 2016: Thomas Pieters: 28/26/MC/27/16/29/30/86/4/2
- 2015: David Horsey: 42/15/MC/MC/38/11/MC/MC/66/33
- 2014: Marc Warren: 33/28/16/MC/29/MC/26/3/29/15
With limited course history, performances of the 4 Himmerland winners on this track prior to their respective wins are sparse with only Thomas Pieters (finished 35th) and David Horsey (39th) with any tangible experience around these parts prior to their wins.
The four Made In Denmark events we’ve witnessed so far here at Himmerland have all pretty much boiled down to who’s putted best on the week and I see little reason to oppose that angle this week. Better putters, or those who have shown signs of life with the flat stick in the recent past, are favoured this week and with a reasonably breezy forecast on a course that’s exposed to the elements, I’d favour a player’s performance on and around the greens this week over tee-to-green power and/or excellence.
My selections are as follows: