Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Made In Denmark Tips 2019

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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:

Benjamin Hebert 2pts EW 50/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Matt Wallace heads the betting this week in Denmark after last week’s prominent performance at Bethpage Black. Although the Englishman never got close enough to Brooks Koepka to seriously look like he was going to win, it’s to his great credit that he maintained his position over the weekend to record his best Major Championship finish. Despite those mental and physical exertions, he’s honouring his commitment to return to Denmark as the reigning champion after September’s flying finish at Silkeborg Ry in this event gave Thomas Bjorn a late wildcard decision to make, however how much the intense 29 year-old has left in the tank is debatable. Aside from the justified focus on his performance last week, his head will bound to be spinning after securing temporary membership of the PGA Tour thanks to his efforts and perhaps that, coupled with the travel and media commitments he’ll encounter as soon as he arrives here in Denmark, will take their toll on his performance this week.

Thomas Pieters is a course winner here at Himmerland Golf and Spa and he too arrives after a notable performance in New York State, however in his case it’s more to do with the impressive recovery he made from a disastrous start as opposed to a finish as lofty as Wallace’s. Doubts still remain in my mind about his consistency though and at around 14/1 I’m happy to leave him alone also. A case could be made for Jordan Smith who’s been hitting greens for fun of late; similarly you could argue that a buoyant Lucas Bjerregaard who celebrated a hole-in-one on his 71st hole at Bethpage and knows this property better than anyone should be backed, however both he and Pieters will need to quickly adjust their mindset and body clock if they’re going to contend this week.

Erik Van Rooyen will also have his supporters this week after finishing 8th at the US PGA and if it weren’t for a few lingering doubts about the health of Thomas Detry following his precautionary withdrawal at the China Open due to a neck issue, then I’d have been sorely tempted to back the Belgian for his maiden European Tour victory. Instead though I’m backing another European Tour maiden whose shown enough promise and form with the putter of late to warrant support and that’s Benjamin Hebert.

The 32 year-old has 6 Challenge Tour victories to his name, however it’s success at Europe’s top level that he so craves and he came closest yet in China when losing out in a play-off to Mikko Korhonen a little over a fortnight ago. There’s no shame in losing to a birdie in a play-off, however it was still a bitter pill to swallow for the Frenchman who to his credit had birdied the 72nd hole in regulation to force extra holes. His 20-under total that week included a back-9 on Saturday of just 28 strokes to rubber-stamp how well he’s been playing of late and his 1.62 putting average was the best he’d recorded on Tour for over 12 months. 7th in Malaysia 2 starts before signalled some intent ahead of his China effort and coupling all of that with Himmerland course form of 14/13/6 points me in the direction of a strong each-way bet given the price and each-way terms on offer. RESULT: T51

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Pablo Larrazabal 1.5pts EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

The recent breakthrough success of Jorge Campillo may just inspire Pablo Larrazabal on to success here in Denmark in breezy conditions that suit his game. The likeable Spaniard has shown glimpses of form over the past few weeks having sat 3rd after day 1 in India, 7th after day 1 in Morocco then finished his British Masters campaign off with a joint best-of-the-day round of 66 to end up in a tie for 8th place. 7th for scrambling and 7th for putts per GIR was an impressive performance on and around the greens at Hillside and that same skillset could well be key to a contending performance here in Denmark this week, particularly if the breeze does pick up to 15mph at times as expected.

The Barcelona man has an excellent record in nearby Germany (BMW International Open victories in 2011 & 2015, plus 5 further top-10 finishes in the country) as well as in Holland (3 top-10 finishes from his last 5 KLM Open starts) to suggest that he can hit the ground running in northern-European conditions on course debut. Bentgrass greens are the 36 year-old’s best putting surface and with the breeze likely to take the edge off of driving accuracy stats for the whole field, he’ll be approaching this week on a more level playing field. RESULT: T4

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George Coetzee 1pt EW 100/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Coral

We all have players who have let us down from a betting perspective in the past and, for me, George Coetzee is one of those who I’ve tended to avoid backing for a while now, however the price on offer this week coupled with some exciting recent form has peaked my interest once again. A missed cut at Hillside after 6 weeks of downtime has seen his price drift out to a backable level, however prior to that he’d started to show some promising form with 2nd at the Qatar Masters (7th for GIR), 17th in Kenya (8th for GIR, 7th for Putts Per GIR) and 6th at the Indian Open (6th for Putts Per GIR).

Life’s good for the 32 year-old at present having got engaged during his time off following that effort in India and, having spent his time celebrating and fishing, it was no great surprise to see him miss the cut on his return, however it’s back to business now and given the way that this track sets up I suspect that the 4-time European Tour winner will take to it readily. A breezy track with a linksy feel should suit a player with such a stellar record in Qatar (5 top-8 finishes from 8 starts including 2 runner-up finishes), however the shorter dimensions here at Himmerland should take the pressure off of Coetzee’s driving to a degree, allowing him to excel from the second shot and in. RESULT: MC

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Ashun Wu 1pt EW 150/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Finally, I backed Ashun Wu on his last start at Hillside where he promptly missed the cut, however on another track that suits and a few points longer in the betting, I’m happy to give him another chance here. Prior to that, 5th at the China Open where he led at halfway courtesy of opening rounds of 66 and 65 suggests that his game isn’t far away at all, and this short layout suits the Chinese star nicely.

It’s easy to forget that the 33 year-old is now a 3-time European Tour winner following his win in Holland in September, which came on another track with some shared characteristics. He’d putted well immediately prior to that at the European Open to give him some flat stick confidence and although lightning didn’t strike twice after producing a 1.60 putting average in China on his penultimate start, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt seeing as it was his home Open and his focus may not have been 100% on the following week’s event once he’d performed so prominently in front of friends and family.

23rd here at Himmerland on his only attempt is encouraging as he sat 6th going into the weekend after a 2nd round 65 – that came with incoming strokeplay form of MC/MC/MC/MC/66, so although we know he’s an inconsistent sort, you can argue quite rightly that he’s shown much better form in the lead up to this week’s event and could surprise here once again. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:05BST 20.5.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.