Should there ever be a LIV Denmark, then expect an event title with random capital letters, a short hole measuring less yardage than the 10th at Pirates Cove, and a raucous local crowd.
Instead, this week’s version of the Made In HimmerLand has a par-3 (16th) that can be shortened to around 79 yards, and a crowd… Exposed to the wind, the circa 7000-yard track offers links players a chance to step up one again, with big nods to Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Crans.
Two-time Himmerland victor Bernd Wiesberger brings all those to the fore, as does last year’s champion Oliver Wilson.
Behind those, the ’21 runner-up, Guido Migliozzi, was unlucky to be beaten by a lengthy Rozner putt in Qatar, and 2022 Doha victor, Ewen Ferguson, was only done by an extraordinary final few putts by the 2014 Alfred Dunhill Links winner.
Home favourite Thorbjorn Olesen has proven popular, being backed down to favouritism. It’s not hard to see why, but no home player has won this since the event moved onto the main tour in 2014. Furthermore, he faces a tough field here.
Next to him, Nicolai Hojgaard will probably find this less of an advantage to his length than he would like, and has three missed-cuts from four starts around here. Of the others, Alex Bjork never wins, and Yannik Paul has been going up-and-down leaderboards like a yo-yo. It’s a roulette of a market.
Although well-backed, Ewen Ferguson is surely worthy of strong support after hinting all year that his third trophy is imminent.
It is just 14 months since the inexperienced Scot threw away a final day lead in Kenya before winning a grind in Qatar, a perfect correlation if history is to be believed.
In August, the 26-year-old waltzed home with a stunning display at Galgorm Castle, and would have made it three for the year but were it not for an indescribably brilliant display on the Danish dance floor by Oliver Wilson, whose only previous victory was the Alfred Dunhill Links.
Fergy’s last eight starts have yielded consecutive top four finishes in South Africa, 10th at the KLM and 14th at Green Eagle, an event at which he held a place in the top-10 for 54 holes.
Last week he gave us a thrill at The Belfry, flying through the field on payday and giving himself a chance to nab the clubhouse lead at the last. He was aggressive with the birdie putt, missed the return, and backers had to settle for a place pay-out.
He told The Scotsman‘s Martin Dempster, “I was obviously disappointed with the last, but I went for it – I tried to make it.”
Interestingly, he mentioned Olesen’s efforts at the 2022 British Masters.
“I was thinking of Thorbjorn Olesen from last year with his putt that swung in and thought I could do it. Obviously just hit it a bit too hard but I wasn’t even thinking about the next putt as I’d been two-putting all day due to my pace being so good.”
The Scot lost it a bit with his irons last week – at least, until the final day – but, otherwise, continues to churn out quality figures for approaches (top-20 for his previous six completed starts) and tee-to-green (plus figures for all six).
He comes here with confidence, a knowledge he can win in blustery conditions, and perhaps the memory of some of Wilson’s putts from 12 months ago.
If you want a mercurial player around what we might describe as a mercurial track, then Pablo Larrazabal fits the bill.
Rather like Ferguson last week, it’s tough to ignore proven winners at prices that are simply too big.
Whilst compatriot Adrian Otaegui is almost half the price after an eye-catching effort in the Netherlands, Pablo continues to rev it up in his 40th year.
Pablo’s nine trophies include victories at Le Golf National, Abu Dhabi and Korea, alongside both the ISPS in Spain and the recent KLM win. However, he left Otaegui empty-handed when the going got tough.
There is plenty of forgiveness off the tee this week, which should set the Spaniard up to attack the pins, something he carried out with aplomb in India, Korea and lately, in Germany.
Yes, we need to forgive his latest efforts around the greens, but they are unusually poor for him given his top scrambling efforts all year.
Three attempts at this event include a fourth and 19th place, whilst missing the cut last season on the number, following a poor run of form.
Expect better from a player with two wins from three starts at this level.
Guido Migliozzi let a few punters down last week.
Backed at all rates from an early 90/1, the Italian stud looked like justifying that support after hitting the front with one round to go. Sadly for us all, it rather fell apart on Sunday, where a 77 saw him fall into the abyss.
After three days of positive figures, the 26-year-old lost more than five shots from tee-to-green on the final day, something that maybe contributes to him being 50/1-plus this week rather than the 35/1 he very much could be.
However, that showed yet another step in the reincarnation of the three-time winner on tour, following an encouraging 10th at the BMW in Germany, a mid-season 14th in Korea and 23rd in Japan.
It looks as if Migliozzi is doing it for 54 holes – even if we don’t know which 54 – and, despite the off days, has recorded plus figures for approach and tee-to-green in all six completed starts this year.
He isn’t far off, can win under the cosh or when it’s a birdie-fest, and has a course history of 35/2/33.
I looked at perennial links specialists Eddie Pepperell and the Matts, Southgate and Jordan, but I’m not convinced they can get it done, even with the latter’s very recent qualification for The Open, so stay local for the final pick.
If there is to be a player that the home contingent can get behind, maybe it will be Marcus Helligkilde, the 2021 Challenge Tour champion.
It’s fair to say the 26-year-old has not quite lived up to expectations after a formidable development level, but he clearly enjoys things here.
Four starts at Himmerland have seen the Dane record a pair of top-five finishes at Nordic Tor level, and 25th and eighth on the DPWT.
Helligkilde’s initial appearance at this level was pedestrian enough before a final round 64, before beating that with an opening round of 63 in 2022.
He loves playing around here, telling reporters after that opener, “Eight-under is always good and especially back home here in Denmark. I love this place at HimmerLand, such a great atmosphere here and I’m very pleased with the round today as well as the support on the course from all my friends.”
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I would say 90 per cent of the people on the course today, I know them. I’m not a superstar like the (Hojgaard) twins just yet, so it’s very nice to have people come out and cheer me on, I love it.”
12th in Qatar and at the Dutch Open read well enough, as do the back-to-back finishes on the strangely combined PGA/DPWT events of the Barracuda and Barbasol.
Helligkilde has suffered with injury in the past, and that might be a slight concern, but this year, it’s easy to forget his early-season form at Abu, Ras and Singapore, whilst top-15 in Japan and the standout runner-up finish in Korea would do at this level.