Next Race Newspaper
Free Bets
My Account

Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Peerless Pieters can dazzle large crowds and retain title

Olesen could thrive in his homeland

Thomas Pieters is in a different league to most of the field
1 of 1

Tournament starts 6.30am Thursday
Live on Sky Sports from 10am

Palmer's top tip
Thomas Pieters 8-1

Superstar in the making, Thomas Pieters, is not eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs as a Special Temporary Member of the US Tour. The Belgian bomber needed to notch a Stateside victory this year to get his piece of the FedEx cash cow.

The playoffs' loss is a considerable gain for the Made In Denmark, which has its defending champion back to wow the Himmerland galleries again. Pieters teed up there 12 months ago knowing he needed to produce fireworks to put himself in contention for a Ryder Cup wildcard pick, and he responded to the pressure in remarkable fashion.

Playing alongside European skipper, Darren Clarke, Pieters opened with a spellbinding 62, then scrambled well to stay around the lead, before closing his final round with three birdies for a one-shot triumph.

The quality of golf the champion delivered, and the guts he showed, left Clarke convinced Pieters was up to the job of the Ryder Cup. That assertion was spectacularly vindicated a month later when the fearless youngster scored four points on a losing European team as Pieters proved that he is a truly world-class talent.

There is no hesitation in weighing in with the favourite this week. The early 10-1 was understandably devoured because it was probably double the right price. This field is seriously lacking strength in depth and it is difficult to imagine Pieters failing to contend if he arrives with the right attitude. The huge and enthusiastic Danish crowds should inspire him.

The last five competitive rounds Pieters has played at Himmerland have resulted in scores of 67, 62, 71, 69 and 65, which is 21 under par for 90 holes. All three of his European Tour victories have come in late August or early September, so this is the time of the season when he typically finds top gear.

And the 25-year-old is fresh for the fight. He shares the same agent as Tiger Woods and, like Woods in his pomp, Pieters prefers a light schedule. It means he can put 100 percent effort into the events for which he does enter.

A missed cut in the USPGA Championship last time out is easily forgiven because he was in the thick of things throughout the Bridgestone Invitational the previous week and probably suffered some mental fatigue. Pieters was impressive at Firestone and exasperated with his fourth-place finish. Placing in a WGC is seen as failure to this lad, who is well aware he has the ability to fill his mantelpiece with prestigious silverware.

Firestone was the fourth time this year that Pieters has finished in the places on the US Tour. He was second in the Genesis Open and fourth in the Masters. 

Next best
Thorbjorn Olesen 16-1

The biggest threat to a successful Pieters title defence is Thorbjorn Olesen, who should be clear second-favourite. Olesen has also been among the birdies in much higher-grade combat Stateside. An eight-under-par weekend at Firestone, where he topped the putting statistics, yielded a share of tenth place. That is form of which most of the Made In Denmark field can only dream.

Olesen is the sort of character who will relish the support of his compatriots in the crowd. He arrived at Himmerland in terrible form the last two years, missing the cut, but can do himself justice this time. Thunderbear was seventh at Himmerland in 2014 and can be fancied to better that result this week.

Other selections
Paul Dunne 28-1
Bernd Ritthammer 400-1

Paul Dunne was progressing nicely through the Paul Lawrie Match Play last week until calling a penalty on himself at the third extra hole of his epic joust with Alejandro Canizares. Dunne commendably revealed his ball moved in the rough after he had addressed it, something only he could have known, meaning he bowed out at the last-16 stage.

A maiden European Tour title for Dunne looks to be coming sooner rather than later – he lost a playoff for the Hassan Trophy in April – and Himmerland sets up well for this excellent putter. The Irishman finished tenth on his Made In Denmark debut last year.

Pieters, Olesen and Dunne comprise a strong staking plan requiring heavy investment, but save a few beans for 400-1 rag Bernd Ritthammer. The German has positive vibes for Denmark, having won his maiden Challenge Tour title there in July last year. He won three times on the CT last season, including the Grand Final.

Ritthammer has struggled with the upgrade to the European Tour, but it is too early to dismiss the 30-year-old, who was 15th in the Scottish Open two starts back. He has some Himmerland experience, having missed the cut by a shot in 2015, and is a much better player two years on.

Others to note
Thomas Detry
Back-to-back Belgian champions are possible through another Thomas. Detry has quickly found his feet on the European Tour and looks a winner waiting to happen. Himmerland debutant.

Joakim Lagergren
A Swedish army has made the short journey to Denmark and this confident putter may prove their leader. The joint course-record holder is a tempting 50-1.

Soren Kjeldsen
Himmerland has been getting longer on the scorecard every year, lessening the chances of this short hitter. The 2015 runner-up could battle to a top-ten, but others are much preferred.

Martin Kaymer
The dual Major champion is obviously a class act, but a shoulder injury forced him to skip the USPGA Championship, and he is winless since the 2014 US Open.

Aaron Rai
The 22-year-old Midlander has won three times on the Challenge Tour this year and will fancy his chances of making an impression on his Himmerland debut.

Sam Horsfield
The 20-year-old from Manchester has been getting a few starts on the US Tour after an impressive college career. Big-hitting youngster with great potential, playing in first regulation European Tour event.

Staking plan
T Pieters
5pts 8-1 general
T Olesen
2.5pts each-way 16-1 bet365, BetBright, Sky Bet
P Dunne
1.5pts each-way 28-1 Sky Bet
B Ritthammer
0.5pt each-way 400-1 Coral

Made In Denmark lowdown

Course Backtee Course, Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort, Aalborg, Denmark
Prize money €1.8m (€300,000 to the winner)
Length 7,382 yards
Par 71
Field 156
Course records – 72 holes 271 David Horsey (2015) 18 holes 62 Kristoffer Broberg (2015), Thomas Pieters (2016), Joakim Lagergren (2016), Tom Lewis (2016)
Course winners taking part Marc Warren, David Horsey, Thomas Pieters
When to bet By 6.30am Thursday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 10am Thursday
Time difference Denmark is one hour ahead of the UK and Ireland

Last week – Paul Lawrie Match Play 1 A Otaegui (28-1), 2 M Siem (66-1), 3 J Carlsson (66-1), 4 A Canizares (100-1); Fiji International 1 J Norris (200-1), T2 J Janewattananond (33-1), D McKenzie (150-1), J Marchesani (250-1)

Course overview The European Tour moved to uncharted territory in 2014 for the inaugural Made In Denmark event. Thomas Bjorn won the 1995 Himmerland Open at this venue, a Challenge Tour gathering, but the course was extensively redesigned in a €2m project by Philip Spogard in 2012 to prepare it for top-flight golf, and bears little resemblance to its late-90s shape. It did not re-open until April, 2013. Mikael Lundberg also won on the old design (1997). It is an exposed, undulating layout, which has a links feel to it, despite not being coastal. The greens are full of slope. There are only three par-fives – the fourth, 11th and 13th. There are four par-threes, including the signature hole, the 16th. Hordes of spectators surround the 16th green, a birdie opportunity given only a flick of the wrist with a wedge is required

Story of last year Thomas Pieters needed a strong performance to impress European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke and get a wild-card pick. The Belgian opened with a 62 and closed with a 65 for a one-shot victory

Weather forecast Decent weather should guarantee enormous crowds at a noisy event where the galleries get heavily involved. Clear for the most part, with moderate breezes

Type of player suited to challenge There are five different sets of tees on each hole at Himmerland, meaning tournament organisers can fiddle with the yardage depending on the weather. With good golfing conditions expected, they will probably play from the tips this time, stretching to almost 7,400 yards. The devilish greens make this a severe flat-stick test and the three previous winners are all excellent putters

Key attribute Touch

All three of his European Tour victories have come in late August or early September
E.W. Terms
Sky bet