Having family in Denmark I have made the trip to join them at the Silkeborg Ry Club, near Aarhus. The atmosphere at this tournament is something else, such enthusiastic galleries, children climbing trees to get a better look and the Danish players are greeted onto every green with the rhythmic clapping that is special to this country. They had something to cheer about today when Thorbjorn Olesen made the automatic 8th place on the European Ryder Cup team. A thoroughly deserved place after his -22 win in Italy and a great season leaving him 6th in the Race To Dubai. Thorbjorn grinned broadly and said he was very relieved, it had been a lot of pressure but fun. Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjorn was quick to reply that it wasn’t just about making the team. He still had to “get out there, play in it and win as many points as possible”. More cigarettes to calm Thorbjorn’s nerves then…
So the European Team top eight looks like this, with the four wild card picks announced at 2pm on Wednesday. This is presumably so that Thomas Bjorn can have a look at the PGA Fedex Cup tournament in Boston before he finally makes up his mind. Apparently he is fixed on three but the fourth place he is undecided about.
Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Tyrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen
The climax to the Made In Denmark tournament may give Bjorn yet another contender to think about. What a tournament, the quality of golf was exceptional. Massive crowds, an electric atmosphere. Bjorn’s home club produced a fantastic layout of tight fairways inviting real shotmaking prowess into the greens. A four play off with Westwood, Thompson, Brown and Wallace took place with the first two players eliminated the first time the 18th was played. The winner, for the third time this year, was Matt Wallace.
He had started his final round nervily and then birdied five of the last six holes to get into the play off and then birdied 18 twice to win. The way he played the final playoff hole was so impressive. A huge drive and then I overheard him tell his caddie Dave McNeilly – after he told us all to stand very still – that he was going to take the spin off the approach. He gripped down the club and then with a soft flight he stopped the ball on the green with a biting accuracy.
It was a really gutsy performance which showed how badly he wanted to win. You could see the determination in his eyes. When he was presented with the trophy he said that “the way he won this tournament shows who I am. I’m a gritty performer. I don’t shy away from big occasions”. When asked what getting a call to play in the Ryder Cup would mean to him, he replied “everything”.
With three wins under his belt this year, in India and Germany and Denmark, a top 20 in the USPGA and tied 3rd in the Volvo Open he is looking to have a very strong case for a pick. If it were up to me, having looked at all the permutations thoroughly week after week, I would pick Matt Wallace. It’s his demeanour, his confidence, he really, really wants to win, and at 28 he is young and fresh. His pace of play is so similar to Tyrrell Hatton’s that I can see they could meld into a winning team. As for the others, looking at form, stats and reputation I would definitely choose Stenson. And for sheer guts, the way he won at Houston, Ian Poulter. And this time Russell Knox in my opinion, deserves to play in the team. Paul Casey looked to be in there for a long time after his wonderful win at the Valspar Championship, but I just can’t see past the other four guys. Garcia, though he would probably have partnered well with Jon Rahm, is just too below his best form. Let’s see the way Bjorn goes on Wednesday.
Made In Denmark has been such a success for the European Tour that it has been awarded the plum end of May slot on next season’s schedule, which used to be occupied by the BMW PGA at Wentworth. The sponsors have renewed for another five years. Another reason for the Danes to be proud, waving the flag for Thorbjorn and Thomas Bjorn.