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National Hero Centre Stage at Made in Denmark

The Made in Denmark attracts thousands of fans to 'Himmerland Hill' behind the par-three 16th.
A less than stellar field has gathered for this week’s Made in Denmark tournament on the European Tour but one name stands out above all others.

Local hero Thomas Bjorn, a trailblazer for Danish golf and the current Ryder Cup Captain, will play his 500th European Tour event at the Himmerland Golf and Spa resort and while unlikely to contend for the title, he will undoubtedly be the centre of attention.

The man known as 'The Great Dane' is a popular figure worldwide and, as Denmark’s most accomplished player, this week’s event is set to be a celebration of his achievements.

Bjorn, a regular visitor to Australia over the years, is a 15-time winner on the European Tour and a three-time Ryder Cup player.

As the current Ryder Cup captain, he has officially been elevated to legend status in his home country and large crowds will be on hand this week to show their support, especially at Himmerland's natural amphitheatre behind the par-three 16th hole where fans will gather in their thousands.

Thomas Bjorn is expected to receive rapturous support in front of home fans.

But while Bjorn will be the focus for most of the locals, the contenders for the title will likely come from elsewhere, defending champion Thomas Pieters heading that list.

The Belgian has his own strong ties to the Ryder Cup after a brilliant debut last year, his performance at this tournament the one that sealed his place on the team.

Pieters was paired with 2016 Captain Darren Clarke for the first two rounds last year and while winning the tournament no doubt helped his cause, it was his second round 71 that cemented his place in the team.

Struggling with his game on day two, Pieters made a series of extraordinary up and downs to keep himself in the tournament displaying exactly the sort of tenacity Clarke was looking for in a captain’s pick.

Pieters is the favourite again this week after a year in which his game has matured and his Official World Golf Ranking has risen to 29.

Top-five finishes at two WGC events - in Mexico and at the Bridgestone Invitational - coupled with a T4 at The Masters and a runner-up finish at the PGA Tour’s Genesis Open are an indication of Pieters’ potential and he will be disappointed if he is not in the mix come Sunday.

Six Australians tee up in Denmark this week, three by virtue of the weakened nature of the field.

Ben Eccles and Ryan McCarthy step up from the secondary Challenge Tour while Richard Green also earns a start despite not having full playing privileges.

European Tour regulars Marcus Fraser, Nathan Holman and Wade Ormsby will also play, Ormsby and Fraser coming off good weeks on opposite sides of the world.

Fraser made it to the round of 16 at the Paul Lawrie Match Play event in Germany last week while Ormsby led into the final round at the Fiji International.

Ormsby also has good form at this course after finishing T34 last year, a result that could have been much better if not for a third round 76.

Holman has been mired in a slump for most of the 2017 season and did little to suggest that would end when knocked out in the first round of match play last week.

However, the 2015 Australian PGA champion is one of the better prospects to emerge from Australia in recent years and it is difficult to believe he won’t get his game back on track sooner than later.

GENESIS GREAT GOLF ROAD TRIP: NSW SOUTH COAST

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