Dane Bjorn enjoys homecoming
Home favourite Thomas Bjorn bolstered his chances of featuring in the European Ryder Cup team as he took a share of the clubhouse lead the opening day of the inaugural Made in Denmark.
The world No 24 duly carded a flawless opening 66 in testing conditions to share the clubhouse lead with Chile's Felipe Aguilar and Welshman Bradley Dredge on five under par.
With three events remaining until the Ryder Cup places are sealed, Denmark's Bjorn continued his bid in ideal fashion at the Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort on Thursday, much to the delight of the adoring home fans.
Bjorn has not played in the Ryder Cup since 2002 but has occupied an automatic qualifying spot since winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge in December last year.
The 43-year-old dropped out of the European points list recently and is now relying on the world points list, but looks to have done enough to make the European team which will defend the trophy at Gleneagles in September.
Victory in the inaugural Made in Denmark event would make absolutely certain and Bjorn was determined to impress a sell-out crowd at Himmerland, where he won his first event as a professional in 1995.
"It was obviously tricky today with the wind, especially when it got up on the back nine, but I drove the ball really well and that gives you opportunities on this golf course," Bjorn told Sky Sports.
"I'm happy with the start, it was pretty solid all the way round. There are a couple of holes out there where you have to be careful and happy to walk off with pars, but I put in a nice effort today."
Starting from the 10th, Bjorn opened with four straight pars before birdies at the 14th and 15th took him to the turn in 34, and, although winds gusting to more than 25mph were making scoring conditions difficult, Bjorn was having few problems.
He chipped in from just off the third green for birdie and holed from eight feet for another on the next before coming up against an unusual local hazard, his approach to the par-four fifth hitting overhead power cables and coming up well short of the green.
Bjorn was required to drop another ball and retake the shot, this time finding the putting surface and safely two-putting for par.
Aguilar, who won his second European Tour title earlier this season thanks to a closing round of 62 in Singapore, carded his fourth birdie in a row on the eighth to briefly take the lead, but Bjorn - watching in the group behind - responded with a superb approach to two feet when the green cleared.
Dredge has also won twice on the European Tour - he shot a round of 60 on his way to victory in Madeira in 2003 - and won the World Cup with Stephen Dodd in 2005, but has struggled for form and fitness in recent seasons.
The 41-year-old carded five birdies in his last seven holes and said: "I'm pretty pleased with that. If someone offered me 66 before I went out I would certainly have bitten their hand off.
"It's nice when you start getting your irons shots in closer and rattling some putts in. It's not easy around here. Even downwind it's not easy to get it in close. Some holes into the wind are almost easier."
Earlier in the day, Scotland's Paul Lawrie had been forced to withdraw before the start of play with a back injury, the former Open champion posting on Twitter: "Had to pull out this morning, back no good, very frustrating, heading home."