In an esteemed field at the 2013 South African Open at Glendower Golf Club, few would have had their money on lesser-hailed Morten Orum Madsen to clinch the prestigious title. And even as he entered the final round in a share of second place, just one stroke adrift of leader Charl Schwartzel, the assumption was that the former Masters champion would get the job done, and, if anything, the charging Hennie Otto would be his biggest threat.
Yet it didn’t transpire that way, and on a day littered with birdies and calamitous double and triple bogeys, the Dane kept his head with a bogey-free 67 to get home by two shots.
“It’s really special to be back and try to defend a title for the first time in my career, and when I stepped in the gate and onto the course yesterday it brought back a lot of memories,” the 26-year old beamed at Wednesday’s press conference. “Walking into the locker room I remember some really good times in there right after the round. When all the interviews were over with, it was just me, my caddie and my dad in there reflecting on what had just happened. So definitely some really good memories!”
Madsen only arrived in the City of Ekurhuleni on Tuesday afternoon, and, like many of the returning players from last year, was in for a surprise during his practice round on Wednesday when he ventured into the rough.
“For sure the rough is thicker than last year, and a bit more penalising. You can be just off the fairway and have to hit a lob wedge to get back in play. Some spots you can get lucky and have a shot to the green, but most times you’ll be hacking it back into the fairway, and that’s going to make it an even bigger challenge,” Madsen explained.
“You’re still going to see some low scores though, because if you’re in the fairway, the greens are receptive enough where you can still go at pins. But I think you’re going to see some higher scores too. Even if you’re just missing greens and getting in that stuff – from some lies it will be tough just to hit the green,” he added.
Despite the meteoric rise that comes with being a European Tour winner, Madsen was unable to replicate such form for the remainder of the 2014 season, and would eventually go on to finish 37th in the Race to Dubai.
A return to the scene of his triumph is thus an ideal way to get his 2015 European Tour campaign going, and the Oregon State graduate has been delighted with the warm reception he has already received from players, tournament staff and fans during his return to the Aerotropolis.
“I do love coming to South Africa to play, and I always have,” Madsen smiled. “It’s definitely a place I feel really comfortable. Walking around the course, me and my caddie Thomas; getting to each hole we were thinking ‘Oh, that’s what happened here last year, and I hit this shot from here.’ We were just re-living it all.
“I really appreciated all the affection I’ve received here in South Africa too, especially the reception I got at the (Pro-Am) dinner last night. I always feel very welcome in South Africa, and I think it’s easier for me because I really embrace the people and the whole atmosphere when I’m here. I think a lot of people can feel that, so maybe that’s why they’re almost extra nice to me.
“That’s obviously why I’m doing it, because I love coming here, and I love the people. Everyone is so approachable and nice, and it’s just so easy for me to be myself over here,” he concluded.