Course form proved king on the quirky mountain course in Switzerland last week as the play-off was contested by two former runners-up.
But this week gamers have just one year to peruse as the KLM Open is played at The Dutch for just a second time.
At least taking the obvious route worked out well 12 months ago as the title went to local hero Joost Luiten.
The Dutchman wrote the perfect script by carding a brilliant 63 in the final round to burst through and claim a three-shot victory.
Luiten, of course, is back to defend and plenty of those who played the Omega European Masters in the Swiss Alps make the short hop to the Netherlands.
Designed by Colin Montgomerie, The Dutch opened in 2011 and is located in Spijk which is 45 minutes south of Amsterdam. The inland course with a strong links feel is a par 71 and measures in at a short 6,983 yards. Three of the par 5s come in the last six holes while water is in play on 12 holes (eight on the back nine). The greens will repel shots coming in at the wrong angle and are a mix of Bentgrass A1 and A4. Finally, it’s mostly flat, exposed terrain so there isn’t much protection from the wind and there will be plenty this week.
2016 Top 3 and Stats
-19 Joost Luiten (DD 50th, DA 10th, GIR 2nd, Scrambling 1st, PA 10th)
-16 Bernd Wiesberger (DD 27th, DA 21st, GIR 17th, Scrambling 10th, PA 5th)
-13 Byeong-Hun An (DD 16th, DA 53rd, GIR 6th, Scrambling 6th, PA 35th)
Notes: The evidence is limited but strong iron play (it’s what Monty would have wanted) was well rewarded last year. GIR leader for the week, Chris Hanson, finished T8. Scrambling well when missing greens also looks more important than what you do off the tee.
Last 10 winners of KLM Open
2016 -19 Joost Luiten (Netherlands) – The Dutch
2015 -19 Thomas Pieters (Belgium) - Kennemer
2014 -14 Paul Casey (England) - Kennemer
2013 -12 Joost Luiten (Netherlands) – Kennemer
2012 -14 Peter Hanson (Sweden) – Hilversumsche
2011 -12 Simon Dyson (England) – Hilversumsche
2010 -14 Martin Kaymer (Germany) – Hilversumsche
2009 -15 Simon Dyson (England) – Kennemer
2008 -16 Darren Clarke (Northern Ireland) – Kennemer
Notes: All 10 winners are either from the British Isles, or nearby Belgium, Germany (both border the Netherlands) and Sweden.
Get that rain gear ready. The wet stuff is in the forecast for all four tournament days as well as the build-up. Thursday looks the worst day (extremely windy and rain), horrible in fact, while it will gust over the next three as well. Temperatures are okay (early 60s) but it will probably feel colder in the unpleasant conditions.
The Leading Contenders
He didn’t just win last year, Luiten also thrilled his home Dutch fans at Kennemer in 2013. Some players wilt in front of their own fans; he can hit new heights. To be honest, this event could come at the perfect time as he needs a spark after no top 25s in his last six starts. T30 in Switzerland on Sunday could be a good building block though and the Dutchman finished T5 in this event when he last defended it in 2014.
The runner-up here last year when his iron play really came to the fore although better than usual putting was also a big factor in his second place. Like Luiten, he’s gone a bit flat and, after a disappointing summer, returned to action last week with a missed cut in Switzerland. This should be a good chance to get going again but some trust is needed.
Westwood celebrated his 500th European Tour event last week with a nice cake and some champagne after finishing up his opening round although T54 suggested he might have had more fun off the course. But prior to that he was T9 in the Czech Masters and he has some good, if rather ancient, history in this event having won in 1999 at Hilversumsche and finished third either side. He returned to that course in 2011 and also made the top five. No reason why he shouldn’t enjoy this track.
A winner of this event at Kennemer in 2007, third at the same venue in 2013 and T6 at Hilversumsche in 2011, Fisher had to settle for T45 on his debut at The Dutch last year although he did card a Friday 66 to be in the top 15 at halfway. The Englishman has played some excellent golf this year but, like Wiesberger, returned to action from a missed cut at Quail Hollow to make an early exit in Switzerland last week (74-69).
In two previous starts in this event, Sullivan has finished third, T18th and also won a trip to space! The latter was after a hole-in-one in 2014 although his fear of heights means he’s yet to cash the prize in. He didn’t get anything going in the summer majors/WGC but, in July, Sullivan posted T7 in France, T20 in the Irish Open and T9 at the Scottish Open so he won’t have to think too far back for some positive memories.
The son of former Rugby Union World Cup winner Grant continued his excellent season on the European Tour with T9 at Crans-sur-Sierre last week. That represented a fourth top 10 in seven starts; filter out the majors and it’s four in five. This is his tournament debut but a New Zealander should be able to cope with wet and windy weather.
Horsey will be relishing a return to The Dutch after he pieced together four impressive rounds to take a share of fourth place last year. That added to three previous top 10s in this event – 4th and 6th at Hilversumsche and T9 at Kennemer. He boasts strong current form too after finishing runner-up in Denmark a fortnight ago and shooting 66-68-68 over his final three rounds in Crans last week (T30).
A popular pick last week, Ramsay was left to rue round three after posting 69-67-75-64 for T30. Still, the big finish will put him in good heart and he’s a former runner-up in this event having taken second place at Hilversumsche in 2012. That was the standout in a run of four top 25s at the KLM. This course should suit although the theory didn’t match the reality when he missed the cut in 2016. He’s in much better form this year however.
And on and on he goes. Suri has barely missed a week of action since May but when the American did finally have a breather he came back from the break to win the Made In Denmark. Suri followed it with T34 (Czech) and T20 (Switzerland) but rather faded on the weekend of both. He’s clearly a form horse though so, despite the fatigue fears, is worthy of consideration on this his tournament debut.
The Paraguayan has some nice converging trends here. After returning home to take third in his home event on the Latinoamerica Tour he also carved out a top three finish in the Swiss mountains last week. Zanotti now arrives in the Netherlands to play a tournament in which he was second in 2010, fourth in 2015 and T16 at this week’s course last year after shooting four sub-par rounds. 5th in GIR last week.
Striking his irons superbly at the moment and that’s helped him to a top three finish in the Czech Masters and T20 at the European Masters in the last fortnight. Lewis finished his week in the Swiss Alps with a 65 so should have some extra swagger. Didn’t make the cut last year but plays well in the wind and should fare much better in his current form.
The Next Rung
Back in his comfort zone (a short course on the European Tour), Jaidee shook off some indifferent form to crack the top 10 in Switzerland last week. Playing a sub-7000 yard course for the second week running is a boost but he didn’t solve the puzzle here last year when failing to cash. 4-for-4 in this event previously with a best of T20 at Kennemer in 2008.
Dunne recovered from an opening 74 here in 2016 to post 64-68-69 and finish T16 so a good start this year and he’ll feel ready to post that elusive first European Tour win. A runner-up in Morocco earlier this year, he followed T16 in Denmark with T70 in Switzerland last week but the foul weather forecast should inconvenience the Irishman less than most. After all, he was the 54-hole leader in brutal winds at the 2015 Open.
An exposed, windy track with a links feel should play into the hands of Wood given his excellent record in the Open Championship although T59 here last year was somewhat underwhelming. Also T14 in this year’s Open and T33 at the PGA, he didn’t cash in Switzerland last week but a Friday 69 could set up him for a much better week.
That’s better. After showing very little since T12 at June’s BMW International Open, the big Thai returned to the top 20 with three 69s and a Sunday 66 to take T16 at last week’s Omega European Masters. Notably, he hit over 75% of GIR (5th) and also scrambled well (7th) so the parts of his game that need to be working well for his course debut are working well. Won the 2015 Paul Lawrie Match Play on a windy Scottish links so don’t be put off by the bad weather forecast.
The five-time European Tour winner (most recent in 2014) is in his best form of the season after top 10s on his last two strokeplay starts. In Switzerland last week, he actually cracked the top five after a blistering 66-64 finish on the weekend. Less good news is his MC here last year although before that he’d finished T18 and T11 in this event at Kennemer.
The former Ryder Cup star is still notoriously difficult to catch right and a WD in Denmark after an opening 69 only adds to the difficulty. A strong player on flat links courses though and his top 25 here last included a Saturday 65. Plenty of his home Belgian fans will cross the border to cheer him on.
It’s four straight top 20s for the Spaniard after he put up a 64 and three 70s when T20 in the European Masters on Sunday. Fourth on the All-Around stats in Crans shows that he’s doing everything pretty well right now. He played at The Dutch last year and had three good rounds (69, 68, 69) and a poor one (74) so knows he can score well at this venue.
After a run of 20-4-5, Wall had to settle for T44 in Switzerland on Sunday but 70 was his worst round so he remains in fine fettle. You’d expect the veteran Englishman to have crafted out a strong record in this event but T8 at Kennemer in 2008 is his only top 25 in 12 starts. Perhaps the new course will bring him more luck.
Not hitting the heights of last year but the Englishman’s record in this event has to be respected. He’s posted a top 20 in three of the last five years and 12 months ago at The Dutch, Bland was third going into the final round after rounds of 67-69-66 but fell away to T16 after a Sunday 73. Closed with 68 for T52 in the Omega European Masters last week.
The extremely windy weather forecast puts Harrington on the radar for his course debut, as does this track having a links feel. His four straight missed cuts don’t look great but he was fourth in July’s Scottish Open and opened with 66-68 at the Wyndham Championship on his last start before a 76 knocked him out.
Evans has finished T12 and T4 in his two KLM Opens and the top four was at this course last year. Third at the Made In Denmark at the end of last month and top 20 in a Challenge Tour event last week.
T10 at this venue last year followed T7 at Kennemer in 2015. Also T36 and T26 on his other two starts so something of an event specialist. Runner-up in the Lyoness Open in June.
Took a step back last week when T75 in Crans but before that T10 in Denmark and runner-up at Paul Lawrie Match Play. MC here last year but in much stronger form this time.
Capable of big weeks and ended run of three MCs with T49 up in the Swiss mountains on Sunday. Refreshed, he could build on last year’s T20 at this course.
Three missed cuts in his last four starts but T9 at the Czech Masters a fortnight ago dangles a carrot given how good we know he can be. T45 at The Dutch last year.
On the face of it, he’s missed his last two cuts. Drill down and you’ll note a 65 in round two in Switzerland last week (followed opening 77). Add that to his T10 at this course last year and he appeals.
Built on top 25 in Denmark with T9 at Crans-sur-Sierre last weekend. Hitting irons well and underrated as usual.
T28 at The Dutch last year added to 36-9-11-32 so likes his trips to the Netherlands. T10 at the Irish Open shows an ability to play well on links tracks.
Local man will have huge support and has cashed in last four starts at KLM, including T28 here last year. Comes in off three MCs on the Challenge Tour but firing 69-71 last week hardly a crime.
Who’s On The Team?
A tricky week as there are some question marks over plenty of the leading contenders whilst, a little further down the odds, there are a host of players with claims for inclusion.
Joost Luiten will be the obvious staple of most teams and the fact he finished fifth when defending this title in 2014 adds a layer of confidence.
The bad weather forecast adds to the puzzle. Do we lean heavily on someone like Padraig Harrington or others who grew up playing in strong winds?
I’ll reveal my six-man line-up for the official European Tour Fantasy game in Tuesday’s Playing The Tips feature.
One To Swerve
Julian Suri is one of the European Tour’s form horses but his temper can be short and the bad weather will test his patience severely.