The KLM Open (formerly the Dutch Open) is one of the great tournaments of the European Tour, an ever-present on the schedule since inauguration in 1972 and with an event history stretching back to 1912.
The prestige is revealed by the names on the trophy – the likes of Severiano Ballesteros, Bernard Langer and Colin Montgomerie.
For years the tournament enjoyed the test of three classic tracks – the linksland of Noordwijk and Kennemer, and the tree-lined, Colt-designed Hilversumche – but this year will be the fourth in a row at a modern layout.
And after three years at The Dutch we move to The International in Amsterdam. The field is not poor, but plenty miss out, waiting on next week’s BMW PGA Championship and the Dunhill Links which follows it.
A new course is always a challenge and this is no exception. Often times design teams will at least have some sort of description of their baby on a website and, although we might have learned to take some of their thoughts with a pinch of salt, we do at least have something to go on. Not so much in this case. Mastergolf created the track in alliance with Ian Woosnam, there is little on their site, and we have no past ventures to glance at either. We do know that, as last week, there are five par-5s, but this week plays to a total par of 73 at 6,966-yards. There is a lot of water and the greens are large and undulating. Those putting surfaces have a linksland look about them and the visuals are rather reminiscent of Le Golf National. The audio is not remotely seaside-like however (the runways of Schiphol airport are nearby and loud).
Past Winners of the Tournament
2018 – The Dutch – Ashun Wu
2017 – The Dutch – Romain Wattel
2016 – The Dutch – Joost Luiten
2015 – Kennemer – Thomas Pieters
2014 – Kennemer – Paul Casey
It looks set fair for a nice week. Temperatures in the high 60s, creeping into the 70s at the weekend when the cloud cover will disappear and the sun come out. Watch out for a blustery wind. The course is noted for catching a breeze and, as of Monday when this preview was written, Thursday afternoon and Sunday are both expected to be gusty.
The Leading Contenders
A first time at the tournament for the Spaniard and his form is hard to grasp. Those in the European Tour’s Fantasy game might consider him a shoe-in, when playing the odds and Draft Kings, however, the lack of real spark is a concern. His T7 at Valderrama is his only top ten since the start of May and almost rates as a failure given his returns on that course in the past. T23 in Crans last time out, having been T9 after 54 holes.
Obviously secured a successful conclusion to the end of the FedEx Cup, winning The Northern Trust at Liberty National, but a fairly unremarkable T36 last week in Hamburg. Week two of what must be something of a vacation and another tricky one to call.
The Englishman didn’t play last year in this tournament, but a year earlier he was T9 on debut, breaking 70 in every lap. After a summer of diminishing returns (he cited fatigue, but there was a sense he was heaping pressure on himself) he took August off and missed the cut in Crans on his return so there is a little mystery this week.
The form is strong. He won the Czech Masters at his favourite track and then added T12 in the European Masters, a best effort at Crans by some distance. T20 last week and now returns to an event he won in 2015, having been T30 and T22 in the two years previously. Not been back since lifting the trophy.
In all he has made 13 starts in his home Open, winning in 2013 at Kennemer and then in 2016 at The Dutch. He was also second in 2007, sixth in 2011 and fifth in 2014. Hasn’t made a top ten – unlike him – since the British Masters in May, but after two missed cuts on the links in July he has gone T32-T29-T23.
He missed the cut in the event last year but that was a first in four starts and before that he ticked off T15, T12 and T8. Last seen grabbing T6 in the European Masters, a ninth top 30 of the season and a fifth top ten. Continues to seek that first win, but undoubtedly playing well.
A summer of promise for the German. He was T8 in the British Masters, T3 at the Memorial, T16 in the BMW International Open, added a pair of top 20s in the Irish and Scottish Opens, but was last seen going 66-75 to miss the cut in the Wyndham Championship. Now returned to Europe and an event he won in 2010.
The Englishman is a rock solid performer in this event. He won it in 1999, was third in 1998, 2000 and again in 2017 and has six finishes of T11 or better in his last nine starts. He was a fine T4 in the Open at Royal Portrush, dipped with a missed cut in Prague before earning T28 in the European Masters.
Took last week off, perhaps to get himself just right for what is close to being a home match? His tournament form is trending (MC-MC-T38-T3) and he’s finished T20 in both of his last two starts, in the Scandinavian Invitational and the European Masters.
Quietly in very good form. Indeed seven of his last 11 starts have reaped top 20s and he keeps suggesting he’ll do more. He was T1 after 18 holes in Prague (T58), T6 after 36 holes in Gothenburg (T16) and T3 after 54 holes in Crans (T12). Will he last the distance this week?