Popular modern heathland Bernardus GC hosts
England's Richard Mansell grew up playing a similar test
Sebastian Soderberg strong on Kyle Phillips designs
The DP World Tour's mini Low Country Swing, interrupted by the PGA Championship, continues this week.
As with the Soudal Open, at Rinkven International in Belgium, the layout in use provides a test that players and punters alike enjoy - in this case Bernardus Golf Club in the Netherlands.
It's a modern heathland course designed by the American Kyle Phillips and, in the two events it has hosted on the circuit, it has proved to play pretty much as hoped.
True, there are more water hazards than might be common on traditional heathland layouts in England and Scotland, but the visuals (dunes, heath, gorse) and the fast-running, open nature of the golf have felt genuine.
Phillips has also been responsible for creating Kingsbarns and Dundonald Links in Scotland, PGA National in Sweden, The Grove in England, Verdura in Italy, and Yas Links in Abu Dhabi, all of which have hosted DP World Tour events.
The first two and last of those listed are modern links courses, the third and fourth parkland, while the fifth is a windswept resort track.
In other words, quite a variety but all are respected and they do share a Phillips constant: an inviting playability.
This week's defending champion, the Frenchman Victor Perez, likes the American's designs: he won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship playing one round at Kingsbarns and he backed up his triumph 12 months ago with victory at Yas Links in January (tipped by this column).
The man with whom he vies for favouritism this week, Poland's Adrian Meronk, is another who likes playing on Phillips courses.
He was third at Bernardus last year and T10th at Yas Links. The look of the course might also remind him of the Melbourne sandbelt on which he won November's Australian Open.
They deserve that favouritism off good efforts at the PGA Championship last week but are a touch short for this column so we'll look elsewhere.
Englishman Richard Mansell took to Bernardus at first sight.
In 2021 the 28-year-old carded a second round 64 on his way to sixth place (ranking eighth for Strokes Gained Tee to Green) and last spring he added ninth (when fourth for SG Putting).
Last August I found myself walking the course he learned the game on - Beau Desert in Stafffordshire - in the English Women's Amateur Championship and it occurred to me that it makes a lot of sense that he likes Bernardus: he's been playing this kind of test all his golf life.
He also finished second at Spey Valley - another modern heathland layout - on the EuroPro Tour in 2019 (he'd won for the first time a week earlier and got off to a slow start at Spey before outscoring the field over the final 36 holes).
His two challenges in this event came among a rash of good efforts in 2021 and 2022, and he was closest to lifting a first trophy when carding a 66 at Kingsbarns while constructing a four-shot 54-hole lead at last year's Dunhill Links.
He didn't win that week but he hasn't missed a cut since.
In that run he has finished sixth in the Singapore Classic and was two shots back of the pre-final round lead in the Korea Championship two starts ago.
This looks a great opportunity for him to contend again and maybe grab that breakthrough win.
Back in 2014 Swede Sebastian Soderberg got a first start on the DP World Tour in the Nordea Masters at PGA National Sweden and opened with a 67 to sit tied third after the first round.
He drifted back into the field that week but finished third on the same track a year later, his second start at the same level and a first top five.
In 2017 the 32-year-old thrashed a 61 to share the first round lead at Verdura - more evidence that he likes a Phillips test.
He confirmed that with fifth place here at Bernardus last year, when just one back of the lead with 18 holes to play.
And he reiterated it when second in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Yas Links in January.
He missed four straight cuts after that effort but in his last four starts he's been ninth in South Africa and Italy (last time out), and was also in the top 10 through 36 holes in Japan.
We'll complete this week's plan with the in-form Swede Alexander Bjork.
Eight of his nine starts in 2023 have reaped top 30s, six of those were top 20s with the highlights second place at the Ras al Khaimah Championship and fourths in his last two outings at the Italian and Soudal Opens.
His Phillips log book is also promising: T35th at Dundonald Links, T27th at Verdura, T20th and T28th at Yas Links, seventh at Bernardus last May.
That effort came in the middle of form much worse than his current golf and, moreover, he has played heathland golf very well elsewhere: he was second at Walton Heath in 2018 and seventh at Vallda in 2021.
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