KLM Open: Sociable Eddie looks more than ready, says The Punter

A blustery links test is right up Eddie Pepperell's street, says Steve
A blustery links test is right up Eddie Pepperell's street, says Steve

With no event on the PGA Tour this week as the remaining 70 FedEx Cup hopefuls take a well-earned rest, Steve turns all his attention to Europe where a stellar line-up will assemble in the Netherlands for the KLM Open. Read our man's in-depth preview here...

“Eddie Pepperell, who finished fourth here 12 months ago, was beaten in a playoff at this year’s Irish Open and he finished fourth in the Scottish Open. A blustery links test is right up his street and I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t compete.”

Tournament History
First staged in 1912, the KLM Open is one of the oldest tournaments in the world and it's been an ever-present on the European Tour since its inception in 1972.


Venue

Kennemer Golf and Country Club, Zandoort, the Netherlands


Course Details

Par 70 6,626 yards
Stroke index in 2014 - 70.6

The KLM Open has been switching between here, Noordwijkse and Hilversumsche since the mid 1980s. It was played here last year, when Paul Casey got the better of event specialist, Simon Dyson and in 2013 when home favourite, Joost Luiten, edged out Spanish legend, Miguel Angel Jimenez, in a playoff. Prior to that, it staged the event between 2006 and 2009 and that's the only relevant form we have as we have to go right back to 1990 for the last time it was used before then.

Kennemer is a Harry Colt designed seaside course with a distinctly links feel about it. It's fairly exposed with wide and undulating fairways. Nine of the 18 tees are elevated and the wind is nearly always a factor here. The greens are a mixture of fescue, bentgrass and poa and will probably run at around 11 on the stimpmeter.

The fairways are undulating and exposed but they're fairly generous so players shouldn't find too much trouble off the tee but really errant shots will be severely punished with bushes, long grass and trees waiting in the unmaintained areas.

As you'll see on this map here, there are 3 loops of 9 holes at the Kennemer G & CC - nine holes were added to Colt's original design in the 1980's, using plans laid out by Colt's associate, John Morrison. The nine holes named Van Hagel (A) are the new holes (named Van Hegal after a longstanding club member) and the two nines, B & C are the original Colt design, with B being named after John Pennink, who oversaw construction of the third nine. The KLM Open course is a composite of the three nines.

As an interesting footnote, this article here details how Kennemer had 120 additional bunkers temporarily added by German soldiers towards the end of World War II.


Useful Sites
Event Site

Course Site
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday


Last Five Winners

2014 - Paul Casey -14
2013 - Joost Luiten -12 (playoff)
2012 - Peter Hanson -14
2011 - Simon Dyson -12
2010 - Martin Kaymer -14


What Will it Take to Win The KLM Open?

The 2007 winner, Ross Fisher, topped the Driving Distance stats and last year's winner, Paul Casey, ranked third for DD, and neither were especially accurate - Fisher ranked 44th for Driving Accuracy and Casey only 52nd. The average Driving Distance ranking for the last six winners here is 15.66, compared to an average Driving Accuracy ranking of 26.16 so power appears narrowly more important than accuracy but I wouldn't get hung up on either.

With a Scrambling ranking of 36th, Casey was the first player in six renewals here to rank outside the top-11 so that's normally a key stat to consider and probably more important than Greens In regulation - even though he ranked number one for that stat. The two previous winners had ranked just 35th and 47th for GIR and putting doesn't look the be all and end all either with Casey managing to get across the line in front despite a Putting Average ranking of 51st and a Putts Per Round ranking of 64th!

With four of the last five winners ranking first or second for Birdies made, the last three winners ranking inside the top-seven for Par 5 Scoring and the three that preceded them ranking first or second for par 4 Scoring, it's a confusing picture statistically but we have plenty of other angles in.


Is There an Angle In?

Links form in the bank counts for plenty this week so look closely at the results of the Irish and Scottish Open, the Paul Lawrie Match Play and the Open Championship, which were all staged on links courses. In addition, it may well be worth paying particular attention to the form at three other venues.

Royal Portrush (which hosted the Irish Open two years ago) is another Harry Colt designed links so is obviously worth considering. Oitavos Dunes, which hosted the now defunct Estoril Open de Portugal between 2007 and 2009 is said to be very similar to Kennemer and finally Parador de El Saler, which hosted the Open de Espana in 2013, is another similar type of venue.

This is an exposed track and the forecast suggests the wind will blow yet again this year so an ability to handle breezy conditions is essential and that's probably why the British players have fared so well here.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

Dutchman, Joost Luiten, is the only man in recent times to break the British stranglehold at Kennemer. Six of the last seven winners have been Brits and the English in particular seem to fare really well here. Four of those six British winners were English and the first four home 12 months ago were all English.


In-Play Tactics

Back in 2006, Richard Green fired a third round 62 to climb from 62nd to fifth. He'd sat eight off the lead at halfway and was still four back after round three but he forced his way into a playoff before getting beat by Simon Dyson and last year, Casey went one better from way off the pace.

Matched at 100.099/1 in-running, the former Ryder Cupper, who doesn't defend as he's given up his European Tour membership, also trailed by eight at halfway and by four after round three but with a closing round of 66, one worse than Green had shot in 2006, he finished the week a stroke ahead of Dyson.

This is definitely a place where you can win from some off the pace and those two aren't the only ones to contend from some way back. That man Dyson again, who's currently out following surgery on a wrist injury, trailed by fully six strokes through 54-holes when he won here in 2009. He fired 63 on day four before picking off Peter Hedblom and Peter Lawrie in a playoff.


Market Leaders

This time last week, Germany's Maximilian Kiefer was favourite to win the Russian Open but this week, despite a decent effort there (11th) and a fair bank off links form on his CV, there are ten or so players ahead of him in the market and it's another German that heads the list - demonstrating how much stronger the tournament is.

Martin Kaymer is the only man trading at less than 20.019/1 and at 11.010/1 he's the clear market leader and I can see why. The multiple major champions won the event at Hilversumsche back in 2010 and as he comes here on the back of a 14th placed finish at the Wyndham Championship and a 12th placed finish in the USPGA Championship, he's in fair form.

Kaymer has only played here once before though and he could only finish 55th, way back in 2008, and that's enough to put me off. This is a strong field and he's not quite a big enough price to tempt me in.

The 2013 winner, Joost Luiten, is a fine links exponent with a great bank of Kennemer form. He put up a very respectable defence 12 months ago when he finished fifth and he was runner-up to Ross Fisher here in 2007, so he clearly loves the course, but since finishing fourth at the Irish open he's gone off the boil and he's another I'm happy to swerve.

I like the chances of English duo, Tyrrell Hatton and Matthew Fitzpatrick, but for players looking to get off the mark on the European Tour, at just a shade over 30.029/1, they're both short enough.


Selections

This is a very open looking event and I could have backed a number of players. Andy Sullivan, who won a trip to space with a hole-in-one here last year, looks reasonably priced and I was sorely tempted by Richie Ramsay but I'm playing just three before the get-go, with Eddie Pepperell far and away the strongest of the three.

The Englishman has shown a great aptitude for links golf and he looks a winner in waiting to me. He didn't put in the greatest of performances last week when rounds of 71 and 73 over the weekend saw him slip to 22nd but he wasn't confident before the off and all his best form has come on links layouts.

Pepperell, who finished fourth here 12 months ago, was beaten in a playoff at this year's Irish Open and he finished fourth in the Scottish Open. A blustery links test is right up his street and I'll be disappointed if he doesn't compete.

If you're not already following Eddie on Twitter I suggest you do as he's great value on there and his website is well worth a read too.

Although he's a bit out of form this year, Mikko Ilonen is a multiple European tour winner who plays links golf well and I thought he was very fairly priced at 125/1 on the Sportsbook so he's my each-way selection this week but that's only because they've savagely cut my final pick, Paul Lawrie, who was available yesterday at a massive 200/1.


Selections:
Eddie Pepperell @ 38.037/1
Mikko Ilonen @ 125/1 (Sportsbook)
Paul Lawrie @ 200/1 (Sportsbook)


I'll be back very late on Thursday or sometime on Friday with the In-Play Blog.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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