The KLM Open takes in its 11th venue this week as it moves to the Colin Montgomerie-designed Dutch course. What will it take to win at the new venue and who does our man fancy for this week's test in the Netherlands? Read Steve's in-depth preview here...
"I was a bit disappointed with Thongchai Jaidee in Switzerland last week. He made plenty of birdies over the first three days but there were far too many mistakes for him to contend. He did finish the week nicely though with a six-under-par 64 and given he’s won at both Celtic Manor and Paris National I was happy enough to give him another go here."
Founded in 1912 and originally known as the Dutch Open, the KLM Open has been an ever-present on the European Tour since its inception in 1972. It's a nomadic tournament and this year it will be staged at the brand new Colin Montgomerie designed Dutch Club for the first time. This will be the 79th edition.
The Dutch, Spijk, Netherlands.
Par 71, 6,981 yards
Designed by Colin Montgomerie and European Golf Design's Ross McMurray, the Dutch is an expensive private members course that only opened in 2011. It was the Netherland's candidate venue for their unsuccessful 2018 Ryder Cup bid.
It's an inland links course, having what Monty describes as "probably the best greens they'll find on the European Tour this year." He goes on to say, "There's a lot of pin positions on the greens. It's been designed for championship golf and it will be difficult." And it looks as though it will be even more difficult if you stray from the fairways. Check out Joust Luiten's tweet from the course last week.
There's a bit of waffle at the start and a lot at the end, but the video below provides a nice guide to the course from around the two minute mark.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 9:30 on Thursday.
Last Five Winners
2015 - Thomas Pieters -19
2014 - Paul Casey -14
2013 - Joost Luiten -12 (playoff)
2012 - Peter Hanson -14
2011 - Simon Dyson -12
What Will it Take to Win The KLM Open?
As always, it's very difficult to gauge what's required at a new venue but having looked at the course and read about the place, I expect it to be quite a tough week. I expect good links players to find it to their liking but I also get a feeling it might be quite similar to Paris National.
The home of the Open de France is an exposed hard course that's often wind-affected and there's something about the Dutch's characteristics that reminded me of the 2018 Ryder Cup venue.
I've focused my attention of good wind and links players and those that have played Paris National well.
Is There an Angle In?
Although Monty's name is emblazoned everywhere, I suspect Ross McMurray and his team were almost entirely responsible for the design work so given they were also responsible for the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor, form there might be worth considering also.
I'm always a bit reluctant to mention the weather as the preview goes out so early but at this stage, Thursday afternoon is forecasted to be a bit blowy and certainly more blustery than Thursday morning. An early tee time on day one, when the course is at its pristine best, is nearly always beneficial and it looks like it will be especially advantageous this week.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Outsiders don't have a brilliant record in this event for some reason and we have to go back more than 10 years to find the last shock winner. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano went on to win a further six European Tour events but it was in this event that he broke his duck as a 150/1 shot in 2005.
Simon Dyson, who's won the event three times in total, Dutchman Joost Luiten, who won the event three years ago, and the aforementioned Gonzo often threatened to get on a Ryder Cup team or two but never quite made it but every other winner in the last 10 years has or will represent Europe in the biannual bash.
At first glance, it looks like this course might have a slightly soft finish but we'll have to wait and see how it plays. Three of the last six holes are par fives but the 13th and the 18th both measure in excess of 600 yards, so they might not be straightforward scoring opportunities, and the par three 16th at 200 yards could prove a tough hole too.
Defending champion, Thomas Pieters, is in cracking form and he has to be highly respected. He followed his fourth place finish at the Olympics with a bold defence of his Czech Masters title, where he finished second, and when last sighted he galloped home in fine style at the Made In Denmark.
Since winning that third European Tour title, Pieters has been named as a pick in Darren Clarke's European Tour team so he'll be keen to prove the skipper right to have chosen him but could the added attention be a negative? He's playing brilliantly but the week off may be a negative and defending is never easy.
Had Alex Noren managed to beat Anthony Wall in the final of the Paul Lawrie Match play tournament last month he's be bidding to win his fourth title in six starts this week. He was an impressive winner of the Scottish open in July and he was quite brilliant over the weekend in Switzerland last week to win the European Masters.
Noren won the Wales Open at the aforementioned Celtic Manor in 2011 and he was eighth at the Open de France so if I'm right about those two courses correlating with this he could find the venue to his liking.
Home favourite, Joost Luiten, has also won at Celtic Manor. He won the Wales Open the last time it was staged in 2014, and he tends to put up a bold display in this event too. He was disappointing last year, finishing only 23rd having opened up the event with a seven-under-par 63 to sit fourth, but in addition to winning the tournament in 2013, he's also finished second (on debut in 2007), fifth and sixth.
We can expect Luiten to be right up for another bold showing in his homeland but given he's performed poorly since finishing ninth at the Open de France in June he's not for me at the price on offer.
I was a bit disappointed with Thongchai Jaidee in Switzerland last week. He made plenty of birdies over the first three days but there were far too many mistakes for him to contend. He did finish the week nicely though with a six-under-par 64 and given he's won at both Celtic Manor and Paris National I was happy enough to give him another go here.
My only other pre-event pick is Pablo Larrazabal, who's another player that's won at Paris National. The likable Spaniard has played this event well of late and his form figures over the last three years read 2-9-5. He hasn't had a brilliant year to date but he's shown glimpses of form and last week's seventh at Crans, after a slow start, was particularly eye-catching.
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