The European Tour moves on to the Netherlands this week for the 98th edition of the KLM Open. We go back to The Dutch again this year so read what our man thinks of the venue with his in-depth preview here...
"Accurate iron-play and good scrambling was the key to victory for Luiten. He ranked second for Greens In Regulation and first for Scrambling and the top-eight places were littered with players ranking highly for those two stats."
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 one of only seven events to be staged every year since the start of the Tour in '72 and this will be the 98th edition of the tournament.
The KLM Open is a nomadic event but this year we return to the Colin Montgomerie designed Dutch Club which was used for the first time 12 months ago.
Look out for a hole-in-one this week. Should we get one, it will be the 1000th on the European Tour.
The Dutch, Spijk, Netherlands
Par 71, 6,983 yards
Stroke Index in 2016 - 70.59
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 described 12 months ago as "probably the best greens they'll find on the European Tour this year." He went 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."
It's an exposed course with slightly undulating but largely flat fairways that are in-part framed by man-made mounding. Last year the rough was consistent and fairly thick and the large bentgrass greens should again run fairly fast at around 11.5 on the stimpmeter. Many of the greens are slightly elevated with run-off areas so it was no surprise to see last year's winner, Joost Luiten, top the Scrambling stats. Water is in-play on 12 holes.
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
2016 -Joost Luiten -19
2015 - Thomas Pieters -19
2014 - Paul Casey -14
2013 - Joost Luiten -12 (playoff)
2012 - Peter Hanson -14
What Will it Take to Win The KLM Open?
Caution is most certainly advised with just one edition previously staged at The Dutch but for what it's worth, here's my take on the stats from last year.
The winner, Luiten, only ranked 50th for Driving Distance last year and David Horsey and Alejandro Canizares, who were both tied for fourth, ranked 59th and 64th for DD so length off the tee is clearly not essential.
The winner ranked 10th for Driving Accuracy and Canizares ranked fifth but they were the only two in the top-nine places to rank inside the top-20 for DA so that's not a stat to get hung up on either.
Accurate iron-play and good scrambling was the key to victory for Luiten. He ranked second for Greens In Regulation and first for Scrambling and the top-eight places were littered with players ranking highly for those two stats.
Luiten had a decent but not spectacular week with the putter and he didn't play the par fives especially well (ranked 33rd) but nobody played the par fours better.
The weather forecast is pretty foul with wind and rain expected to bother the field throughout the week so the winner will have to be a decent poor weather player.
Is There an Angle In?
Given we've only had one renewal at the Dutch, we probably shouldn't go rushing to any conclusions but three venues do seem to correlate...
Although Monty's name is emblazoned everywhere, I suspect Ross McMurray and his team were almost entirely responsible for the design work and they were also responsible for the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor and form there has already worked out because the winner of the last Wales Open in 2012 was Luiten.
Prior to the off last year, I wondered whether Paris National, home of the Open de France, might be a similar venue. It's an exposed track that's often referred to as an inland links and the form did stand up well here. Berndt Wiesberger, who finished runner-up, won at Paris National two years ago and Alejandro Canizares, who finished tied for fourth, was beaten in a playoff there in 2010. Tommy Fleetwood, who finished 10th here last year when not at his best, won this year's Open de France.
And finally, I can't see any reason why, as the two venues don't look similar, but form at Wentworth might just be an angle in also: Byeong Hun An, who finished third last year, won the BMW PGA at Wentworth two years ago; Simon Khan, who fell away to finish tenth 12 months ago is a two-time winner at Wentworth; the third round leader, Scot Hend, also led at Wentworth after three rounds last year; and Luiten, Wiesberger, Canizares and David Horsey, who were all inside the top four and ties last year, all have fine form at Wentworth.
I can't see why form at the two venues should crossover but on what limited evidence we have it looks like it does.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Luiten was a well-supported third favourite last year and that was fairly typical as outsiders don't have a brilliant record in this event for some reason and we have to go back a dozen 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, Luiten, who's won the event twice, 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 ten years has or will represent Europe in the biannual bash.
Luiten trailed by four strokes in a tie for 32nd after round one last year but a 64 in round tow saw him move up in to a tie for second and if last year's result is anything to go by a fairly swift start looks essential.
Six of the first eight home last year were all inside the top-ten after round one and nobody made any significant last charges to get in-the-mix.
Although three of the four par fives are played in the final third of the course, the finish is quite demanding to The Dutch. The two hardest holes last year were the 11th and the ninth and the par four 12th was the fourth toughest. The players get a bit of respite after that with holes 13, 14 and 15 ranking the third, fourth, and second easiest on the course but the three finishing holes are tricky and the 18th is a long par five of 640 yards which played to its par exactly, ranking as the seventh hardest hole on the course. If you're betting in-running, three pars to finish is a decent score.
The early starters on day one enjoyed an advantage over those drawn PM-AM to the tune of 1.77 strokes last year and I can see Thursday morning's wave getting much the better of it again this year. The weather doesn't look great on Thursday morning but it's decidedly worse in the afternoon if the forecast can be believed.
Keep an eye on the weather, and if the forecast is correct, we might find that the market significantly underestimates a good score on Thursday morning.
Despite not being in the best of form this year, the defending champion, Joost Luiten, is very much the worthy favourite. In addition to winning last year and in 2013, he's also finished second (on debut in 2007), fifth and sixth in the event previously. He clearly gets inspired playing in his homeland and he sounds positive ahead of his defence.
Speaking on the Sky Sports Golf podcast, Luiten said. "I have only one top-ten (this year) but I know that this is a different week. It's a week when anything can happen and hopefully I can get in that zone again."
Asked if it was a course that suits him, he replied. "I like the place and I think last year and this are going to be completely different. Last year we had no wind and perfect weather and this year it looks like we're going to have a lot of rain and wind, so it will play differently, and I hope I can have the advantage as I know the course very well because I practice there all the time."
The forecast favours Luiten as he's one of the best bad weather players on tour. He has numerous placed efforts in foul conditions and the weather was awful when he won this event the first time back in 2013.
Last year's runner-up, Bernd Wiesberger, is the biggest danger to Luiten according to the market but he hasn't had a top-40 finish since the first week of July and he's missed his last two cuts. He's notoriously difficult to get across the line when he's playing well so he's definitely not for me this week.
In-form Kiwi, Ryan Fox is the only other player trading at less than [30.0] but he looks short enough to me given he's looking to win on the European Tour for the first time and that he's seeing The Dutch for the first time this week.
Joost Luiten's tied 30th last week wasn't a bad effort given his previous course form figures only read MC-MC-15-27-44 and that he had a poor round on Saturday and I suspect he might just be peaking at the right time.
Chris Wood finished 59th here 12 months ago and he's not been in tip-top form since his decent 14th at the Open Championship but with a morning tee-time (alongside Luiten) I thought he was a fraction too big at [50.0].
Unfortunately, my each-way pick, Aaron Rai, has been assigned an afternoon start on Thursday but the forecast might change yet and I've also thrown a few pounds at huge outsider, Alvaro Quiros.
The Spaniard is woefully out of form at present but he won earlier in the season in blustery conditions and he's another really solid bad weather player. With and early draw on Thursday, he's worth risking a few pounds on at a monster price.
I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog.
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