Alfred Dunhill Links form could be key
In-running drama highly likely
Read my Charles Schwab Challenge preview here
Founded in 1912, the KLM Open has been an ever-present on the DP World Tour since its inception in 1972, although it was one of many to be lost to the pandemic in 2020.
The KLM Open is a nomadic event but we're returning to the fabulous Bernardus Golf in Cromvoirt for the third year in-a-row for what is the 102nd edition of the tournament.
Bernardus Golf, Cromvoirt, Netherlands
Par 72, 7,445 yards
Stroke Average in 2022 - 72.5
Designed by American architect Kyle Phillips, who was also responsible for Kingsbarns and The Grove, along with a few other tracks (see below).
Extremely generous off the tee, Bernardus is described as a Heathland golf course, but it plays like a true links. Here's what Branden Grace had to say about the venue after it debuted on the DP Tour two years ago.
"It's lived up to all expectations. It's a phenomenal golf course, the facilities are great, and it's a proper links golf course this. We don't get to play links courses that often so it's nice when we get the chance."
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 12:30 on Thursday
Last Eight Winners with Exchange Prices
- 2022 - Victor Perez -13 65.064/1 (playoff)
- 2021 - Kristoffer Broberg -23 400.0399/1
- 2020 - Event Cancelled
- 2019 - Sergio Garcia -18 19.018/1
- 2018 - Ashun Wu -16 140.0139/1
- 2017 - Romain Wattel -15 300.0299/1
- 2016 -Joost Luiten -19 18.017/1
- 2015 - Thomas Pieters -19 70.069/1
What Will it Take to Win the KLM Open
We've only had two renewals at Bernardus but both editions were quite different (there was a difference of ten strokes between the two winning scores), so we probably can't draw too many conclusions from the stats.
With its wide-open fairways, Driving Accuracy hasn't been a factor here but after that, it's not easy to predict what statistics we should be analysing.
This isn't a tough track if the wind doesn't blow and like many a low scoring event, the 2021 edition was won by the person that putted the best.
Kristoffer Broberg ranked only 33rd for Driving Distance, 41st for Driving Accuracy and 37th for Greens In Regulation but he got up-and-down for par more than anyone else and he ranked number on for Stroke Gained Putting. And he ranked first by a country mile.
Broberg gained 13.98 strokes with the flat-stick. Justin Harding ranked second having gained 7.09.
Putting wasn't so important last year with the two men to playoff for the title, Victor Perez and Ryan Fox, ranking only 34th and 32nd for SGP.
The first three home 12 months ago all ranked inside the top-ten for Driving Distance, and they ranked fourth, 14th and ninth for Greens In Regulation, with the key SG stats being Off The Tee and Tee 2 Green.
After only two renewals and with nothing standing out, I'll be largely ignoring the numbers, but I do think form at links courses will stand up again.
Is There an Angle In?
The designer, Kyle Philips, is something of a modern-day links layout specialist and even the Philips-designed tracks that aren't described as links courses that have been used on the DP World Tour (see below) have seen strong links players prevail.
In addition to the Grove, which hosted the British Masters in 2016, won by Alex Noren, and the WGC- American Express in 2006, won by Tiger Woods, and Kingsbarns, which is one of the three courses used in rotation at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
The designer of Bernardus, Kyle Philips, was also responsible for four other tracks used on the DP World Tour...
Philips designed the Dundonald Links, which hosted the Scottish Open in 2017, the PGA Sweden National, which held the 2014 and 2015 editions of what is now the Scandinavian Mixed (formerly the Nordea Masters) and he also designed both the Verdura Golf and Spa.
The latter hosted all four editions of the now defunct Sicily Open between 2011 and 2018, and the Yas Links which hosted this year's edition of the Abu Dhabi Championship.
Given Noren won both the British Masters and the Nordea Masters (2015) at Kyle Philips designed venues, form in any of the events listed above may well be worthwhile and I'd pay particular attention to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship given last year's playoff protagonists have won two of the last three editions of that event.
Winner's 54-hole Position and Exchange Price
- 2022 - Victor Perez - tied for the lead 5.59/2
- 2021 - Kristoffer Broberg - led by eight 1.141/7
- 2020 - Event Cancelled
- 2019 - Sergio Garcia - tied for the lead 2.0421/20
- 2018 - Ashun Wu - tied second, trailing by one 8.615/2
- 2017 - Romain Wattel - solo second, trailing by one 5.39/2
- 2016 - Joost Luiten - tied third, trailing by three 7.87/1
- 2015 - Thomas Pieters - solo fourth, trailing by two 8.27/1
Both course winners were in front with a round to go here but we witnessed all sorts of drama in both editions.
Broberg sat tied for 13th and three off the lead after round one but he was in front at halfway and clear through three rounds, but it was far from a simple victory...
Broberg led by eight strokes with a round to go and nobody had ever lost a lead of eight or more through 54 holes on the DP World Tour.
After a birdie at the first on Sunday, it looked as though we were about to witness a straightforward canter to the line but winning is never straightforward.
After a bogey at the third, Broberg parred his way to the turn before a birdie at the 10th appeared to have settled the nerves.
When he stood in the fairway on the par five 12th, leading Germany's Matthias Schmid by four strokes and Spain's Alejandro Canizares by five, he still appeared to be in command, but he hit an awful second shot and put himself under all sorts of pressure.
The 35-year-old Swede made a poor decision with his third shot (photo above), attempting to clear a large tuft of grass from a poor sandy lie in amongst the trees to the right of the fairway.
H ended up needing to take a penalty drop for an unplayable lie for his fourth stroke, after his third had failed to clear the tuft and gone backwards!
With Schmid on the green, eying up an eagle putt, already on six-under-par for the day and cruising, we looked like witnessing a three-stroke swing at the very least and the young German went odds-on, hitting a low of 1.738/11.
Broberg had been matched at a low of 1.031/33 earlier in the round but in a matter of minutes he was back to odds-against when this fabulous sixth stroke saved the day.
Both Schmid and Broberg found water after that, and it was a ridiculously messy finish but at least the Swede held on to win after trading as low as 1.031/33 before going back out to odds-against. The same can't be said of Fox 12 months ago though...
The Kiwi was matched at a low of just 1.021/50 when he stood on the 18th tee with a three-stroke lead and defeat looked out of the question but his drive on the par five 18th just rolled into the hazard to the right of the fairway and after taking a drop, he missed the green right with his third.
The then played his fourth into a greenside bunker (plugged) and finished up making seven!
That opened the door for Perez, who matched Fox's total, thanks to numerous long putts before going on to win at the fourth extra hole with one last monster putt at the par three 17th.
I'll be back later today or tomorrow with a look at the market leaders and details of any pre-event selections.
Adrian Meronk struggled around the greens at Oak Hill last week, ranking 75th for Scrambling, but the rest of his game was in good order.
The giant Pole, who finished tied for 40th, ranked first for Greens In Regulation and he made more birdies throughout the week than anyone else in the field, including the impressive winner, Brooks Koepka.
Meronk won the Italian Open in style in his penultimate start and he finished third here 12 months ago so there's plenty to like about the pre-event favourite.
Having won three of his last 25 starts on the DP World Tour, Meronk is a prolific performer now and a worthy favourite on the Betfair Exchange.
The defending champ, Victor Perez, performed even better than Meronk at last week's US PGA Championship, finishing tied for 12th.
The Frenchman ranked ninth for both Greens In Regulation and Strokes Gained Approach and second for SG Putting last week and he confirmed his liking for a Kyle Philips design when he followed his victory here with a win at the Yas Links in Abu Dhabi in January.
Defending a title is never easy and like Meronk, Perez needs to recover quickly after last week's gruelling major, but his chance is obvious and his price fair.
After back-to-back fourth placed finishes in Italy and Belgium, and a seventh here 12 months ago, Alexander Bjork must be respected but his sole success, at the China Open, was five years ago now and he's not always convincing in-contention.
The only other player trading at less than 30.029/1 is Jordan Smith, who was an extremely impressive winner of the Portugal Masters back in October but his form has been in and out since.
The course really should suit the Englishman but he finished only 24th on debut 12 months ago and he missed the cut at Oak Hill last week.
I'll have at least one outsider here for the Find me a 100 Winner column, which I'll publish later today or tomorrow, but my only pre-event selection at a double-figure price is the prolific Spaniard, Pablo Larrazabal, who just over a week after turning 40, is in search of his ninth DP World Tour title.
Larrazabal won his eighth title just a fortnight before his big birthday at the Korea Championship and given he won his sixth and seventh titles within a month of each other, just over a year ago, it's a bit odd to see him trading as high as 80.079/1.
Larrazabal finished only 65th in the US PGA Championship last week but he was inside the top-ten after the opening round and he should take to the venue.
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