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Holland is our next stop on the European Tour as we head towards a series of decent events with qualification for Dubai looming and three further Rolex Series events before we reach that point in time. Last week didn't quite pan out as we'd hoped with 200/1 shot Marcus Fraser failing to so much as place from the final Sunday group, however with a decent betting heat ahead of us let's see if we can get back on track this week.
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford previews the BMW Championship - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Course Overview. Having flitted between Kennemer and Hilversumche for the past 15 years, the KLM Open heads back to the 'The Dutch' for a second consecutive year having hosted its first recognisable event since its opening in 2011 this time last year. The Colin Montgomerie/European Golf Design collaboration will be the home of the KLM Open next year also and is sufficiently well-regarded that it was selected as Holland's candidate venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup, eventually losing out to Le Golf National in Paris.
Carved from the rural countryside of Spijk to the east of Rotterdam, this inland links course takes its inspiration from the classic links tracks found the other side of the North Sea and features the typical dunes, undulating fairways, deep bunkering and thick gorse that's more typically found in Scotland. At 6,981 yards for its par of 71, The Dutch isn't a long course by modern standards, however there's plenty of protection in the shape of water which is in play on around half of the holes, thick rough around the greens and longer grass for those who are errant off the tee or with approach shots. The greens are undulating bentgrass which can reach 12'6" on the stimpmeter in ideal conditions. You can get a feel of the course from these graphical flyovers.
The front 9 is the shorter of the two halves with a short par-5 (490 yards) and three sub-400 yard par 4s; the back 9 is over 300 yards longer and features 3 par-3s and 3 par-5s, two of which are over 600 yards in length. Overall there's a real mix of holes in terms of length, however in general they're fairly straight with few dog-legs to trouble the players and this tended to favour the more adept ball-strikers 12 months ago. As ever with shorter, links or links-style tracks, the strength of the breeze tends to determine the scoring levels and with a fairly stiff breeze forecast for the start of this year's event, The Dutch may well show its teeth this year - at least to begin with.
Tournament Stats. We've published some key player statistics for this week's KLM Open, however it's worth noting that last year's event was the first time that The Dutch course here had hosted this tournament: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Top 20 Finishes.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2016: Joost Luiten, 18/1; 2015: Thomas Pieters, 55/1; 2014: Paul Casey, 25/1; 2013: Joost Luiten, 20/1; 2012: Peter Hanson, 22/1; 2011: Simon Dyson, 25/1; 2010: Martin Kaymer, 12/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the European Tour based on the 2016 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here. A wet few days leading up to the event in the area and more showers forecast throughout the event will make for a fairly soggy course. Temperatures will be fairly academic with the low 60s Fahrenheit the likely maximum each afternoon and the wind will be fairly noticeable on Thursday (15-20 mph) before slowly dropping over the weekend.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the top-3 finishers last year gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:
The top 3 are all decent ball-strikers who averaged around 80% of greens in regulation between them on the week, however the key differentiator between Luiten and the others was that he also scrambled and putted well which inevitably made him dangerous. Putting was also key in general though with Ben An the only player to finish in the top-7 who didn't rank inside the 11 best putters on the week and with players like Alejandro Canizares and David Horsey finishing in those positions clearly there's more than one way to tame The Dutch.
The par-3s aren't particularly challenging here - in total the 72 players who made the cut played the short holes in 137 under par over the week - and the par-5 6th and 15th holes offer scoring opportunities to the whole field, whereas the 13th and 18th are 3-shotters for most, so the emphasis falls very much on how players fare on the par-4s here - indeed Luiten led the field here in that respect on -10 for the week. The Dutchman also only made 3 bogeys over the 4 days so players who can keep their card clean may well have the best chance of success here.
Incoming Form: Luiten had twice finished runner-up earlier that season and 33rd at the US PGA and 27th at the Olympics was clearly strong form relative to the field here; Pieters had won a fortnight before, gaining his maiden European Tour victory in the Czech Republic; Casey had been playing predominantly in the USA and back-to-back top-22 finishes in higher company. Luiten in 2013 had won the Lyoness Open earlier in the summer and Peter Hanson had finished 3rd at Augusta that season. Simon Dyson had won the Irish Open 5 events before capturing his 3rd KLM Open title in 2011 and Martin Kaymer's 4 stroke victory in 2010 was his first start since winning the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. All in all, in-form players have tended to dominated in recent times.
Event Form: Last year's winner Joost Luiten won this event for the 2nd time having previously triumphed in 2013, whereas 2011 winner Simon Dyson has notched 3 KLM Open successes over his career. A switch to a new venue last year though may well open the door to less experienced players of this event though.
Defending champion Joost Luiten shares favouritism this week with the event's highest-ranked player Bernd Wiesberger, however the fact that they're both an uneasy 18/1 at the time of writing goes some way to explaining how competitive the pair's form has been of late. Home favourite Luiten produced some excellent golf 12 months ago and holed an awful lot of putts on his way to victory, however neither he nor Wiesberger have been close to firing on all cylinders for some time now and with an iffy weather forecast things could rapidly go wrong for anybody in this field.
For me, someone who's striking their irons well at present is the most attractive angle into this week and GIR may well prove to be critical once again this year. Surviving Thursday without too much damage is likely to be key too as that looks by far the most challenging day with wet and at times windy weather forecast throughout the day.
Bookmaker Offers: Latest offers and extended each-way places are detailed below.
My selections are as follows:
Having left David Horsey alone last week at Crans after he finished 2nd behind Julian Suri when carrying my money on his previous start in Denmark, I'm happy to invest once again while his game is in decent shape. The decision to leave the Englishman out of the team last week in the Swiss Alps was essentially down to his course form around that quirky track - 60/MC/MC/MC/MC/66 from 6 attempts tells its own story - so a 30th place finish there was actually another very positive sign as it marked a strong personal best for him at Crans. No such challenge this week in terms of course history as Horsey finished 4th at The Dutch 12 months ago on debut where he got on extremely well with the putting surfaces (1.63 putts per GIR, 4th in the field) and with his long game in decent shape he's a dangerous contender here.
When he's playing at his best, Horsey is a tidy tee-to-green exponent who can putt extremely well - his only real negative is that at an average of 284 yards from off the tee (188th on Tour for 2017), he's often at a disadvantage on golf's longer circuits. No such issue this week though on a sub-7,000 yard layout where the event is likely to be won or lost on the par-4s rather than the par-5s and instead he can focus on hitting enough greens to give himself a stab at this title. Twice a runner-up already this season, firstly at the Lyoness Open which is a little on the lengthy side for him and then again on his penultimate start where he was chasing a 72nd hole birdie to force a play-off with Julian Suri before succumbing to the pressure and making a final hole triple-bogey 7, Horsey is clearly in good enough shape to win a 5th European Tour title; in the absence of an abundance of star names ahead of him in the betting and a course that suits, this is an excellent opportunity to do just that.
84.7% of greens in regulation in Denmark was the Stockport man's best iron-play performance for very nearly 2 years and 72.2% last week on the tiny greens at Crans isn't to be sniffed at either, so provided he can weather the first day's play he could be in for another strong week. "Very pleased with my game going into final 3rd of the season though. Work I've been doing last few months really starting to pay off," he commented on twitter after his effort in Switzerland and at 54th in the Race to Dubai at present he'll be looking for one final effort to guarantee himself a place at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in a couple of months time. RESULT: T38
Last year's winner and runner-up here at The Dutch, Joost Luiten and Bernd Wiesberger, are both former Lyoness Open winners and if a form line can be drawn between the two venues then Dylan Frittelli should be very much in our plans here this week. Having previously missed out on a maiden European Tour title twice courtesy of play-off defeats at the 2015 Australian PGA Championship and earlier this year in China, the 27 year-old South African made amends in Austria in June and is well capable of pushing on further before this season's through. Ball-striking is Frittelli's strongest suit and following an understandably lean spell after his win earlier in the summer, he's shown good signs on his last couple of starts that his game is just about ready for another big effort. 25th at the Czech Masters featured a GIR ranking of 6th in the field (77.8%) and 37th last week at Crans on debut saw the Joburg native rank 5th for Ball-Striking overall with his final finishing position being improved by birdieing his final 3 holes on Sunday to set him up nicely for this week. This will be Dylan's debut at The Dutch, however with only a year's worth of course history that shouldn't be a huge issue and having schooled at the University of Texas he'll be well capable of handling the wind forecast on Thursday. RESULT: T31
Another player who's caught my eye recently with some strong GIR performances is Kiradech Aphibarnrat and with a soft course here in Holland, he could be a strong contender if the putter fires this week as we know it can easily do for the Thai. Like Frittelli this is his first competitive look at The Dutch course, however there's nothing to scare him here in terms of the set-up or the field that's assembled. At 71st in the Race To Dubai, a decent few weeks is required if he's going to be lining up at the Earth Course for a third consecutive year and that's got to be the minimum return expected for a player who's found himself inside the OWGR top-50 in the past and has 3 European Tour titles to his name so far in his career. The last piece of silverware he captured was the Paul Lawrie Match Play on Murcar Links in tough conditions at times so he shouldn't be written off simply as a result of an inclement weather forecast and with the winning total likely to be down on last year, his 2 strokeplay victories coming at 12 and 13-under par could be an ideal indicator for this week. 7th for GIR at the European Open (76.4%) and 5th on the same count last week at the European Masters (75.9%) is enough evidence I need to suggest that he can contend here this week. RESULT: T9
A couple of longer prices to finish. First up, Chris Hanson who led the field for GIR here 12 months ago on his way to an 8th place finish which still ranks inside his top-4 OWGR points hauls so far in his career. With the number of players retaining their cards this year courtesy of their Race To Dubai position reduced from 110 to 100, Hanson's current ranking of 94th is fairly precarious and with the quality of events steadily improving this has got to be as good an opportunity as he'll get to secure his playing privileges for 2018. 13th in the GIR rankings for the full European Tour season tells us exactly the kind of game that the 32 year-old plays and if he makes his breakthrough at this level in the near future, it's likely to be on a track such as this which rewards players who can find a particularly number of greens in the requisite number. 10th at the Lyoness Open last year bodes well given what I've said about the results from that course linking nicely with here and he's shown some encouraging form of late, leading the Czech Masters by 3 strokes at the halfway stage on his penultimate start and he produced 4 consecutive under-par rounds on his Crans debut last week which is no mean feat in itself on that quirky layout. RESULT: T25
Finally I've saved a small wager for Nino Bertasio who played so well here for large spells 12 months ago before throwing it all away. Leading at 15-under par and standing on the par-5 18th on Saturday afternoon, the 29 year-old proceeded to double-bogey the third-easiest hole that day to drop a shot behind Scott Hend before a Sunday 77 from the final group dropped him all the way down to 24th. A top-10 in Austria this season is the Italian's best result to date and at 114th in the Race to Dubai he needs some big results quickly, however 14th at the Czech Masters and a solid performance in Crans last week with opening rounds of 69/69/67 and field rankings of 2nd for both Total Driving and Ball-Striking suggests to me that his game is in pretty good shape overall. Of course we're banking on the fact that he'll have learned from his experience last year should he find himself in a promising position once again here this week, however at the price on offer I'm happy to take that chance. RESULT: MC
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