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Thankfully Thomas Bjorn is taking the week off to give everyone else a chance this week at the short, classical test that is the KLM Open at Hilversumche, Holland. Bjorn's form has been scintillating in recent times with 4 victories in a little over 15 months and rewarding GBS punters with a 200/1 EW place at Sandwich, however it's time for another player to get his name on the 2011 winners' list with the Dane taking a well-deserved break!
Last year saw the KLM Open return to the Hilversumche Golf Club in Hilversum for the 15th time in the tournament's history, following a 4-year stint at Kennemer G&CC during which time we had 2 wins from Dyson and one apiece from Ross Fisher and Darren Clarke. If you're looking at past results then be very aware that Kennemer is a links course whereas Hilversumsche is a heathland course with far more similarities to the likes of Wentworth and other British golf clubs of the like. Martin Kaymer produced 4 near faultless rounds to ease to a 4-shot victory last season and his patient, controlled style is very much suited to this Harry Colt design.
At a touch over 6,900 yards, the par-70 is short by today's standards, however this course is proof (if any were needed) that a course doesn't need to be long to present a challenge to the top professionals. Last year's winning score of 14-under was respectable, however with much thicker rough expected this season I would expect anyone who can finish in double figures under par to be taking the title. Accuracy from the tee is the most important factor here in my opinion - anything wild can expect a combination of tree trouble and penal rough following a pretty mixed Dutch summer of sunshine and wet weather. To compound matters, the start of the tournament is expected to be windy, followed by calmer but wetter conditions into the weekend. All in all, quality ball-strikers must be favoured to succeed this week.
My tips are as follows:
At the top of the betting we have 3 excellent ball-strikers and it's easy to make a case for all 3: US Open Champion McIlroy is without doubt one of the best, if not THE best, ball striker in the World at present. Former World Number 1 Lee Westwood isn't far behind McIlroy and from tee-to-green is one the most consistent players out there. Then there's the prodigious talent that is Martin Kaymer. We're spoilt for choice in this department with these 3 and the bookies are no mugs making them virtual joint-favourites this week. I suspect, as do the bookies, that the winner is very likely to come from one of those 3.
So who to choose? All 3 performed well in Switzerland so there's no immediate concern about form, so we need to dig a bit deeper. Rory McIlroy was quite vocal following a disappointing performance at Sandwich that tough conditions weren't to his liking, plus he's still recovering from the injury which scuppered his US PGA chances. With wind, rain and the requirement to hack out of knee-high rough for the wayward all on the cards this week then I'd say that McIlroy is the least likely of the 3 to succeed. Westwood still doesn't get the job finished enough for my liking to be worthy of backing at single figure prices. Yes, he can win this - he won on this track and also lost in a playoff at the end of the last century - however when push comes to shove on Sunday he may well finish in his customary position just below the leaders.
That leaves defending champion Martin Kaymer who would have won last week had he not run into an unstoppable Thomas Bjorn. Kaymer has the right kind of patient, mechanical game to succeed around this track - patience was key last year as he kept the ball in play, gave himself chances, and eventually pulled clear as the mistakes of others took their toll. He can play in tough conditions and tough courses - Whistling Straits and his Alfred Dunhill Links victories leap off the page - plus his naturally low ball flight will be an asset for the windier days in Holland. For me, the German is ready to win again and I expect him to defend his title successfully this week. RESULT: M/C
Northern Irish golf has enjoyed something of a purple patch in terms of the Majors, however one of Hansen's fellow Danes who has been making all the headlines in recent times back on the European Tour. With Bjorn absent this week, it gives a great opportunity to his compatriot to keep the flag flying and I feel that Hansen could be the closest of the remaining challengers to the top 3 once all the scores are added up on Sunday.
3 times a runner-up already this season, Hansen sits comfortably inside the top 10 in the Race To Dubai and will be looking forward to filling his coffers at the season-ending tournament, however what Anders really wants is another victory on the European Tour to add to his 3 trophies which currently adorn his cabinet. Two of those 3 wins came at Wentworth in 2002 and 2007 so he'll feel at home on another tree-lined Colt design. His confidence will still be sky-high following an excellent performance at Atlanta Athletic Club last month where he lead the European charge and this course should suit his straight-hitting style (currently 9th on Tour) down to the ground. RESULT: T25
Felipe Aguilar isn't the first player that comes to mind when putting together a shortlist for most events, however the arrow-straight Chilean is a great shout for an outside punt this week as his game is absolutely perfect for Hilversumche. 8th here on course debut last season was encouraging, as is 3rd earlier this term at the Open de Andalucía which holds positive form lines to this event. Top 20 results at Wentworth this season and back in 2008 also offer encouragement.
Ranking inside the top 15 on Tour for accuracy off the tee, the 36 year-old will find himself in the short stuff more often than most of his peers and this will go down very well in Holland. He ranked 3rd for accuracy last week in Switzerland and a similar statistic this week will go a long way towards securing us a strong Each Way payout as he looks to rubber-stamp his trip to Dubai in December. RESULT: W/D
Englishman Horsey is a player who I'd put in the overpriced/underestimated category almost every time he tees it up, and this week he stands an even stronger shout as his accurate, patient style is likely to suit Hilversumche perfectly - indeed his course debut last year reaped a 4th place finish and he'll be looking to improve on that here this week.
Having already won this season in Morocco, Horsey can play with the freedom of a man who has no concerns about reaching Dubai or securing his card. At 37th for accuracy, Horsey is plenty straight enough to compete here - for proof look at his excellent performance at Wentworth (7th) which will set him in great stead here. Another who could well get into the frame at a 3-figure price. RESULT: T6
Grinder Ferrie is the final part of my team and, as with all my selections, ball-striking is Kenny's key asset and 22nd on Tour for the season for accuracy off the tee gets him a big tick here. If anything, his driving game has been even better than that of late as he lead the field for hitting fairways at Gleneagles on his way to a top 10 finish.
A first round 64 here last season is a good indication that he can play the course and whilst that only resulted in a tie for 26th in the end, he does have a top 10 here back in 2003 to fall back on, plus a tie for 11th in Andalucía earlier this term. Ferrie's game is more about patience and grinding out pars, however when his putter warms up he can be very, very competitive as his 3rd round 60 in Andalucía proved - watch this space!RESULT: T50
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 20:00BST 6.9.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.