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What the golfing Gods gave us with Matt Wallace's win in Denmark a fortnight ago, they cruelly snatched back last week with 33/1 headline selection Lucas Bjerregaard losing out in a play-off to Matt Fitzpatrick in the Swiss Alps. Hard lines for the Dane who'd looked by far the most likely winner after posting a flawless final round of 63, however it wasn't to be sadly. Darren Fichardt (125/1) fell a shot shy of the each-way places after another excellent final round to compound a frustrating week, however a chance for immediate redemption is never far away in this game.
Holland is our next stop on the European Tour as we head towards a series of decent events with qualification for Dubai looming and two further Rolex Series events before we reach that point, plus of course the small matter of the Ryder Cup in a little over a fortnight's time. One of Thomas Bjorn's Ryder Cup vice-captains Lee Westwood heads the betting here at 16/1 following a decent couple of weeks where he firstly lost out in a play-off to Matt Wallace in Denmark before finishing 12th last week in Switzerland.
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Course Overview. Having flitted between Kennemer and Hilversumche since the millennium, the KLM Open heads back to the 'The Dutch' for a third consecutive year having hosted its first recognisable event since its opening here in 2016. Carved from the rural countryside of Spijk to the east of Rotterdam, this modern inland links-style course takes its inspiration from the classic links tracks found the other side of the North Sea and features the dunes, undulating fairways, deep bunkering and thick gorse that's more typically found in Scotland. At 6,983 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 more than half of the holes, challenging 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.
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 tends to favour the more adept ball-strikers. As ever with shorter, links or links-style tracks, the strength of the breeze and conditions underfoot tends to determine the scoring levels.
Tournament Stats. We've published some key player statistics for this week's KLM Open, however it's worth noting that only the last two renewals have been hosted here at The Dutch: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Top 20 Finishes | Combined Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2017: Romain Wattel, 175/1; 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 2017 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here. Largely dry and sunny conditions are expected for the 4 days of tournament play with temperatures approaching 70 Fahrenheit. Winds will be light for the first two days before increasing slightly over the weekend, reaching 10-12mph in the afternoons.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the top-2 finishers here over the past 2 years gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:
The common theme from both years played at The Dutch has been that strong iron-play has ultimately prevailed. The top two home last year both hit over 80% of GIR and of the remaining players finishing inside the top-10 overall, we also had players ranking 1st, 3rd, 3rd, 8th, 8th and 10th on the same count. It was a similar story the year before with Luiten, Wiesberger and Ben An filling the top 3 spots and each are excellent ball-strikers when on their games. The key with both eventual winners though was that they had a strong week on the greens to compliment their approach play, ranking 10th (Luiten) and 2nd (Wattel) for putts per GIR.
The par-3s are scoreable here: in total the 71 players who made the cut played the short holes in 175 under par during the week 12 months ago which improved on already impressive figures the year before of -137 for 72 players. Eventual winner Romain Wattel played the short holes in 8-under over the course of the week which was the best on show and, once again, emphasises the importance of strong iron-play here. In terms of the par-5s, the 6th and 15th holes offer scoring opportunities to the whole field, whereas the 13th and 18th are 3-shotters for most which nullifies the impact of the longer holes on the outcome of the event to a larger degree than normal.
Incoming Form: Wattel was having a poor season before capturing his maiden European Tour title here last year and 175/1 was indicative of the year he was having which, until that point, had seen no finish better than 24th on Tour; 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:
Event Form. Last year's winner Romain Wattel had missed the cut at The Dutch on his previous attempt in 2016, however a 5th place finish at Kennemer in 2014 masks the fact that he led by 3 shots going into the final round before stumbling to a closing 74. 2016 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.
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 the critical statistic once again this year. Conditions are likely to be far more amenable than 12 months ago which should lead to a lower winning total, perhaps similar to Luiten's 19-under from 2016 when it was calm, warm and sunny for the most part. A liking for links-style layouts isn't a bad attribute to have here either in my view, although it's certainly not the be-all and end-all.
My selections are as follows:
Ryan Fox 2pts EW 33/1 with Bet £/€10 get £/€30 for new customers, 18+, T&Cs apply* (7 EW, 1/5 odds):
There are some classy enough players at the top of the list this week with the likes of Lee Westwood, Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace heading the betting in Holland, however that English trio could find themselves trailing in the wake of talented Kiwi Ryan Fox here this week. Westwood is undoubtedly playing some excellent golf with incoming form of 2/12 and having finished 3rd here last year on debut, however he's a risk at the price on offer given that he hasn't won anywhere globally since 2015, including in his travels east which used to result in him beating up weak fields on the Asian Tour. Eddie Pepperell also finished 3rd last year, however he's notoriously difficult to call and much will depend on his focus this week as to whether he contends or whether he's even here for the weekend. Matt Wallace gave everything he had in him to win in Denmark a fortnight ago and that showed last week as he drifted to 51st in The Alps. So, all things considered, I'm happy to start this week's team a little further down the list with the talented New Zealander.
At 79th in the OWGR, the 31 year-old son of All Blacks legend Grant Fox is edging closer to the world's top-50 and the chance to fulfil his dream of playing at Augusta National. With 29 places to make up between now and the end of the year - and some high-value Rolex Series events to come - he'll want to be playing himself into top form over the next few weeks and after a few weeks at home following his US PGA Championship effort (finished 27th), he got back into the swing of things with a steady top-30 finish at Crans last week on a course that doesn't necessarily play to his strengths. His effort at Bellerive backed up Major finishes of 41st at the US Open and 39th at The Open Championship in what was a trio of efforts that few in this field can compete with and, on his favourite type of terrain, I'd fancy his class to show here this week.
Although this isn't a pure links here at The Dutch, it shares enough characteristics with its genuine counterparts to fall into the same category when matching players to this layout and finishes of 4th at both the 2017 Scottish and Irish Opens as well as 2nd and 6th respectively in this year's renewals bodes well for starters. Fox's power allows him to be aggressive on exposed tracks such as this and despite finishing a lowly 60th here on debut last year, he's arriving with more top-class experience in the bag and I'd expect his game to flourish on this layout. Although this track isn't all about power, 3 par-5s in the final 6 holes offer the more aggressive players a chance to complete the round in style and that could prove pivotal when push comes to shove on Sunday should Fox find himself in position. Couple that with an excellent iron game - he currently ranks 16th for GIR on Tour for the full season and finished 9th on that metric at Crans last week - and we have a potentially winning combination in my view. RESULT: MC
If the Ryan Fox selection was based more around raw potential and links-style pedigree, then balancing that with a GIR machine who's recently proven his ability at this level is a sensible move in my view and none fit the bill more so than Andrea Pavan. The Italian's win in the Czech Republic at the end of August was a suitable reward for some strong, consistent form in 2018 that saw top-10 finishes at the World Super 6, Trophee Hassan II, Sicilian Open and the Nordea Masters before he finally got over the line in Prague. Those results have been driven by some sublime iron-play that current sees the 29 year-old sit 13th for Greens In Regulation (73.8%) over the full season and 7th for Strokes Gained Approach, both of which are excellent indicators of a good fit for this course in my view.
Looking back at Pavan's career, we've twice seen him back up a victory with another in the same season: in 2011 he secured his maiden Challenge Tour title at the Norwegian Challenge before winning the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final a few weeks later and he repeated the feat in 2013 with a further two Challenge Tour titles. Of course we're now talking about emulating that on a bigger stage, however the way that he held off a proven winner like Padraig Harrington at the Czech Masters can only have filled him with confidence should he find himself in contention again in the near future.
Last week's missed cut at the Omega Masters can be ignored in my view - the quirky track can easily catch up with even the best of players - and if it weren't for taking a nightmare 11 at the 14th hole on Friday, he'd have comfortably made the cut and who's to say that the Rome man wouldn't have contended once again? Aside from that, he'd just become a father for the second time the week before and undoubtedly will have needed to get back into the swing of things having downed tools completely for a few days. Back in a more regular routine now, The Dutch should suit Pavan on debut this week. RESULT: T20
Pablo Larrazabal 1pt EW 90/1 with £/€20 risk-free bet*** for new accounts, 18+, T&Cs apply (8 EW, 1/5 odds):
Ashun Wu 1pt EW 125/1 with New customers: Bet £10 get £30 & 30 free spins. 18+, T&Cs apply**** (6 EW, 1/5 odds):
A couple of eye-catching performances last week that warrant some further support at longer prices. Firstly, one of my favourite players Pablo Larrazabal who's been given the all-clear from a niggling wrist injury and who, after the best part of two months off, hit the ground running last week in Crans. The 35 year-old is a former Open de France winner at a Le Golf National track that's often described as inland links in style and 16th in the Alps over the weekend offered a lot of encouragement given he drove the ball nicely (19th for Driving Accuracy) and his irons were in good shape too (9th for GIR). With a long rest over the summer while many of his peers have been jet-setting around, he'll be ready to attack this final segment of the European Tour season and at 72nd in the Race to Dubai he needs to grab a decent result or two sooner rather than later if he's going to be involved in the big-money events that complete the schedule. Good news then that he's returning to a country that's served him well over the years as he attempts to finish 2018 off in style: 13th in the Dutch Futures on the Challenge Tour as an up-and-coming professional is noteworthy as he led for the first two days and finishes of 2nd, 9th and 5th at the KLM Open before it moved to The Dutch are also promising. His 2016 debut here on this track resulted in a 20th place finish courtesy of a final round 66 and the Barcelona man should feel comfortable and confident as he heads to the first tee this week. RESULT: T11
2016 winner and runner-up here at The Dutch, Joost Luiten and Bernd Wiesberger, are both former Lyoness Open winners and 2017 winner Romain Wattel finished 3rd there in 2013, so if a form line can be drawn between the two venues then Ashun Wu must come into the reckoning. 2016 Lyoness champion Wu also had a chance to repeat that feat this year as he sat in 3rd place heading into the final day before dropping away and at the price on offer I'm willing to take a punt on this course link producing the goods for a 3rd year on the trot. It's not all about that one, perhaps tenuous, link with the 33 year-old Chinese star though as he produced a prominent showing last week at Crans where a pair of 65s on Friday and Saturday had catapulted him up to 3rd position heading into the final day. That effort, coupled with an 11th place finish in Fiji last month, suggests that his game's not far away and when he plays his best golf it tends to coincide with a week where his irons are extremely compliant. 31st here last year doesn't look that competitive on the face of it, however he sat in 6th place heading into the weekend and despite dropping away still managed to find just shy of 80% of greens in regulation. Like Larrazabal, at 90th in the R2D his card for 2019 is secure, however he'll need to push on if he's going to feature at the latter end of season when the big bucks can be earned. RESULT: Winner
First Round Leader Market
Matthew Baldwin 1pt EW 150/1 First Round Leader with New customers: Bet £10 get £30 & 30 free spins. 18+, T&Cs apply****
One final bet for me this week, this time in the First Round Leader market. I wanted to build Englishman Matthew Baldwin into my team in some way or another and although I fear an each-way bet on the outright market might ultimately prove to be fruitless, he still has a lot going for him in the round 1 market on what's forecast to be a calm and sunny day throughout Thursday. The 32 year-old finished 23rd at the Open Championship on debut back in 2012 to give some hint of the type of terrain that might suit him best and further results including 5th at Le Golf National in 2014 and 10th at this season's Qatar Masters - both of which hold some correlation to this week's test - bode well. However for a First Round Leader bet we need someone who's capable of getting off to a fast start and Baldwin has demonstrated that a number of times in the last year or so: going back to the start of August last year, Matthew has twice ended the first day at the top of the leaderboard - namely the 2017 Finnish Challenge and the 2018 Belgian Knockout - and he's also sat in 2nd place on three further occasions after 18 holes, including earlier this month at the Made in Denmark. In total that's 2 wins and 3 each-way payouts from 32 starts at all levels and given the 150/1 on offer here, that's a price worth taking a chance on in my view. RESULT: Lose
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