After a couple of weeks of real bargain basement action on the European Tour, it’s a much better quality event this week – as a much improved field headed by Martin Kaymer will be pitching up in Holland for the KLM Open, which returns to the Kennemer Golf and Country Club in Zandvoort.
The 6,626yd Par 70 track is a short classic links course, exposed to the wind, with a decidedly old fashioned feel about it. The fairways are undulating and quite generous, with plenty of elevated tee shots and the rough has been quite penal in previous renewals at this venue.
The type of player to follow around this thinking mans track is an accurate ball striker, with a solid links pedigree who – if required – has the ability to handle windy conditions. The weather is set fair for the tournament, with predominantly sunny skies for the first three days, and winds of between 10-15mph forecast for the tournament, just enough to catch the attention of the assembled field.
Another great week for the betting column, with two of our tips collecting. The steely Rickie Fowler delivered for us a winning bet at 45/1 E/W and we collected on Henrik Stenson with an E/W place on the 15/1 price.
From a punting angle this week, the market has a real open feel about it, with Martin Kaymer chalked up as the tournament jolly. Although the classy German won the 2010 KLM Open, that win was at Hilversum and a further negative to consider is that he has very little competitive course form around this rather quirky Kennemer layout. The fact he plays here only because he failed to make it to the Fed-Ex play offs doesn’t fill me with a huge amount of confidence either.
With these negatives, I am happy to look further down the list for three young proven links performers who have all hinted they are close to shedding their maiden tag on the European Tour.
The nap this week is awarded to the promising maiden Eddie Pepperell, who definitely gets my vote as the most interesting golfer around at the moment – as ardent followers of his Twitter account like this golf pundit can vouch for. The 24-year-old Oxford golfer (aka The Wise Old Owl) has plenty to say on a wide variety of subjects on social media, but he has also shown since his promotion from the Challenge Tour in 2013 that he also possesses plenty of game.
He has solid links form in the book, with his best two finishes this season both taking place at classic short links venues – a Tied 4th in Scottish Open at Gullane and he was beaten in a play off at Royal County Down in the Irish Open. After missing the cut on his course debut in 2013, he finished 4th here last year, so there are plenty of positives to suggest he could go well again this week.
Another proven links performer is the feisty Tyrrell Hatton, who has shown distinct signs in the last couple of seasons that a maiden win could be just around the corner, particularly if he can curb his rather suspect on course demeanor. His trusty Aussie bagman Roachie has talked about how hard his boss is trying to control his emotions out on the course, which is a definite step in the right direction for this talented birdie machine – who finished a fast finishing Tied 11th on his course debut last year.
He arrives here nice and fresh after a short break since his latest outing in the USPGA at Whistling Straits, where he played some solid golf to finish Tied 25th. He proved again with his Tied 4th at the quality links track Royal County Down earlier in the season, that his game is well suited to this form of golf, and I just have a feeling he will shed his maiden tag at one of these links events.
The final selection goes to ever improving youngster Matthew Fitzpatrick, who celebrated his 21st birthday last week. This column has made no secret of the fact how highly we rate the Sheffield youngster, whose younger brother Alex is also a promising player. His recent third place finish in the Czech Masters was his fourth top 5 finish of the season and, despite missing the cut here on his course debut last year, there is plenty of links form in his pedigree, particularly in his stellar amateur career.
I think this short links layout – which puts a premium on accuracy – will be perfectly suited to this great ball striker, so lets hope this week will be the first of many wins for the baby-faced assassin.
Of the other notables, local favourite and previous course and distance winner Joost Luiten arrives here in poor form – with only a Tied 4th in the Scottish Open at Gullane to inspire confidence for this week. On the other hand, the Swede Kristoffer Broberg is a player in form, but had a rather strange prep for this event by caddying for his girlfriend Camilla Lennarth in a Ladies European Tour event in Sweden last week.
Eddie Pepperell 35/1 E/W Stan James
Tyrrell Hatton 33/1 E/W Ladbrokes
Matthew Fitzpatrick 33/1 E/W Coral