From 5000 feet above sea level in the picturesque Alps of Switzerland to the Dutch coastline west of Amsterdam – this week the KLM Open takes centre stage and a strong field has assembled as the tournaments count down before the Race To Dubai kicks in.
The Kennemer Golf and Country Club certainly has a links feel to it, where wind will come into play. The fairways are relatively generous but have severe undulations on each hole.
The rough will eat alive any intruder, meaning it is vital to be accurate but more so because it will be absolutely key to find good positions in order to attack the pins and small greens. One of driving accuracy or GIR have seemed to win here in the recent years it has hosted the tournament – 2006-2009. Accurate iron gurus who can work their way through the wind and different levels the ball will be in the fairway will eventually come out on top.
It does show the links style with the four winners here – Simon Dyson (2009, 2006), Darren Clarke (2008) and Ross Fisher (2007). What do they have in common? All from the British Isles. Links experts will come to the fore and you can expect the Brits to be battling out the top places.
We will try to overcome our poor run of betting form because we have had absolutely no luck in recent weeks, it cannot be long before it runs out!
Shane Lowry (28/1 various)
With a course that will give a links feel, Shane Lowry was a name that came to our mind straight away. He enjoys playing in windy, seaside tournaments and his two European Tour victories have come on ‘links’ feel courses. His Irish roots will suit the challenge and if his game gets going he is unerringly accurate.
In his last tournament he finished T10 and 14th in driving accuracy, 31st for GIR and 7th in putts per round – that would be a lethal combination this week.
He has not played horrendously this year – not missing a cut since February is quite an achievement, whilst he has recorded 5 top 10s.
His form seems to annoyingly dip during the four days of a tournament. He has one or two good rounds but grinds his way through the other two, which leaves him behind in the scoring.
With changes to the course and plenty of wind expected, we hope the grind happens on a day when others struggle and Lowry can put together four consistent rounds to win his first trophy of 2013.
Brooks Koepka (33/1 BetVictor)
Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein came over to European shores in order to discover themselves and develop their golfing abilities. What a decision that turned out to be. They have recorded 5 wins between them in 2013 and because Koepka won 3 Challenge Tour events he has earned his Tour card up till the end of 2014. The step up has not deterred either American – Uihlein has already won a European Tour event, whilst Koepka has found 4 top 20s in 6 tournaments.
It is this form that has certainly excited us and one of his wins did come in a Scottish links tournament. Last week he put 4 very good rounds together, all in the 60s and he was 20th for GIR whilst his driving is very long (2nd on Tour) and could combat the short par 4s if the wind is helping in the right way. Expect to see an eagle attempt or two…
At the end of the day Koepka has the feel that he is close to a win and this could be that week.
Alejandro Cañizares (80/1 PaddyPower)
One of the most accurate men on tour, Cañizares was another name that came to our minds when first looking at this tournament. Then when we saw that he has never missed a cut here, we got a little bit excited. In 2006 he finished T7 here, shooting a 66 and 67 but that +1 on the Friday did mean he was quite far back to properly challenge.
Watching him last week filled us with confidence that his game is back again – tee to green he looked impeccable – 11th driving accuracy and 35th GIR. But his putting looked sensational and if he can replicate anything similar to last week then he will be up there contesting without a doubt – 3rd putts per GIR and 6th putts per round.
There is no reason why he shouldn’t be up there, his precise game suits the course and even if the wind is up, he has shown how he can handle that at the BMW PGA at Wentworth, when the weather turned for the worse and he battled his way to a T4.
Lets just hope his game is switched on because he is too talented to have only one European Tour title to his name.
Damien McGrane (100/1 PaddyPower)
Now we know Damien McGrane missed the cut last week and a horrendous time of it, but we can only assume the high altitude played tricks on the Irishman. He would much prefer to be at sea level and we are looking at his T6 at the Welsh Open the week before with greater intrigue because his accuracy and short game looked impressive. 35th driving accuracy, 26th GIR and 22nd putts per round is encouraging and if it becomes a scramble with tough wind he is one of the best on Tour – 13th in the rankings.
It is his course form that excited us the most however. T4 in 2009, just 1 shot of the playoff score, his 64 on the final day was superb and that week he proved he can find 4 rounds below 70. In 2008 he finished T20 and in 2006 he lost the title on the last day because of a final round 70 to end in T3. He has many demons to overcome at this course and many wrongs to right, so considering he has played well recently and you can get him at 3-figure odds, he is definitely worth a cheeky bet.
José María Olazábal (350/1 Bet365)
This may seems like a ridiculous choice, but 47-year old Olazábal could be an interesting outsider and at those sort of odds, pennies are only needed for a hefty return.
He has showed glimmers of form throughout the season, but his age seems to catch up and he rarely performs for 4 days straight. He shot a 67 in round 1 last week in Switzerland and it was as if he was starting his playing days all over again. He eventually petered out and finished T34 but we all know how well he can play in tough conditions on links courses.
Also, when this course hosted the KLM Dutch Open back in 1989, this certain Spaniard won in a playoff….