We're heading towards the home stretch on the European Tour and a run of good quality events awaits us over the next month or so. It's all kicking off with the KLM Open at Kennemer - an excellent Harry Colt designed links style coastal track. Paul Casey was the man looking down on everyone else here last year shooting a course record equalling 62 en route to victory.
Readers of this column may remember Pablo Larrazabal had posted the same 18 hole total one day earlier but as Casey was going low in round three, Pablo was busy posting 8's on par 3s. Yes, there's trouble aplenty on this track and a strong theme of more experienced players with good course management skills can be seen from past leaderboards.
Previous KLM Open champion Martin Kaymer - 10.00 - will tee it up as favourite while Joost Luiten - 15.00 - will have all the attention of the home fans. However, these prices leave plenty of juice elsewhere in the market. Links lover Padraig Harrington - 67.00 - flies in from the US to play - perhaps giving you more of a clue to the Kennemer course characteristics. Ryder Cup hero Jamie Donaldson - 31.00 - will also join the Irishman back on this side of the pond.
The course - Kennemer G&CC
Kennemer G & CC once again takes centre stage for the KLM Open. Less than a couple of kilometres from the sea, the course is sculpted from what's described as "coastal duneland links terrain", and wind is always a dominant factor here. The Kennemer track is one of the shortest on tour playing circa 6,600 yards to a par of 70. It's largely exposed but trees, and mainly bush-lined fairways are a theme. Landing areas are quite generous but play narrower due to undulations and unmaintained fescue rough in close proximity. Premium here will be on course management, GIR% and shot making in difficult conditions.
Three from the pack
Matthew Fitzpatrick - 34.00 or 7.50 - is the standout in the upper echelons of the market for me. Arriving here now in first gear, confidence is growing rapidly for Fitzpatrick who was once again on the cusp of victory in the Czech Republic. That was on a bomber’s track that on paper did not really suit Matt at all. In strong contrast, Kennemer has Fitzpatrick's game written all over it.
So far in his young career the Englishman has shown great maturity and course management, while his strong short game skills will be a big advantage around Kennemer. He ranks T6th in GIR with a clip of 74.8%. Fitzpatrick contended strongly at the fiddly Cran Sur Sierre track a few weeks ago and showed no real signs of nerves in contention. He was the same at Albatross Golf resort, adding a third place to his stats. He'll likely win sooner rather than later.
Soren Kjeldsen - 29.00 or 6.50 - is a new player this year and reminded us all of his love for this type of track when winning the Irish Open in strong gales. Kjeldsen has all the shots for this type of test and excels in the wind. Perhaps 14th and 8th place finishes from a handful of appearances here demonstrates this further.
Confidence is still high for the Dane who must feel like he is free rolling after wondering whether he was still good enough for this level only last year. Kjeldsen was 2nd last time out in his home Made In Denmark event. Greens are pure at Kennemer and the flat stick is the big strength of Soren's game.
Chris Wood makes my staking plan but I thought Paul Lawrie - 67.00 or 14.00 - may be amongst the market leaders this week off the back of his Open Championship performance and tie for sixth in the Made In Denmark event. From his Twitter he admits he may be a little rusty following a two week hiatus but Lawrie has been hitting top gear of late and one off day due to a slight illness cost him a shot at the title in Denmark.
Kennemer G & CC is a perfect fit for the Scottish Links specialist. No recent form here may be the reason for the price inflation but last year's MC was his first appearance following a string of 27-32-23 finishes in the mid noughties. Paul has all the shots and the wind game to thrive here.
Keep an eye on huge priced Darren Clarke - 301.0 or 61.00 - who is another former winner of the KLM Open after doing the business on the track in question back in 2008. Somewhat of a course specialist with a T5 the following year at Kennemer, the Irishman is arguably one of the finest links exponents in the game. He started poorly on his return here last year but rebounded with a 2nd round 67. He hit rounds of 69-70-68-74 at the Made in Denmark for a T44 last time out so may have found something.