KLM Betting Preview
Ben Coley previews this week’s KLM Open, and reckons that Martin Kaymer may go one better this week.
It should be a bright and breezy atmosphere this week as the KLM Open returns to Hilversumsche for the second year in succession and 14th overall.
The event itself has been an ever-present on the European Tour since its inception in 1972 and with a new sponsorship deal guaranteeing that it continues until at least 2015, organisers have reasons to be cheerful regardless of who turns up to play.
As it happens, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and defending champion Martin Kaymer are all in the field for what should be a fantastic event as the Race to Dubai kicks into full swing.
All three men will arrive with mixed emotions, having each looked like the most likely winner of last week’s Omega European Masters at one stage or another.
They’ll realise though that Thomas Bjorn’s stunning final-round 62 was one worthy of winning any event and with their games in good shape we can expect them all to feature on the leaderboard again.
It’s a course that shouldn’t pose massive problems to the world’s best.
At under 6,700 yards, Hilversumsche is by no means long and although there are only two par-fives to go at, both open themselves up to eagle opportunities.
The par-three 10th represents a threat to players who aren’t dialled-in with their irons and several tree-lined par-fours can catch out those that don’t strike it well, but Westwood and McIlroy in particular were typically excellent tee-to-green in Crans and shouldn’t lose many strokes to par.
But it’s Kaymer who looks worth backing.
The German has had something of an in-and-out year, testament to how brilliant he can be given that he won by eight shots in Abu Dhabi and reached the final of the WGC-World Matchplay too.
His struggles have largely been because he’s trying to work the ball both ways and improve his launch angle, having previously been known for relying on a left-to-right shape whichever course he played.
It’s a process that has taken him time but one he felt necessary. There are signs now that he’s getting back to where he wants to be.
Having not finished in the top five of any strokeplay event since January, Kaymer bounced back to form with a fourth in the French Open at the start of July.
He followed that with a share of 12th in the Open Championship, struggling slightly on Sunday but gaining his best Major finish of the season regardless.
What’s interesting about that French Open performance in particular is that it once again highlights a trend in Kaymer’s play – more than most players, he seems to repeat form at his favourite courses.
Take Abu Dhabi for example. Kaymer has played the tournament five times and has three wins and a second. In the French Open, he has a win and three top-10s from as many starts too.
The Dubai Desert Classic is another case in point – four starts, three top-10s – whereas in Qatar he’s yet to break the top-25 in four starts.
With all of that considered, I believe Martin Kaymer should be favourite for this event.
He’s back to defend having won by four shots completely untroubled last year and outgunned Westwood and McIlroy last week to advertise that his game is in shape.
It seems he’s been galvanised by a recent return to Whistling Straits, scene of his PGA Championship success last August, and will be determined to improve upon last week’s effort given that he looked like being hard to beat with nine holes to play.
Although he failed to hit as many greens as we might expect in Crans, Kaymer found over 80 per cent here last year and topped the greens in regulation stats in the process.
Given that he was well inside the top 10 in putting last week, Martin Kaymer looks to fit the bill as easily the most likely winner of this event and should be backed accordingly.
Joost Luiten will be popular this week and, to my mind, rightly so.
Born just 30 miles from this week’s venue in Bleiswijk, it’s very much a home game for Joost and a fine chance for him to bounce back to his best and gain a first European Tour victory.
Back-to-back top-fives in June suggested that he’d soon be off the mark but recent efforts have been very poor, that is until last week’s 15th in the European Masters.
Luiten had missed the cut on both previous visits to Crans, so his performance was a huge step forward and a final-round 66 should set him up perfectly for this week.
He hit over 77 per cent of fairways and ranked among the top-10 ball-strikers for the week, something that bodes well given that Kaymer’s victory here in 2010 owed to his play tee-to-green.
Luiten himself shot an opening 65 to tie for fourth after day one and although failing to build on that showed enough to suggest the course is one he can conquer.
The Dutchman was second in this event back in 2007, albeit at a different venue, and in that same year gained two Challenge Tour wins, one of which came thanks to a final-round 61.
Those efforts marked him out as a special talent but injuries have since blighted his career – he even required a medical exemption to play last season.
Now free from that pressure and on the back of his best round of golf since June, it’s time for Luiten to get involved in the finish once more.
Another player I like this week is Nicolas Colsaerts and I’m surprised at the price on offer.
The supremely-talented Belgian finally broke through with an impressive win in China back in April and has confirmed that promise since by finishing third in the Volvo World Matchplay.
More recently, he’s finished 11th and third in his last two starts in the Scottish and French Opens and although out since with a cracked radius he reports that all is well:
“I’m playing again. No problem at all.” he wrote on his official website.
Indeed, Colsaerts elaborates to say that he’s been back hitting full shots for three weeks and although that doesn’t eliminate concerns over rustiness, his price helps to compensate.
Aside from the fact he’s one of the most talented players in this field and was in great form prior to his injury, the reason I fancy him to go well is his form in Holland.
Colsaerts was eighth in this event last year, opening with a stunning 62, and won the Dutch Futures on the Challenge Tour back in 2009.
There’s no doubt that backing him represents a risk but had he arrived here on the back of 11th and third placed finishes without any injury concerns he’d be no bigger than 33/1, so I’m prepared to take the plunge.
Finally, it might be worth siding with the freshness of Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano on a course he adores.
The enigmatic Spaniard has happy memories of this layout given that it provided the platform for his first Tour win back in 2005.
It’s fair to assume that Gonzalo was the most disappointed player on tour when the KLM Open switched to Kennemer for the next four years and he failed to make the cut on both visits.
However, a return to Hilversumsche sparked a returned to
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