The Omega European Masters was so fun to watch, with scenic views and a lot of the top players in contention on Sunday. Congratulations to Alex Noren, who defeated Scott Hend in a playoff to capture the Omega European Masters. Noren has had a career season, and should be cracking the top-30 in the world rankings soon. I hit on many of my lower-priced plays last week, but Tyrrell Hatton’s MC ended my GPP hopes.
This week, we head to the Netherlands for the KLM Open, where we have a decent field headlined by Thomas Pieters, Noren, and Joost Luiten (the hometown favorite). The KLM Open has been on a bit of a course rotation, and this year, we are at a brand new venue – The Dutch. The Dutch is a modern, links-style course designed by Colin Montgomerie and Ross McMurray, who made their intentions very clear: with technology making courses play much shorter and easier in recent years, he wanted to design an inland links-style course that focused on game management, and gave the players a new look with new challenges. The par-71 track features five par-3s and four par-5s, and measures just under 7,000 yards from the back tees. The only par-5 on the front side is 490 yards (clearly reachable for everyone in the field), but the ones on the back side aren’t as simple. The rough has been described as thick and juicy. Since this is the first time at this venue, stats and course comparisons are much more difficult. But right away, we should be thinking “old man golf” and players who favor accuracy off-the-tee and on approach shots. I’m also going to be targeting recent form pretty heavily, as well as players who played well at the most difficult venues this season (the Open de Espana, for instance). We can look back at previous KLM Open’s a bit, but how much the other venues should factor into our decision making is pretty questionable. As far as comparable venues go, I think Le Golf National, site of the Open de France, is a great comparable because of its similar layout and style. Additionally, Celtic Manor, another Ross McMurray design, could help point us to potential plays.
- Greens in Regulation
- Driving Accuracy
- Birdie or Better %
- Recent Form
Let’s take a look at my favorite plays this week:
Alexander Noren ($11,500) – The champion a week ago at the Omega European Masters, Noren has been on a tear all summer. He’s firmly planted in the top-10 in the Race to Dubai after last week and his win at the Scottish Open, and he nearly qualified for the Swedish Olympic team and the Ryder Cup team. Noren has dominated stroke play events, but also finished runner-up in the Paul Lawrie Match Play. At Le Golf National, one of our best comparison courses, Noren finished 8th this year and 15th in 2012. Noren also finished 6th at the very difficult Open de Espana this season. Although he hasn’t played this event often, in 2007-09, he finished 3rd, 12th, and 10th, albeit at a different course.
Joost Luiten ($10,500) – Luiten is the hometown favorite and a previous winner of this event (2013), with three other top-6 finishes as well. Although it was at a different venue, Luiten targets this event each year as one to focus on. He’s been advertising and promoting the KLM Open on Twitter for months, so it’s really important to him. Luiten was a top-10 machine before running into trouble at the Scottish Open and Open Championship, but has since turned his form around with a 33rd in the PGA Championship and a 27th at the Olympics. He’s won and finished 2nd at Celtic Manor, another track designed by Ross McMurray, so that could bode well. Luiten also finished 2nd at the Open de Espana this season, showing his ability to be patient and grind on a difficult course. Luiten ranks 14th on Tour in GIR% and 42nd in Driving Accuracy, which are key stats this week.
Thongchai Jaidee ($9,800) – At Le Golf National, Jaidee has a win (this season), a 10th (2015), and a 15th (2013). Although he dipped in form after his win at the Open de France, that can be attributed to the dramatic change in conditions at the Scottish Open and Open Championship. We’ve got an “old man’s” course targeting accuracy and consistency, so Jaidee is firmly in play. He’s another former winner at Celtic Manor, so maybe McMurray designs fit his eye. He’s one of my favorite plays this week coming off a final round 64 at the Omega European Masters.
Nicolas Colsaerts ($9,100) – Coles has only had a couple hiccups in his form since April, with results of: 15th-3rd-23rd-22nd-3rd-MC-22nd-3rd-46th-MC-30th-24th. He’s the ultimate boom-or-bust play but one thing that’s kept me on him all year is his GIR% (10th on Tour this season). Although he’s a bomber, he’s giving himself tons of opportunities on the greens, but the putter hasn’t caught fire yet. I think this is the week. He converted 20 birdies last week at the Omega European Masters (closing round 65), and has had success at Le Golf National – 22nd this season, 11th in 2012.
The Value Mid-Tier:
Scott Hend ($8,900) – What impressed me most about Hend last week, is that he shed his bomber label and scaled back in a big way. His 2nd place finish included ranking 2nd in GIR%, 3rd in Driving Distance (still), and 9th in Driving Accuracy. He’s a streaky player, so I’ll ride him while he’s in form. He’s made six consecutive cuts and is already a winner on Tour this year.
Richard Bland ($8,700) – Bland comes into The Dutch with four straight made cuts, including a 5th at the Omega European Masters. He’s exactly the type of player I target on these accuracy-first courses (30th in GIR%), and his recent form is enough to make him one of my favorites this week. Bland sits 32nd in the Race to Dubai and is top-10 on Tour in scoring average. He has two top-20s at this event, including a low score of 62. He’s also shown success on hard courses: Bland finished 11th at the Open de Espana this season.
Mikko Ilonen ($8,600) – I love Ilonen this week, coming off his 4th consecutive top-25 finish after a solid 12th at the Omega European Masters. He’s had success at this event with a couple of top-20 finishes, including a low round of 62 last year. Ilonen is another GIR% and accuracy player who should thrive on a course that demands strategic play, similar to the next player on my list.
David Howell ($8,500) – David Howell is a rich man’s Jerry Kelly: a cut maker (with upside) who I target on these “old man” courses. He’s coming off his 5th straight made cut, and finished 3rd a couple week ago in Prague. When looking at our comp courses, Howell is a former runner-up at Celtic Manor, and previously finished 4th and 8th at Le Golf National.
Robert Karlsson ($8,300) – Another sneaky play this week, Karlsson has made his last three cuts on tour, going 36th, 7th, and 15th. He’s a savvy veteran who fits the mold of the player type I’m targeting this week. He also checks the boxes when looking at the comp courses: at Celtic Manor, Karlsson has a win in 2006 and a runner-up in 2008, and he finished 4th at Le Golf National in 2014.
Fabrizio Zanotti ($8,000) – This week’s cover boy, Zanotti comes into the KLM Open with nine made cuts in his past ten tries, almost all of which are top-35 finishes. He’s the consistent player I’m targeting this week. Last week, Zanotti closed 66-70-66, and stat-wise, he was a monster. He finished 8th in GIR% and 1st in Driving Accuracy, huge pointers towards success this week at The Dutch. In previous trips to this event, he’s finished 4th and 2nd, albeit at different courses. At Le Golf National, he’s posted two strong showings: 20th in 2015 and 9th in 2014. Zanotti ranks 2nd on Tour in Driving Accuracy which is key this week.
Raphael Jacquelin ($7,500) – Showed some great form last week at the Omega European Masters, going 69-69-67-66 to finish in 12th place. He’s made five of his past six cuts including three top-12 finishes. He’s had two strong showings at Le Golf National, including a 3rd in 2012 and a 24th in 2015.
Mike Lorenzo-Vera ($7,100) – Lorenzo-Vera’s 12th place finish last week included finishing 16th in GIR% and an opening round 64. He finished 6th at the difficult Open de Espana earlier this year, and has a 6th place finish in 2015 at Le Golf National.
Oliver Fisher ($7,000) – Fisher’s 12th place finish at the Omega European Masters featured a Sunday 63 and included ranking 20th in GIR% and 26th in Driving Accuracy. He’s had two strong showings recently at this event, 9th in 2014 and 11th 2013. He also had a deep run at the Paul Lawrie Match Play. At Le Golf National, Fisher posted a 9th in 2013.
Eduardo de la Riva ($7,000) – Coming off a couple of made cuts in a row, de la Riva comes to an event he loves (2nd last year, 16th in 2013). He made the cut last week and showed some signs, with middle rounds of 67-69. De la Riva ranked 40th in GIR% and 13th in Driving Accuracy at the Omega European Masters. He also ranks 12th on Tour in Driving Accuracy.
Oliver Wilson ($6,100) – There are not too many deep sleepers this week since I’m targeting balance rosters, but I’ll choose the guy who has made six straight cuts. At the Omega European Masters, he opened with a strong 67 before his better abandoned him on the weekend.
Good luck this week!