The DP World Tour is back on European shores this week as the Dutch Open takes place starting on Thursday. As always our resident golf tipster Jamie Worsley is here with his thoughts and he has five selections ahead of the event…
KLM Dutch Open 2023 Tips:
- Rasmus Hojgaard – 1/5 8 places – 2.25 pts ew – 22/1
- Jorge Campillo – 1/5 8 places – 1.75 pts ew – 28/1
- Julier Guerrier – 1/5 7 places – 1 pt ew – 100/1
- Shubhankar Sharma – 1/5 7 places – 1 pt ew – 125/1
- Tapio Pulkkanen – 1/5 7 places – 1 pt ew – 125/1
After a two-year hiatus, KLM returns as sponsor of the Dutch Open this week at Bernardus Golf, as the DP World Tour reconvenes its tour around mainland Europe.
The Dutch Open – and its variants – goes back to the pre-DPWT days and is over 100-years old. It has been a mainstay on the DPWT calendar from the tour’s beginnings in 1972 to the present day, missing just once on the schedule in that time, when cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Two of European golf’s biggest legends, Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer, have each picked up this trophy on three occasions. They were joined by England’s Simon Dyson, who won three of six renewals from 2006-2011 giving us a trio of most-decorated players in the tournament’s DPWT-era history. Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood add their names to a strong list of European greats to win the Dutch Open.
Another great of the game, American three-time major winner, Payne Stewart also won here in 1991 – the year he won his first US Open – and in doing so, his 21-under-par winning score gave him an eight-stroke victory that is the biggest winning margin in tournament history.
However, his record for lowest winning score was surpassed by Sweden’s Kristoffer Broberg, who shot -23 when winning in 2021, in the first renewal staged here at Bernardus Golf.
Bernardus returned last year, though the event was moved to a new slot on the schedule, having spent much of its recent history taking place in September, it moved to this spot in May that it once again assumes this week.
Victor Perez won the second of his three DPWT titles there, in a much tougher edition, defeating Ryan Fox with two monster putts in an incredible playoff, after both players had produced some magical moments throughout the day.
He returns to defend this week, looking to become the first back-to-back winner of the Dutch Open since American Bob Byman in 1978.
Bernardus Golf was designed by Kingsbarns and Dundonald Links designer – among many more – Kyle Phillips.
The course is a lengthy links-like 7445-yard par 72, though that overall length is split pretty evenly across all holes, with no real “monsters”. There are just two par 4s over 470 yards, all the par 5s should be hittable in two for most; whilst the par 3s have two above 200 yards and two below.
The fairways are hugely generous, as Bernardus ranks as the second-easiest course on which to hit fairways on the DPWT over recent years; with players feeling very comfortable to let fly with driver.
Having said that, they are well protected with huge swathes of sand and some challenging rough the further off-line you go. As shown last year, if the course is firm and wind gets up, it becomes a much different beast, as many linksy, exposed courses do.
This is also replicated in the green complexes, which whilst predominantly large themselves, are severely undulating in places; protected not only by that extensive bunkering but fast run-off areas around many. Indeed with last year’s contrasting conditions, GIR percentages dropped significantly, taking Bernardus from being one of the easiest courses to hit greens the previous year, to above average difficulty in 2022.
It’s the challenges presented on and around these putting surfaces that have proven the toughest aspect of play around Bernardus, as it ranks as the second-most difficult scrambling course and 10th in challenges on the greens.
This then puts pressure on your long-game, to not just hit the greens but hit the right spots; something which is put under added stress by water being in-play on eleven holes.
As we see with those contrasting winning scores, conditions impact the course in a big way. If it’s receptive and calm Bernardus is there for the taking but if dry, with even the smallest amount of wind around an exposed course, it soon becomes a much more difficult test.
- SG: Off-the-Tee
- Driving Distance
- SG: Around-the-Greens
- SG: Putting
- Par 5 Scoring
Despite the varying levels of difficulty in the two renewals so far, long, quality drivers have thrived at the course on both occasions.
In 2021, the leaderboard was littered with such players: Matti Schmid, Richard Mansell and Thomas Detry, whilst Broberg himself is longer than he is accurate.
Fast-forward to last year and it was the key stat binding the top three of Victor Perez, Ryan Fox and Adrian Meronk together, as they ranked 2nd, 5th and 4th OTT respectively; all players who hit it far.
Additionally, with the challenges that await on and around the greens, it’s no surprise to see most contending players show quality with the short game.
It was around-the-greens where Perez excelled most last year, ranking 1st in the field, despite that incredible final-round putting performance. Whilst Adrian Meronk in 3rd combined his strong driving with quality on the greens, ranking 3rd and a further four of the top 9 ranked 7th or better with the putter.
It was the flat stick that engineered Broberg’s win in 2021, as he gained an incredible 3.5 strokes per round with the club, 2-strokes better than his nearest challenger and he also scrambled well. Top 5 finishers, Alejandro Canizares and Thomas Detry both also ranking top 5 on the greens there.
Finally, those who make the most of the opportunities presented on the par 5s will go a long way to getting themselves amongst the main contenders this week.
Leaderboards here have been abound with players who possess form on links or links-like courses.
I liked the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship as a correlation prior to last year, with Kristoffer Broberg and Matti Schmid both hitting the top 10 there in 2021 after going well in the Netherlands earlier in the year.
This correlation was strengthened considerably in 2022, with winner at Bernardus, Victor Perez a past champion of the Dunhill Links, whilst runner-up, Ryan Fox went on to win that very event later in the year.
Marco Simone Golf and Country Club – host of the Italian Open the last three years and this year’s Ryder Cup host – can give us more clues. It’s a predominantly open, exposed course that has favoured bigger hitters. Adrian Meronk won there this year; Victor Perez has recorded finishes of 3rd, 9th and 18th on three visits; Sebastian Soderberg and Johannes Veerman have finished top 10 at both.
There are many other courses in Europe, essentially you can consider any host of the Scottish Open or Irish Opens on links courses, whilst events such as the Portugal Masters and Czech Masters have often had similar bomber-heavy leaderboards.
Though I’m going to head out to the Middle East for a final look and whilst most courses in this region could be somewhat of a guide – due to the exposed nature of many of the courses – the wide fairways, big greens and difficulty of the green complexes has me leaning on Yas Links, which has hosted the last two renewals of the Abu Dhabi Championship.
Victor Perez won there this year, whilst last year’s winner, Thomas Pieters has finished top 10 on two visits to Bernardus; Sebastian Soderberg and Adrian Meronk both with top 10s there.
Conditions are set to be pleasant yet challenging this week. The sun will be out every day, though it won’t be overly warm. In addition, a strong breeze is in-play from Thursday onwards, reaching highs of 20kmh and potentially gusts of 40kmh+.
Poland’s Adrian Meronk arrives as the top-ranked player in the field this week at #47 in the world, followed by defending champion Victor Perez at #59; who enjoyed an excellent week at Oak Hill last week, finishing 12th.
There are a further five players from inside the world’s top 100: Pablo Larrazabal, Adri Arnaus, Callum Shinkwin, Adrian Otaegui and Jordan Smith, in what is a typically open looking DPWT field.
The Bernardus-proven duo of Adrian Meronk and Victor Perez head the betting at 12/1, both having played the weekend at Oak Hill in the PGA Championship. I’d have no concerns with either of them here based on that, both are in a really good place now and back at a course they clearly appreciate, there’s little reason why they can’t go well.
However, they’re tough to separate and in the type of event that could easily be dictated by a weather bias, I’m happy enough to leave them alone.
I don’t head too far for this week’s first selection with Denmark’s Rasmus Hojgaard. He’s another player who played in New York last week, though with a missed cut I’m hoping he might be a little more mentally ready for this week than the top two.
As someone who can be a little too erratic at times with the driver, the tough driving test of Oak Hill may not have been ideal, which proved to be the case as he was one of the most inaccurate drivers in the opening two rounds, which culminated in his missed cut.
However, he gained strokes in each of the other areas and coming back to a more open, generous driving course, he can get back on track this week.
He started the year off well, finishing 20th in Dubai and 6th at Ras Al Khaimah on his first two starts of 2023, though a shoulder injury kept him out for two months following that.
On his return from an over two-month absence, Hojgaard produced an encouraging 16th in Japan in the ISPS Handa Championship, though missed the cut in Korea a week later; before responding with a solid 47th in Italy before his missed cut last week.
It’s hard to know exactly where his game has been at in the DPWT starts this year with his lack of appearances and unreliable strokes-gained data, though at his best – where he’s a strong, long driver with a quality short-game – he should be well-suited to this test.
He showed his suitability here last year, finishing 10th and to back that up has recorded top 20s in the Dunhill Links, Italian Open and at Yas Links, as well as various other top 10s across the Middle East on similarly exposed setups.
If appreciating the more forgiving nature of driving the ball at Bernardus compared to last week, the rest of his game would have him well placed for a contending effort in the Netherlands.
I’m going to give Jorge Campillo another chance after he missed the cut when we were on last-time-out in Belgium. That was due to an inexplicably poor putting performance, as he ranked inside the top 3 players tee-to-green over the opening two rounds and he can get back to the blistering form he’d been showing previously this week.
Prior to that missed cut, Campillo had hit the top 10 in his last five events on the bounce, including picking up the title with an impressively composed win in Kenya.
Over this period he’s been the most complete player on the DPWT, ranking 1st in strokes-gained total, particularly excelling in ball-striking, ranking 10th in approach and 21st off-the-tee, where he’s rediscovered some of that length he was showing a couple of years ago, combining it with accuracy.
Campillo missed the cut on debut at Bernardus in 2021, though improved drastically last year, finishing 21st at a time when he wasn’t hitting the ball as well as he is now.
Two top 10s in Italy are another plus, as is his victory in the often wind-affected Qatar Masters in 2020 and if able to forget about the poor putting performance in Belgium, points to a player who can improve again on his record here.
With two from near the top, I’m going to finish with three more-speculative punts, starting with Frenchman, Julien Guerrier. He often looks most at home on these types of courses and coming into this with a 3rd place finish in the Italian Open on his latest start, should be flying high on confidence and can get that long-awaited first DPWT win this week.
There’s been a few bright spots for Guerrier this season, such as his 13th place finish at Ras Al Khaimah but nothing compared to his effort in Italy, where he hit the ball well but particularly shone with a field-leading performance on the greens.
This putting performance was no surprise for a player who ranks as the 3rd best putter in this field over the last six months, during which time he’s been a top 25 driver, also not lacking in distance. It was pleasing to see him produce such a good iron display there – ranking inside the top 10 – which is often his weakest area and as a competent par 5 scorer, he has the game for this test.
That hasn’t necessarily been evident on his previous visits here, as he finished 38th on debut in 2021 and missed the cut last year, though that 3rd in Italy is a huge plus, as well as some nice form in Portugal and Czechia.
When added to the quality of his performance last time out, it all indicates a player who can have a big week at this week’s KLM Open.
I’m going to take a temporary deviation away from the bombers in the field now and like the chances of India’s Shubhankar Sharma to overcome that lack of power this week. He’s gone well on both visits to Bernardus and possesses correlating form as good as anyone in the field.
Sharma showed some good form at the start of the year, finishing 7th in Abu Dhabi, 12th in the Saudi International on the Asian Tour and 13th in the Indian Open. Though his form has dipped a little since then, a 26th place finish in Italy two starts ago offered promise and signals a player not all that far away.
That finish in Italy was engineered by a quality putting performance, where he ranked 7th and he is 8th overall on the greens so far this year. The irons were solid there too, part of his game which has also been in good nick recently, as he ranks 25th in this field in approach over the last six months.
Sharma has put his quality on the greens to good use on both of his starts at this course, when finishing 27th in 2021 and 14th last year. They’ve also been the key ingredients of him developing a strong book of correlating form, where he’s finished 2nd and 7th at Yas Links; whilst he has put up 12th and 26th place efforts on two of his three trips to Marco Simone.
He may not have the power of some of those main contenders last year but he makes up for that in other areas and can put his best foot forward again this week in the KLM Open.
Back to the bombers and it’s with Finland’s Tapio Pulkkanen I finish this week. He’d been enduring a forgettable year for the most part but produced his best finish of the year three weeks ago in Italy, when 16th. He surprisingly hasn’t played here before but as a player at his best on wide, exposed courses, he should enjoy what he finds on his first try around the setup this week.
The Finn is one of the biggest hitters in the field, ranking 20th in driving distance over the last twelve months, though it’s with the putter he excels, ranking 28th in this field over the last year. He couples this with a neat-and-tidy game around-the-greens, ranking 37th over the last six months; a combination of skills that should appreciate the test.
His correlating form is excellent. Pulkkanen has twice finished top 10 in the Dunhill Links, including finishing 4th in 2018. In addition to this he’s finished top 27 on each visit to Marco Simone and has record countless top-3 efforts in the Portugal and Czech Masters; these rating as some of his best ever performances on the DPWT.
These venues all have that similar attribute in common, of being generous driving, exposed courses that are usually dominated by bigger hitters and if able to build on his effort in Italy last time out, Pulkkanen can add another strong effort at such a course this week.
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