Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Bernhard Langer, four of the six players who tied for third place in the 130th Open Championship, are back in action this week in The Netherlands when the TNT Open returns to Nordwijkse for a second successive year - and the ninth time in total - with Australian Stephen Leaney defending the title.
All four played superbly at Royal Lytham & St Annes, finishing four shots behind Open Champion David Duval. Langer, who has enjoyed an outstanding season, has won the TNT Open title twice previously, in 1984 and 1992, and finished runner-up to Leaney last year. Leaney produced a ruthless front-running performance to win The TNT Open for a second time in three years, finishing four ahead of Langer and five in front of the 1999 champion Lee Westwood, Angel Cabrera and Mathias Grönberg.
Leaney, Langer and Westwood are all in the field this week along with five other former champions in Gordon Brand Jnr (1987), Miguel Angel Jiménez ( 1994), Mark McNulty (1996), Mark Mouland (1988) and Sven Strüver (1997).
The event is one of the oldest in continental Europe, dating back to the inaugural event in 1919 at The Hague. Among the early winners were South Africa’s Bobby Locke and Argentina’s Roberto de Vicenzo, both major champions. More recently Seve Ballesteros (1976, 1980 and 1986), Langer, José Maria Olazábal and the late Payne Stewart, all winners of major championships, have won the prestigious title.
The Noordwijkse Golf Club celebrates its 86th birthday this year but the course is significantly younger after the old nine-hole course had to give way to the expansion of the village of Noordwijk in 1971. The Golf Club moved several kilometers to the north where there was room for 18 holes and three practice holes.
Designed by Frank Pennink with the help of sketches from club secretary Paul de Jong, the new layout opened in 1972 and dramatically undulates between high sand dunes and is distinctive by having trees on the fifth, sixth and seventh, the latter being a much debated dogleg left requiring a longish iron off the tee.
Over the past 29 years Nordwijkse Golf Club has established an international reputation and is ranked among the top 20 courses on Continental Europe.