Despite being famed for his prodigious length off the tee Nicolas Colsaerts proved he is no slouch with an iron in his hand after winning the KLM Open nearest the pin competition, played on the beach at Zaandvoort, in The Netherlands.
With 120 yards between the tee on the promenade and the specially-constructed ‘green’ in the sand a flick of his wedge would normally suffice, but with the wind gusting up to 30mph the former Ryder Cup star had to improvise, punching a nine iron to within ten feet to see off his fellow competitors.
The assembled crowd had hoped to witness a home victory for either Robert-Jan Derksen, Maarten Lafeber or Joost Luiten, but in the event the Dutch trio – together with three-time champion Simon Dyson and Italian Matteo Manassero – had to settle for a supporting role.
Handily, given the cold and wet weather, Colsaerts was presented with a sheepskin flying jacket – although perhaps a bomber jacket might have been more appropriate for the man known as the ‘Belgian Bomber’.
Colsaerts, who finished in a tie for eighth place at last year’s KLM Open, said: “That was a lot of fun, in spite of the wind. Our first shots were blown about 30 yards off course, so we had to make a few adjustments. But that’s what this game is all about, adapting to the conditions. If the wind continues to blow that hard we’re in for one tough week, so today was good practice for the main event.
“I’ve been playing the KLM Open since I was 16, as an amateur, so I always enjoy coming back – and especially to Kennemer. It’s a great links course and the fairways are always in fantastic condition, although with the recent rain they’ve had we’re not going to get much run on the ball this week. So it’s going to be a tough test, but hopefully it brings out the best in me.”
Home hopes rest chiefly on the shoulders of Luiten, currently in 23rd place in The Race to Dubai.
In 2007, the same year he won twice on the Challenge Tour, Luiten came mightily close to becoming the second Dutchman – after Lafeber in 2003 – to win his national Open, only to fall one shot shy of Ross Fisher’s winning score.
After doubling his tally of European Tour titles earlier in the season with victory in the Lyoness Open powered by Greenfinity, the 27 year old is confident of mounting another bold bid at Kennemer Golf and Country Club, which has hosted the KLM Open on 20 previous occasions – the first time in 1920.
Luiten said: “I always look forward to this week. Obviously I have some very good memories of my runner-up finish at Kennemer, and hopefully I can perform well and give the crowds something to cheer again this week. I feel like I’m playing well enough to put myself in with a chance of winning.
“The course is playing longer than usual because of all the rain we’ve had, but if anything the wind is going to be even more of a factor. If it blows like it did today, the scoring’s going to be very high and level par would be a good round, so it’s going to be a test of patience. But I’m looking forward to it – I’m sure the Dutch people will come along to watch whatever the weather.”
Luiten has been paired in the first two rounds with Manassero and England’s Paul Casey, who returned to the winners’ enclosure earlier in the year with victory at the Irish Open.