The European Tour returns to The Dutch for a second successive season as it hosts the 98th edition of the historic KLM Open, with Joost Luiten defending his title as he chases a third victory in his home open. Here’s the lowdown…
Luiten provided a grandstand finish for his adoring home fans last year at The Dutch, firing a course record 63 in the final round to overcome his close friend Bernd Wiesberger of Austria - who finished three shots back in second place - in an enthralling battle down the stretch.
In the end, three birdies in the final five holes made all the difference for Luiten, who began the day three shots off the pace set by Scott Hend of Australia.
With his fifth European Tour triumph, the now-31 year old became the first home player to claim the KLM Open title for a second time since the event became a European Tour event in 1972.
"The first one was special but this one is very special," he said afterwards. "To have the Dutch people behind me all week and to be able to stand here with the trophy in my hands is very special.
"It was one of those days where everything I looked at went in the hole. People talk about the zone, and I think I was in it today. I missed one shot when I went in the water on 13 but besides that I didn't do much wrong. These are the kind of days that make it all worth getting out of bed for.”
The Netherlands’ own champion Luiten heads a strong field which includes three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland, a plethora of former Ryder Cup stars and multiple European Tour champions.
Ten-time Ryder Cup star and former World Number One Lee Westwood is back in action after making his 500th European Tour start at last week’s Omega European Masters, while his fellow Englishmen and 2016 Ryder Cup team mates Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood are also in the field.
Other past Ryder Cup stars in the field include Nicolas Colsaerts, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Ross Fisher and Peter Hanson.
World Number 34 Wiesberger, who claimed his fourth European Tour title at the Shenzen International in April, will be aiming to go one better than his runner-up finish last year. He is joined by 15 other European Tour winners from the 2017 season including three of the last five champions – Adrian Otaegui, Jason Norris and Julian Suri.
The Dutch made a big impression on its European Tour debut last year, having only opened back in 2011.
A member of the prestigious network of European Tour Destinations, The Dutch’s signature Championship course was designed by Europe’s 2010 Ryder Cup-winning Captain Colin Montgomerie, in conjunction with European Golf Design.
The dramatic, undulating landscape was a stand-out feature as the TV cameras revelled in capturing the rolling fairways and its links-style gorse mounds.
Water hazards come into play on 12 holes at the par-71 course while the large greens give plenty of exciting pin placement options. The stunning clubhouse and superb practice facilities are also noteworthy as The Dutch continues to build its reputation as one of The Netherlands’ finest venues.
DID YOU KNOW?
· Should Luiten successfully defend his title he would join Bernhard Langer (1984, 1992 and 2001) and Simon Dyson (2006, 2009 and 2011) as the only players to have won the event three times since it became an official European Tour tournament in 1972.
· Should there be a hole in one this week at the KLM Open, it would be the 1000th ace in European Tour history.
· Since the event became part of the European Tour, only two home players have won: Maarten Lafeber (2003) and Joost Luiten (2013 and 2016).
· The KLM Open was first played in 1912 and this year will be the 98th edition. The event is one of only seven tournaments to be played every year since the European Tour’s first year in 1972. The others are The Open Championship, Open de España, Open de France, Italian Open, Omega European Masters and PGA Championship.
· Kennemer Golf and Country Club witnessed a marathon play-off in 1989 with José Maria Olazábal claiming victory at the ninth extra hole, beating Roger Chapman and Ronan Rafferty. The Englishman bogeyed the first hole and was eliminated. Olazábal and Rafferty went a further eight holes, before the 1994 and 1999 Masters Champion took the title with a double-bogey six. The play-off still stands as the longest in European Tour history alongside the 2013 Open de España, which also went to nine holes.
· The KLM Open has a unique place in the history of the European Tour, as victories for Seve Ballesteros (1976, aged 19 years and 121 days) and Paul Way (1982, 19 years and 149 days) mean the tournament was the first to witness two teenage winners. Noh Seung-yul (2010, 18 years and 282 days) and Matteo Manassero (2011, 17 years and 363 days) have since won the Maybank Malaysian Open as teenagers.