Defending champion Simon Dyson is aiming to mark the centenary of the KLM Open by winning the tournament for the fourth time.
The Englishman, who finished in tied 27th place at last week’s Omega European Masters, has dominated the €1.8million event in recent seasons, taking the title when it was played at Kennemer Golf and Country Club in 2006 and 2009, before tasting victory again last year at Hilversumsche Golf Club in Hilversum, The Netherlands.
The 6,906 yards, par 70 course will again host the KLM Open this week, 100 years on from the first staging of the tournament in 1912, which was won by England’s George Pannell.
Last year, Dyson beat his compatriot David Lynn by a single stroke after birdieing the 72nd hole to sign for a closing round of 66 and a 12 under par aggregate winning total.
It was Dyson’s second victory of the season, following his earlier win at the Irish Open, and helped the 34 year old finish in the top ten of The Race to Dubai.
Twelve months on, Dyson is not in quite such sparkling form, with a series of niggling injuries having hampered his progress this term; but after an encouraging performance in the Swiss Alps last week, the six-time European Tour champion is confident of mounting a strong title defence.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to it. I love it there, have won the event three times, and always really enjoying going back.
“Last year, funnily enough I didn’t feel like I played that well all week, whereas with my previous wins I felt like I played really well all week. Last year with six holes to play I was in a decent position, but probably only in the top five or six. But suddenly I birdied the par five 12th, then birdied the next two holes and finished with a birdie – and from nowhere really, I’d won it.
“I just couldn’t believe it afterwards. I fancied my chances of getting myself into a play-off or at least finishing second, but when David [Lynn] missed his eagle putt on the last, the trophy was being put in my hands. It was all a bit surreal, really.
“I’m looking forward to going back. Whenever you have played well somewhere, you always get a good vibe when you go back, and that is certainly the case with Holland for me. Those last six holes at Hilversumsche really suit my eye, so hopefully I can have another strong finish this year.”
The home challenge will be led by European Tour champions Robert-Jan Derksen, Joost Luiten – who also finished in the tie for 27th at the Omega European Masters – and Maarten Lafeber, who sparked emotional scenes when winning his national Open by a single stroke at Hilversumsche in 2003.
Lafeber turned his 2012 season around with a tied third finish in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles two weeks ago, and the 37 year old is now keen to continue his recent renaissance on home soil.
He said: “I’m hitting the ball very nicely at the moment, so it’s great to go into the tournament in some decent form. We’ve been really unlucky with the weather for the last two years, but for the last four weeks back home the weather has been great, so hopefully the course should be in great condition.
“I’ve got a very good record at Hilversumsche, having won there in 2003 and then almost again in 2005. So I’m sure it’ll be a great week, especially if the weather stays good and the crowds come out. I’m really looking forward to it, as I always do.”
Other notable names in the field include 2012 Ryder Cup team-mates Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium, Peter Hanson of Sweden and Germany’s Martin Kaymer, who won the tournament two years ago.
Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal, the KLM Open champion in 1989, will be joined in Hilversum by his Vice Captains Miguel Angel Jiménez of Spain, who won the tournament in 1994, and the Irish duo of Darren Clarke, who won it in 2008, and Paul McGinley.
Other former winners in the field include former Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie of Scotland (1993), the English duo of Ross Fisher (2007) and Lynn (2004), Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño (2005) and Germany’s Sven Strüver (1997).