Mikko Ilonen rates a strong fancy in this week's European Tour event.
The tented village at the KLM Open is uprooted this year as the tournament moves inland to a new home at the Colin Montgomerie designed course 'The Dutch'. This course is still in its infancy having been opened in 2011 but nevertheless has gained a reputation as one of the best and toughest courses in Europe. The Monty design will present the usual challenges with strategy off the tee being key with bunkers and heavy rough awaiting errant drives.Approach shots will be a lot easier coming in from the fairway as there are plenty of pin positions available on the greens with different tiers. Being able to land the ball in the right position will make for an easier four days at the Dutch. Anything coming from the long grass will be hard to control on this inland links.
Thomas Pieters goes down to post as tournament fav at 9/1. He is riding the crest of a wave right now and being the in form player on the European Tour it isn't hard to see why he is priced up accordingly. I still see it as a bit skinny though and with the Ryder Cup a few weeks away I'd be surprised if his mind isn't already wandering to those dizzy heights. I'm unsure if the difficulty of the course will suit him either so I can easily let the single figures pass me by. Alex Noren is also in the form of his career but anyone taking 10/1 about the Swede winning a tournament needs professional help. Regardless if he wins or not, it's not a price worth taking in the long run.
Mikko Ilonen stands out as the value bet of the week at an inflated 50/1. Ilonen has plodded to a consistent calendar year with 11 top 25 finishes, with six of those being posted in his last seven outings. Without necessarily challenging on those occasions he has been on the fringes of contention for a fair while now and comes to a course this week that should suit. He suffered plenty of setbacks last week but bounced back most times and ended up finishing 12th. This week he will have a bit more room off the tee than he did at Crans which should help. He ranked 1st in putting last week per Greens in Regulation and 50/1 is a huge price for him.
Given Pablo Larrazabal's finish last week I believe he is worth supporting at this venue. Pablo is a tad inconsistent at the best of times and I'm not the fondest of backing him with that inevitable lean after every shot which tends to make you think he has pushed it miles right. However, 68, 66, 65 to finish off the week at Crans was only beaten by a handful of players and that bodes well for this week. He is very much a confidence based player and he should feed off that result. Another positive is that he was lying second heading into day four of the 2013 Irish Open, another very similar Monty design at Carton House before finishing 4th. Everything points towards a solid performance.
I also find it hard to pass up Bernd Wiesberger at a top price of 33/1. A modest finish last week but no negative as Crans isn't a course suited to him and a made cut is respectable. This bet is on a bit of a whim but given the class this lad shows you can not rule him out. Three times the price of Alex Noren is hard to believe. He was beaten in a playoff around Royal County Down, a very tough links course. This inland links should play quite difficult too and if he can get his putter rolling then he could be in the shake up. Tied 11th in the Olympics and a tally of 6 under is no sign to me that he should be priced as high as 33/1.