Belgium’s Thomas Pieters picked up a second European Tour victory in the space of three weeks, finishing one clear of England’s Lee Slattery and Eduardo de la Riva of Spain at the KLM Open in Holland.
Pieters claimed his maiden Tour title at the D+D REAL Czech Masters two weekends ago and he went into Sunday at Kennemer G&CC with a chance to take another win, just two behind the leaders.
With four birdies in his first nine holes on Sunday he played himself right into contention. He finished with an excellent 65 to set a clubhouse total of 19-under.
It looked certain that Slattery, last week’s Russian Open champion, would match that figure. The Englishman came to the 72nd hole needing a par to force a playoff. But he three-putted, missing from just four feet, to hand the trophy to Pieters.
Five things we learned at the KLM Open:
1. Thomas Pieters has emerged as a significant force on the European Tour in the second half of 2015. He had shown potential with top-10 finishes early in the year and he was clearly a talented young player. But now, with two wins in the last three events, he has proved he also has the ability to close out tournaments. He has climbed to 28th place on the Race to Dubai standings and will now definitely make the top 60 who go on to play in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
2. Tom Watson produced a superb performance at Kennemer G&CC. The 66-year-old had been keen to play in the event because he had heard so much about the quality of the course. He justified his entry with four rounds in the 60s. He ended the week at 7-under. He beat fellow major champions Padraig Harrington and Martin Kaymer, amongst many others.
3. 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie had an up-and-down tournament. He shared the lead after a first-round 61 but fell back with a second round 10 shots higher. He then played himself back into the event with a third round of 63 only to falter again with a closing 71.
4. Lawrie’s 61 wasn’t the round of the week. Young Matthew Fitzpatrick, the 2013 U.S. Amateur champion, posted a second round of 60. The Englishman had a chance to become the first player in European Tour history to score a 59, but he left his birdie putt on the final green agonisingly short. Despite his 10-under-par round, he could only finish the week in a tie for 30th place: an indication of the quality of the scoring in the event.
5. Lee Slattery might have been disappointed to miss out on a playoff with Pieters following his short missed putt, but the Englishman can console himself with the thought that his position is significantly better than it was two weeks ago. With a victory and a second-place finish, he has secured playing rights on the European Tour to the end of 2016. He also has a realistic chance of making the season-ending DP World Tour Championship. He’s currently 47th on the Race to Dubai standings.