The Northern Irishman took two months off to recuperate from a forearm injury over the summer, returning to action last week at the BMW PGA Championship to finish tied 49th, and while the 11-time European Tour winner admits he has one eye on his vice captaincy role for Team Europe at the Ryder Cup in Whistling Straits next week, the key focus remains on his own game this week.
Joost Luiten is thrilled to be back at his national open after the event was cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Fans will be out in force to cheer on the 35-year-old as he attempts to claim a third victory on home soil having previously won the event in 2013 and 2016.
The six-time European Tour winner regularly practices at Bernardus Golf alongside another former winner of the Dutch Open in Thomas Pieters, who routinely makes the journey from Belgium to make use of the world class facilities on offer to the players.
The Belgian recorded his second top ten of the year last week and is currently 69th in the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex, and will be hoping for a strong finish to his season to make sure he will tee it up at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Graeme McDowell: “I had to pull up the European Tour website to find out the last time I was here for the Dutch Open and it was 2004, so here we are 17 years later, so delighted to be here first and foremost but when I saw the facilities here at Bernardus, it’s probably one of the best practice facilities that we ever see. The chipping areas, the putting greens, and the range is all five star.
“The golf course here is designed by Kyle Phillips, who did Kingsbarns, he has done a spectacular job here. Like I say, delighted to get here and be rewarded with the commitment to come with an amazing golf course, and I am here to compete this week so looking forward to being part of this tournament.
“I was happy the way I felt on the golf course. I felt healthy and I felt very motivated and excited to be back on the course. The BMW PGA was a great week, the golf course was in magnificent shape, the weather behaved itself and it was great to see people back out there supporting us. For me, it was off the back of a couple months off where I was rehabbing a forearm injury that I had and it is always tough to sit out the middle of the summer when there is so much going on but I felt like it was a commitment for the next five to ten years of my career, where I need to stay healthy. It is more about the mental side of things now for me going into my 40s, I need to be there in the right frame of mind to compete and those couple of months helped me.
“I had my watch on yesterday when I was playing my practice rounds and it kept blowing up, buzzing, text messages coming in. Now that we have the 12 players set it’s exciting to start working on the chemistry, working on the pairings, and our strategies for what we want to do Friday, Saturday, into the weekend, so it’s exciting.
“You know I wish I was playing, but the next best thing is to be part of that captaincy backroom staff and I’m excited to jump on the plane Monday morning with the guys. You get that European logo on your chest, it’s just a special thing and something I have great memories off, so I am really excited for Whistling Straits. It would be nice to play well here this weekend and then take my competitive golfer hat off and put my vice captains hat on, to go do the best job I can for Team Europe.”
Joost Luiten: “It was a shame to miss it, but we all know what the situation was in the world. I think last year was probably a good decision not to have it because if we couldn’t have any spectators, why would we have the tournament. At the end of the day, those people make the event, and it is good to see them back in some decent numbers this week.
“I have been playing some solid golf, it’s not been special but sometimes you can just feel like it is coming and at the end of the day it is all about giving yourself chances and that is what I have been doing, and now I need to start taking some of those chances. I know what I can do in this event, I love playing in front of my home crowd and I love the golf course, so it will be a good week and hopefully we can do what we have done in the past and be there on Sunday.
“I think for me because I have won it, there is no pressure for me to show that I can do it. I have done it twice, so it takes off the pressure if you have won it in the past.
“I practice here a lot, it is one of the best practice facilities we have in Holland, so a lot of the top players – even the Belgian players Thomas Detry and Thomas Pieters – and I think that will tell you how good this golf course is. It is a great design, it is in great shape and hopefully we have a great week.”
Thomas Pieters: “Bernardus does feel like a home away from home. They have welcomed me ever since I first started coming here two years ago and have been happy for me to practice here and use the facilities which is nice. The course is amazing, so I am really excited to see what they do with everything this week.
“All the Dutch pros play here and you can see why. The facilities are amazing, the condition of the course is always good and I don’t really have anything like it in Belgium, so I make the trip over all the time.