Who'll be stealing the headlines in Holland tomorrow?
For the umpteenth time in recent years, golf in Holland has been gazumped by another sport. You’d think that in the month of February it would be ‘safe’ if you were a Dutch golfer to win a tournament on the European Tour and so put yourself, your sport, and your country in the limelight. Well, actually, no. Holland’s number one golfer, Joost Luiten, played out of his golf shoes in Oman this week only to be overshadowed by ice-skating and tennis. It makes a change from World Cup football, I suppose.
Today, Luiten shot a brilliant closing 4-under par 68 to win the inaugural NBO Oman Open (15-18 February) at Al Mouj Golf by two strokes from England’s Chris Wood. It is the Dutchman’s sixth title on the European Tour and a welcome victory for the player whose last win dates back to his home triumph in the KLM Open of 2016.
With a bit of luck, the golf hero from Rotterdam may well get to share the front page of the Dutch national newspapers such as the ‘Algemeen Dagblad’ with the King of tennis, Roger Federer tomorrow morning. Or at least, make the headlines of the sports pages.
Most of the time in February, tournament director Richard Krajicek struggles to fill the holes in his sinking ship at the Ahoy as world tennis toppers make their excuses and pull-out injured before the tennis tournament in Rotterdam even begins. Thankfully for Krajicek, this year was different.
Luiten’s stride in the Oman Open was eclipsed the whole week by Team Holland’s stunning performance in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang as well as by Federer’s rather unexpected sudden appearance in the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. Apparently with energy over after the Australian Open and, more importantly, a golden opportunity to regain his status as World Number One by simply reaching the semi-finals, the great Swiss tennis genius decided to add Rotterdam to his schedule. Sports fans in Holland went crazy at the prospect.
Winter Olympics inspiration?
For golfers in many other countries, the winter Olympics wouldn’t be an issue for supporters of the game, but in Holland skating is big business. Although a small nation, the Dutch are a force to be reckoned with on the ice. This year their modest goal is 16 medals during the Games which roughly equates to one medal per one million inhabitants. As expected, the Dutch were fast out of the starting blocks in South Korea with a number of extra surprise gold medals being added to their Sven Kramer harvest over the first few days. The Olympic podium looks distinctly orange!
Perhaps the athletes in PyeongChang inspired Luiten this week. Yes, the power of positive thought. The wonderful glow of seeing your fellow countrymen (and women) being awarded their medal after four long years of passionate and intensive training. Positive vibes also work wonders on the golf swing.
And so it was, on Sunday morning, local time in Holland, that Joost Luiten rounded-off his impressive week in Oman laying claim to his sixth title on the European Tour as well as the handsome sum of 233,235 euros for his sterling performance.
In the afternoon, the Swiss tennis phenomenon Roger Federer won the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, the 97th of his career, in Luiten’s home town of Rotterdam.
Many congratulations to Roger Federer on becoming the World Number One again! And also to Joost Luiten for his fine victory in the Oman Open. Welcome back into the European top-10!
MAIN PHOTOGRAPH: Roger Federer on his way to victory in the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. BELOW: Joost Luiten (left) and Chris Wood. MINIS l-r: Olympic gold medal winner 1500m skating, Kjeld Nuis (NED) and Silver medallist Patrick Roest (NED).