The European Tour goes quirky again this week as the inaugural Belgian Knockout takes place in mainland Europe. Belgium hasn’t hosted a tournament for a while but with Thomas Pieters putting his name to this one and his sister being heavily involved in the organising of it we should get a good, professionally run competition.
Strokeplay and knockout golf combine over the four days of this tournament which should make for a good watch and hopefully a decent betting heat with a pretty competitive field teeing it up.
144 players take part in the tournament with the first two rounds of it being the traditional strokeplay as normal. At the end of the second round the field will be cut as normal with the top 64 players progressing to the second half of the tournament.
The event from there becomes nine-hole knockout with three rounds of matches on the Saturday and three more on the Sunday to determine the overall champion. Each match will be strokeplay scoring so they will go the full nine holes which means that our champion and runner up will play 90 holes this week.
The Rinkven International Golf Club in Antwerp is the venue for the tournament this week with the course used being made up of a composite of nine holes from the North Course and nine from the South. The South holes are generally being talked up as being tight and needing to play from the short grass while the word is that the North holes offer a little more freedom off the tee.
The course is a par 72 but with different holes in use it is hard to find an exact yardage but given the number of holes the winner will have to play this week ahead of the flagship tournament next week I can’t believe it will be particularly long. While there will be a bit of strategy involved over the weekend I think sticking to tee to green specialists shouldn’t go far wrong.
While the elite of Europe are kicking back and resting ahead of next week there are still a few good players showing their hand this week and when you consider this event carries all the Race to Dubai and Ryder Cup bonuses winning it could be huge for someone, not least the host Thomas Pieters.
Soren Kjeldsen, Jamie Donaldson, Chris Wood, Stephen Gallacher and Nicolas Colsaerts are all former Ryder Cup players who will be wanting big weeks to launch big ends to the season while stars of the season so far in Jorge Campillo, Adrian Otaegui and Mike Lorenzo-Vera are all teeing it up here.
We have co-favourites of three heading the betting this week and the fact they are 28/1 highlights but the unknown of the event and the openness of it. Joost Luiten, Adrian Otaegui and Thomas Pieters are the three men at that price. Luiten lives 15 minutes from the course which might well suit him while Otaegui is the reigning Paul Lawrie Match Play champion which may be significant. You would think there would be a huge demand on the time of Pieters this week as the tournament host.
Jorge Campillo has done everything bar win this season and he is 33/1 to put that right this week. He will be popular on current form while if length comes into play then Jordan Smith could well be popular with many around the 35/1 mark.
There are a trio of players at 40/1 this week with home hopeful Thomas Detry the biggest name of those. Aaron Rai is also that price but this looks a step up for him while Mike Lorenzo-Vera will need to respond to the disappointment of losing in a playoff last week. If he does that then he could very well get the job done here. It is 45/1 bar.
When this format was introduced I wrote down a load of names with a good match play record to go well in this tournament and then when I saw the course Adrian Otaegui, one of those names I had down, jumped off the page. He won the Paul Lawrie Match Play last year which showed that in one-on-one combat he can hold his nerve and his game under pressure. The scoring in the knockout stage this week is stroke play but that’s fine because he has the lowest number of bogeys per round in this entire field this season. He won’t lack the minerals to win this and given that he’s a monotonous cut maker he should be in the knockout stage and at 28/1 he looks to have a favourites’ chance.
There was a lot to like about the game of Andrea Pavan last weekend and I fancy this format might suit him. Over 18 holes of match play it might be a different story but it is unlikely that four and five unders are going to be needed to win nine hole matches. A solid tee to green game will be a necessity and he has that while his putter has been going nicely in his last two outings too. If he keeps the ball in play he can pick off a number of opponents over the weekend and looks worth a bet at 45/1.
I’ll go with three outsiders this week in the hope we can get them into the knockout stages where from there I would fancy them to take their chances. The first of those is Ashun Wu whose all-round game has caught the eye even though the events he has been in have been red hot. He is hitting a number of fairways and greens at the minute and as someone who usually putts well I expect him to be a tough opponent in the latter stages.
I backed Austin Connelly last week and a bad back nine in the wind on Friday cost me a pay out but I’ll go with him again because he was in good form there. His long game is improving all the time and we’ve seen in some big events already that his putting is class, although you would expect that with his links to Jordan Spieth. These sorts of events have launched careers in the past and we could see Connelly propel his to the next level here.
Finally at a huge price I’ll take a chance on Ashley Chesters. This course should really suit him as one of the most accurate drivers on the European Tour and given that he generally hits a number of greens in the right number too we only need him to hole a few putts to be right in contention here. It might be that the draw is kind to him and he doesn’t need to hole everything. There will be matches where level par wins and that would certainly be an advantage for Chesters. The Englishman showed good form around this time last year and with his one-on-one experience from his amateur background he could very well outperform his price.
WON – Back A.Otaegui to win Belgian Knockout (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with Ladbrokes (1/4 1-4)
Back A.Pavan to win Belgian Knockout (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 46.00 with Unibet (1/4 1-4)
Back him here:
Back A.Wu to win Belgian Knockout (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back A.Connelly to win Belgian Knockout (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 71.00 with 888sport (1/4 1-4)
Back A.Chesters to win Belgian Knockout (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with Coral (1/4 1-4)