The DP World Tour heads back to mainland Europe this week for the reincarnation of the Soudal Open, previously the Belgian Open, for the lead up tournament to the second major of the season which begins a week on Thursday.
When it was placed in the schedule this tournament probably didn’t have much going for it in terms of a profile but it is now part of the qualifying series for the US Open next month and all of a sudden it is particularly worth winning.
We are at the Rinkven International Golf Club in Antwerp this week. If that name rings a bell it is because it is the course which staged the two versions of the Belgian Knockout prior to the pandemic coming in and wiping golf in this part of the world out. The same composite course is in play this week which means the track is a par 71 which measures 6,924 yards and with a band of rain heading across Europe it might well play to a full yardage.
The course is quite exposed even though some of it is set in the woodland. It is a parkland course where water is in play on a number of holes so accuracy in the long game is very much required. The most recent winner here, Guido Migliozzi was ranked second in GIR and that was a statistic that Benjamin Hebert who lost the 2018 final ranked well in. This is not a track where excessive length is needed even allowing for the potential soft nature of the course.
When you consider that there is a major next week there is a decent enough field teeing it up this week with some very appealing names. The home crowds will naturally be drawn to their heroes Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry, while Bernd Wiesberger will be looking to kick his season into life this week. There is just one other player in the field who sits in the top 100 in the world ranking. That is Oliver Bekker.
There are a number of leading lights in the Race to Dubai rankings with Ashun Wu the other member to Pieters in the top 10 and then Shubhankar Sharma, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ryan Fox, Adrian Meronk, Thriston Lawrence, Adrian Otaegui and Ewen Ferguson are all members of the top 20 who could make a decent move with a win this week. Sam Horsfield, Victor Perez and Edoardo Molinari are some of the other familiar names in the field this week.
Bernd Wiesberger really hasn’t got going this season but he comes in here off the back of a top 10 finish in Spain last time out. He played in the 2019 Belgian Knockout but didn’t have much success although the second round he shot 64 so he can handle the course. Wiesberger led the field from tee to green in Catalunya and his greens in regulation ranking was pretty high so there might be a chance that he is rounding into form. His putting is not good though and that puts me off at 18/1.
Thomas Pieters will be supported by the home crowds this week but whether he is suited to the test remains to be seen. Pieters has already won on the DP World Tour this season but has been plying his trade in America recently without much positivity to show for it. He played in both the Belgian Knockout events but didn’t progress to the latter stages although he was the host for those and we have seen tournament hosts struggle. He’s 20/1 this week and not having those hosting duties should help but I still don’t think this place is for him.
Sam Horsfield is next in the betting at 22/1 and that could be a big price if he has the form which saw him win twice on the UK Swing a couple of years ago on similar tracks to this one. His strength is his length which isn’t ideal but he warmed up for this week with a solid enough effort at The Belfry last week. I wouldn’t be surprised if the lure of qualifying for the US Open spurs him on over the next few weeks but I’m not sure this is the course where his best golf can prevail.
Adrian Meronk is the only other player in the field who is shorter than 28/1. The Polish ace could be backed at 25/1 this week and again I’m not certain that this course brings out the strengths of his game. Meronk has four top 10 finishes in just eight starts this term but this will be his first spin around here and that isn’t ideal. I’m certain Meronk will win at some point this season but I suspect it will be on a course which is longer and more open than this one.
I don’t think anyone will be surprised that Adrian Otaegui is my first main bet this week. I was on the Spaniard when he won around here in 2018 and I was on him recently when he came second on home soil in the first of the two Spanish events. This course suits Otaegui perfectly. He’ll never win on one of the monster courses of the desert or the warmer climates of Europe like Turkey but he has every chance on these shorter tracks where accuracy is the order of the day. Otaegui has three top five finishes on tour this year and returns to the scene of a win which will give off positive memories. I think he’s a great starting point this week.
Richard Mansell is one of the best in the field from tee to green and comes in here off the back of a top eight finish at The Belfry last week. His last two starts have seen him record GIR rankings of 1 and 4 and that is the big thing this week. He is actually someone who can give it a mow off the tee but that only means he’ll be hitting a lot of 3 woods here which should help with the driving accuracy. If he can come alive on the greens, and assuming the good finish last week has inspired some confidence with that club, then he shouldn’t be too far away. He can better last week at the very least.
I’ll go with three outsiders who look overpriced either on their ability or their form heading into the week. The first of those is Joost Luiten whose tee to green game should be perfect for this test. The Dutch ace has been away from the leaderboards for too long and although he wasn’t on it last week, driving accuracy ranking of five, GIR of 19 and putting average of five were all encouraging signs. That means his game is there and if he can just cut out the big numbers and keep them off the card then this tight track might just suit him well.
I took Ewen Ferguson a couple of weeks ago and although he didn’t do much in the overall scheme of things, he wasn’t a million miles away from being competitive in Spain before a horror show of a final round put paid to his chances. We know he can win at this level though because he did it at the Qatar Masters on a similarly exposed track to this one. Ferguson was third in the second of the Belgian Knockout tournaments here in 2019 so we know that he can get on with the course and given that he won just four starts ago he has to be in the staking plan here.
My final bet will be with Shubhankar Sharma who is too good to be a three figure price on a course like this. He might well be inspired by what his countryman Anirban Lahiri is doing on the PGA Tour and that is certainly no bad thing for his chances. Sharma was second in Abu Dhabi so he still has all of his ability even if his form isn’t as good as he would like. He was T13 in Kenya though on a track not too dissimilar to this one so there is definitely signs that Sharma can go well. He has a wonderful iron game when he is on song and he’s just too big to ignore for me.
Back A.Otaegui to win Soudal Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back R.Mansell to win Soudal Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 56.00 with BetVictor (1/5 1-6)
Back E.Ferguson to win Soudal Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with BetVictor (1/5 1-6)
Back them here:
Back J.Luiten to win Soudal Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Coral (1/5 1-8)
Back S.Sharma to win Soudal Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-6)