Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Belgian Knockout Tips 2019

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A profitable week in Denmark with 66/1 shot Pablo Larrazabal securing a full each-way payout courtesy of his tie for 4th place, combined with the generous place terms being offered by Boylesports last week. Having endured the worst of the wind on Thursday and the wettest of the weather on Friday, the Barcelona man worked his way into contention with a solid Saturday and a blistering start on Sunday to tie the lead as he completed his front 9, however he couldn’t maintain his momentum sadly and we had to settle for a place.

On to this week we go then and we return to the Rinkven International Golf Club in Antwerp for the second edition of Belgian Knockout, following last year’s successful introduction to the schedule. Match Play/hybrid format specialist Adrian Otaegui returns to defend the crown that he won impressively 12 months ago, gamely holding off Frenchman Benjamin Hebert in the final. Thomas Pieters heads the betting once again this week at a general 25/1 in a market that is understandably blown wide open as a result of the event’s quirky format.

Format.

Similar in a way to the World Super 6 that we’ve seen on the European Tour for the past 3 seasons, the first 2 rounds of this week’s event will be played as a regular strokeplay event over the full 18 holes. On Friday evening the cut will be made to 64 players, with anyone finishing in a tie for 64th being required to progress through a play-off in order to be involved on the weekend.

Once we’ve whittled the field down to 64 players, they are then split into two groups of 32 players – the first 32 will play on the front 9, the second 32 will play on the back 9 on Saturday. 9-hole (strokeplay) matches will then ensue based on a player’s leaderboard position from the strokeplay element, so in effect the leader of the 36 hole strokeplay will be seeded 1 – although whether that holds much, if any, benefit is debatable.

There will be 3 rounds of 9-hole (strokeplay) matches on Saturday, with a play-off following any tied matches, so there’s potential for players to need to be playing 27 holes or more on Saturday. 8 players will make it through to Sunday where again there’ll be 3 rounds of 9-hole matches to determine who will eventually lift the trophy.

Betting Options.

As with the World Super 6 in Perth from earlier this season, punters will have choices as to how to play this week’s event. Some bookmakers are offering a 36-hole strokeplay market (it was 54-hole in Perth with the slightly different format there), so if you’d like to take the vagaries of the 9 hole matches element out of the equation then you could opt for that market.

Alternatively, punters can opt for the outright market which is based on the final finishing positions: generally for the outright market, most bookmakers are offering 1/4 odds for a top-4 finish, however a few bookmakers such as BetfairPaddy Power, Boylesports and Sportingbet have taken this a step further and are offering 1/5 odds for a top-8 finish, meaning you’ll get an each-way return if your player makes it through to the quarter-finals on Sunday.

Course Overview. The Course at Rinkven is a parkland affair originally designed by Paul Rolin in 1985 and subsequently updated by Martin Hawtree. Some holes are tree-lined whilst others are exposed, however it’s generally a flat, scoreable track.

After 36 holes last year, 39 players were under par with Jorge Campillo leading the way at 8-under. The layout played 12 months ago was a composite of the North and South courses and measured 6,924 yards for its par of 71. The front 9 is slightly longer than the back 9 with a solitary par-5 on both halves, however the short par-4 16th played the easiest of all the holes, yielding 117 birdies from the opening two strokeplay rounds. The greens are Poa Annua-based, but overseeded with Bentgrass each year to achieve the desired playing surface of 80% Bentgrass, 20% Poa.

Tournament Stats. With only 1 year’s worth of history, this week’s stats are combined current form and 2018 stats only: Combined stats

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Weather Forecast. The latest forecast for Antwerp, Belgium is here. Temperatures will gradually rise as the tournament progresses as a cloudy start slowly gives way to a sunny weekend with the mercury hitting the high-70s Fahrenheit by the time we finish on Sunday. The wind will be at its strongest on Thursday, peaking at 12-15mph before it slowly subsides as the weather improves.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

Analysing the final stats of the top 2 after the 36-hole strokeplay element gives us a little insight into this test.

  • 1st: Jorge Campillo (-8). 73.3% fairways (1st), 80.6% greens in regulation (5th), 28.6% scrambling (87th), 1.66 putts per GIR (12th).
  • 2nd: James Heath (-7). 50% fairways (87th), 69.4% greens in regulation (35th), 18.2% scrambling (110th), 1.68 putts per GIR (18th).

Looking at the same 36-hole data for the eventual winner and runner-up gives us another angle:

  • Winner: Adrian Otaegui. 60.0% fairways (28th), 69.4% greens in regulation (35th), 54.5% scrambling (25th), 1.76 putts per GIR (50th).
  • Runner-up: Benjamin Hebert. 70.0% fairways (8th), 83.3% greens in regulation (1st), 33.3% scrambling (74th), 1.80 putts per GIR (64th).

It’s worth considering that the stats above include the entire 144 man field, so Campillo’s tee-to-green performance to lead after 36 holes gives some clue as to the best way to approach this test. Benjamin Hebert’s effort was driven by a similar set of statistics and although eventual winner Adrian Otaegui wasn’t as impressive statistically, he played some excellent, controlled golf in the matches over the weekend to take the title.

Rinkven GC was also used for the Telenet Trophy on the Challenge Tour in 2010 won by Lee Slattery (final leaderboard is here) with a 21-under total. Although there were 4 par-5s on the course, it was the par-4s that proved pivotal for Slattery 9 years ago as he finished -11 for those holes over the course of the week. Runner-up Edouard Dubois led the field for par-4 scoring at -13 on the week, so although we’re playing a different format of golf for the weekend over a different course routing, it may well be worth considering positive par-4 performance as a critical success factor.

Incoming Form.

Looking at the same players who finished in the top-2 after 36 holes last year, we have Jorge Campillo who was one of the form horses coming into the event with 4 top-5 finishes in his previous 6 starts. James Heath, on the other hand, was on a poor run of form and had picked up a solitary (small) paycheque on his penultimate start in Morocco:

  • Jorge Campillo: 35/27/MC/12/14/MC/2/4/27/5/46/3
  • James Heath: 50/51/MC/16/MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/72/MC

Similarly to Campillo, eventual winner Adrian Otaegui was also in a rich vein of form coming into this event with 5 consecutive top-20 finishes to his name and a runner-up finish in China behind Alexander Bjork on his previous start:

  • Adrian Otaegui: 12/73/60/42/40/22/39/12/10/12/19/2
  • Benjamin Hebert: 63/15/56/19/32/MC/17/9/61/63/13/MC

This isn’t a week to get too heavily involved with in my view given the numerous vagaries of the event, however I have 3 players that interest me this week and I’ll be backing them both outright and in the 36-hole markets.

My selections are as follows:

Chris Paisley 1.25pt EW 40/1 (outright) (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power
Chris Paisley 1.25pt EW 40/1 (36 hole) (5EW, 1/4) with Betfred

The format of this event produces a fascinating outright market with 22/1-25/1 around the starting point for favouritism with most bookmakers, as opposed to the near single figures that we see most weeks. Topping the list with all firms is the undoubtedly talented but equally hot-headed Thomas Pieters who also plays host this week, quickly followed by his winning World Cup of Golf team-mate Thomas Detry and last week’s winner Bernd Wiesberger, however the player who interests me more than that trio of potential winners is England’s Chris Paisley.

I mentioned briefly in the preamble that last year’s outright winner Adrian Otaegui and 36-hole leader Jorge Campillo both entered this event 12 in a consistent vein of form, so Paisley’s 14 cuts made from his last 16 starts globally has to get him a rudimentary tick in that box for starters. During that spell he’s finished 8th at the web.com Tour Championship, narrowly missing out on a PGA Tour card for this season, as well as 9th at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, 4th in Oman and 4th again last week in Denmark where he closed with a bogey-free joint best of the day round of 65. He led the field for par-4 scoring, which is another element which may prove critical this week, and while he’s playing well I’m happy to support him in a field of this quality.

The 33 year-old is predominantly an excellent putter in my view, however it was interesting to see him hit a lot of greens in regulation last week (72.2%, 9th in the field) which is often the green light for a strong patch of contending form. 5th at the Paul Lawrie Match Play was followed by 3rd at the Made In Denmark in 2017 and he produced another burst of form in early 2018 to win the BMW SA Open and then finish 5th on his next two starts in the Middle East, so when he finds top gear he’s apt to stay there for a week or two at least.

That win at Glendower was on a classical, parkland track with Bentgrass greens and he’s shown decent putting form both last week and also in Morocco of late on surfaces that translate well with this week, however what really gets him the nod here is some quietly impressive Match Play form at the now defunct Paul Lawrie event where he made the 3rd round in 2016 and 4th round in 2017. As with each of my 3 selections this week, I’ve back Chris Paisley each-way in both the outright market and the 36-hole leader market. RESULT: Winner after 36 holes; 2nd round overall.

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Adrian Otaegui 1.25pt EW 30/1 (outright) (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power
Adrian Otaegui 1.25pt EW 33/1 (36 hole) (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

With the Paul Lawrie Match Play having dropped off the schedule following his breakthrough win in 2017, this will be the first time that Adrian Oteagui has chance to defend a European Tour title and I’m willing to given him the benefit of any doubt that he can overcome that aspect and seriously contend in one of these Match Play or Match Play hybrid events. Both of the Spaniard’s victories have come with Match Play featuring in the format in some shape or form and he came mightily close to making that a hat-trick of titles at the World Super 6 earlier this year when he looked every part the winner, all the way up to the final where he eventually came unstuck versus the big-hitting Ryan Fox. That disappointment aside – for him as well as us – this format once again looks right up his alley and I can find no tangible reason to oppose him this week.

Prior to that effort in Perth, the 26 year-old had produced impressive finishes of 3rd in Turkey and 4th in Dubai at the latter end of 2018 to suggest that he’s well capable of competing at a decent level, and since then he’s added another top-10 finish to his 2019 resume, this time in India, before he switched focus to playing at the US PGA Championship where he narrowly missed the cut on the number. Last week his fortunes were reversed in Denmark having scraped through the cut line by the skin of his teeth, however only the top-2 finishers bettered his final 36-hole total of 135 (68/67) as he scythed his way through the field up to 16th place overall.

Both of his wins to date came off of a strong effort on his previous start and although arguably last week was only half of what could be described as a strong effort, perhaps that will give him enough momentum to perform well this week in a format that he clearly enjoys and thrives upon. RESULT: Loser after 36 holes; 2nd round overall.

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Alejandro Canizares 0.5pt EW 80/1 (outright) (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power
Alejandro Canizares 0.5pt EW 90/1 (36 hole) (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

My final selection this week is Alejandro Canizares who’s eased his way back into life on Tour having swapped golf clubs for nappies after becoming a father for the first time in February. Whether a player’s form, or mental approach, or some other unknown factor that influences their results changes when they bring a child into the world will continue to be the subject of debate for many years to come, however for me these life events need to be considered and a player who’s content with his lot may just step up a gear or two. Thankfully there are other signs of life in the Spaniard’s game though to give us some encouragement this week at an attractive price as well as the intangible Nappy Factor!

Canizares has been working with Robert Rock and his team on his swing of late – the results with another of Rock’s students Matt Wallace have been plain to see – and recent snippets of form may just suggest that everything’s starting to fall into place. 4th after day one (68) in Oman was positive before a not-so-impressive second round meant he missed the cut; 2nd after day one (67) in Morocco then showed more promise and 7th heading into the weekend hinted at progress being made in terms of consistency before he drifted to eventually finish 34th. Last week he started quickly again (66) to co-lead after 18 holes, sat 2nd after 36 and finished 9th overall to suggest that the pieces of the jigsaw are falling into place now, an assertion he backed up with positive comments on twitter.

A classical, partially tree-lined test is ideal for the man who’s attached to Valderrama and with his game improving once again he could relish this format having shown progressive form in the Paul Lawrie Match Play of 17th/5th/4th before it dropped off the schedule. A short track with predominantly Bentgrass greens is ideal for the 36 year-old to bring his best game to town and seeing him in the mix after 36 holes and progressing through to the latter stages of the Match Play wouldn’t surprise me on either counts. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 19:25BST 27.5.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.