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A profitable week in Sicily with both headline selection Lucas Bjerregaard (60/1) and Lucas Herbert (150/1) grabbing full each-way payouts, however I can't help feeling a little disappointed as Bjerregaard in particular had enough chances over the weekend to have secured his second strokeplay European Tour title. Herbert's flying round on Sunday was a bonus though and given the momentum he'd built up it was just a shame he didn't have a hole or two more to play at the end. A missed opportunity in reality, however we never have to wait for long in this game for another chance to put things right and this week's task takes us back to Belgium for the first time since the year 2000 for the inaugural Belgian Knockout, hosted by Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters.
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford previews the AT&T Byron Nelson - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Similar in a way to the World Super 6 that we've seen on the European Tour for the past 2 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 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 remains to be seen. Arguably the best players from day 1 & 2 will be seeded best, so perhaps it will - we shall see.
There will be 3 rounds of 9-hole 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.
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 Match Play 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 Match Play finishing positions: generally for the outright market, most bookmakers are offering 1/4 odds for a top-4 finish, however both Paddy Power and Betfair 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 Sunday.
Paddy Power are attacking this week's Belgian Knockout and are offering a massive 8 places each-way at 1/5 odds. If you haven't already got a Paddy Power account then new customers can access a £/€20 risk-free bet which is refunded in CASH if it loses. 18+, T&Cs apply: Promo code YSKA01 required – use this qualifying link to claim.
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 as was evidenced by Lee Slattery's 21-under total on a slightly different routed version of this layout. The North Course plays as a 6,662 yard par 72 for the members, however it remains to be seen what the European Tour have up their sleeve for adjustments to that yardage for this week's event as we're reportedly playing a combination of holes from the North and South Course (which is of similar length and style).
Tournament Stats. This is the inaugural Belgian Knockout event and therefore there's no tournament history stats this week. Current Form
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 from a chilly (particularly first thing in the mornings) 60 Fahrenheit to the dizzy heights of 70 Fahrenheit by Sunday. Wind will be generally light, increasing to around 10 mph in the afternoons and partly cloudy skies will provide the players with some occasional sunny spells.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
This is the inaugural Belgian Knockout so there are no specific event history stats to peruse. Rinkven GC was 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 8 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.
Looking at Slattery's game, he's generally a solid all-rounder who doesn't tend to excel in one particular area. A mid-280 yard driver, he's on the shorter side of average from off the tee and when he's competitive it tends to be his tee-to-green game that excels. Dubois is of similar length off the tee to Slattery and although his stats over the years are far more sparse, his game is similar in that it's an all-round game that drives his performances as opposed to a particularly strong long or short game. Alexandre Kaleka in 3rd is longer off the tee, however again when he plays well it tends to be stronger GIR that helps his performance than a red-hot putter.
Of course putting a great deal of credence into a Challenge Tour event from 8 years ago that was straight strokeplay may be a mistake, although it does give us something to work with nonetheless.
Looking at this from a different angle, the closest correlation he have to this event is the World Super 6 that's been played in Perth for the past 2 seasons. In terms of incoming form of this year's top 4 finishers in Perth, only Sam Horsfield hadn't shown much in the way of tangible form in the lead-up to the event, however 22nd in Mauritius 4 events before was his best result to that point as a professional:
Of course, the alternative way to look at this is from a 36-hole perspective. The Super 6 was slightly different in that the Match Play element kicked in after 54 holes, however if you look at the incoming form of the top-4 strokeplay finishers we see a similar form trend:
Again, giving the results from the Super 6 too much credence may also prove to be misguided, however in lieu of anything else tangible it does give us a view of the type of player who might enjoy this. Kiradech Aphibarnrat had previously won the Paul Lawrie Match Play so had some positive experience of 1-on-1 matches at least, which may well have helped given the tenacious way he progressed through the rounds having looked in danger of exiting on a number of occasions. The inclusion of the likes of Sam Horsfield and Sean Crocker in our analysis - both of whom had very limited starts as a professional - does give some indication that inexperienced players can contend given the quirky format.
Not a week to get too heavily involved with in my view given the numerous vagaries of the event, however I have a few 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:
The format of this event has produced a fascinating outright market with 25/1-30/1 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 most firms are Joost Luiten and tournament host Thomas Pieters, however the pick of the bunch near the top of the market for me is Adrian Otaegui. The Spaniard is playing some incredibly consistent golf right now - 12/10/12/19/2 over his past 5 starts and no missed cuts since October of last year - and he has the kind of strong all-round game that may well prove to be the key to unlocking this event. Controlled from off the tee (33rd on Tour for the season-to-date for Driving Accuracy) and increasingly so over his most recent starts, the 25 year-old also hits plenty of greens and ranked 2nd for scrambling on his last start in China. 7 consecutive events where he's averaged in the 1.7s in terms of putts per GIR is also impressive and given what little we can glean from Lee Slattery's win around these parts 8 years ago, the fact that he 'only' drives the ball 290 yards from off the tee shouldn't be too much of a handicap this week.
Otaegui's only European Tour win to date came at the Paul Lawrie Match Play last summer, which was a straight 64-man, 18 hole Match Play event, and although the format is of course different this week, it does give some solid pointers as to his suitability to this type of task - indeed Kiradech Aphibarnrat is also a former Paul Lawrie Match Play champion and he triumphed at the World Super 6 earlier this year. Adrian's form leading up to that victory read 51/7/20/19/5 so it's not inconceivable that he'll round off a similar spell of strong, consistent form with another piece of silverware here this week. RESULT: Winner (Outright)
Australian hot prospect Lucas Herbert took to the World Super 6 like a duck to water earlier this year and given his outstanding finish last week, I'm happy to take a chance that he can continue that momentum into this week. A 66/63 weekend in Sicily wasn't quite enough to get him into the play-off in the end, leaving him an agonising single shot shy of the winning mark, however he said in interview how calm he felt throughout that adventure and that bodes well for any Match Play format event where panic can quickly lead to disaster.
Aggressive players often fare well in Match Play regardless of the course - Aphibarnrat is a great example - and with Lucas' length from off the tee he can manufacture birdies where others struggle. An impressive scrambling performance last week, 70% ranked him 4th in the field in that respect, also bodes well as he only dropped shots on 6 holes last week which is again positive for this week's test. With only 45 professional events to his name, the 22 year-old is still a relatively unknown quantity but clearly highly rated and highly regarded amongst his peers - plus as we learn more about his game it's becoming clearer that he's the type of player who can maintain decent form for a few weeks once he finds it: a stretch of results reading 2/8/20/49/6/9 on the Australian circuit in 2016 was backed up by a similar stretch over the winter this year of 2/6/7/56/8/3 and, after 3 missed cuts on the bounce, perhaps last week's 3rd place finish is the start of another spell on contending form. Within that most recent spell there's his 3rd place finish at the World Super 6 where he also ranked 2nd after the strokeplay element and, with a new format and new track to contend with this week, he'll be on a level playing field with the more experienced European Tour players this week. RESULT: T41
Finally I'm taking a punt on another Australian, this time the experienced campaigner Brett Rumford. We scored with Brett at the World Super 6 last year when he delighted the home fans (and us!) on his local track in Perth having converted in the Match Play element after leading the Strokeplay by 5 shots, and I think that he's been dismissed here by the bookmakers off the back of 2 missed cuts. Looking past those most recent efforts we find an impressive 5th place finish behind Jon Rahm at the Spanish Open and another contending performance at this year's Super 6 where he led for 2 days before bombing out on the Sunday with Lee Westwood alongside him.
We know all about the 40 year-old's majestic short game, however it was interesting to note that he hit over 80% of Greens in Regulation in Spain which is pretty much unheard of for him, and although he's failed to reach those heights since, a return to a shorter track should help his chances and if he can get the putter firing once again I see no reason why he can't contend here in Belgium. Ultimately it was Rummy's lack of scoring on the par 5s that cost him the chance of getting close to Jon Rahm's total that week, however if the 2010 event held here at Rinkven is anything to go by then that won't be the be-all and end-all this week. For me there's enough snippets of form and history to take a plunge on Brett this week at the price on offer. RESULT: MC
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel
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