Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Soudal Open Tips 2022

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The Soudal Open is a new event title for the DP World Tour, picking up the reins from the Belgian Knockout which was Belgium’s premier event, held here at Rinkven International Golf Club in 2018 & 2019.

Whereas the Belgian Knockout was one of the Tour’s forays into new, exciting formats – combining 36 holes of strokeplay with a series of 9-hole knockout matches over the weekend – this week’s event is a return to the regular 72 holes of strokeplay with a full field of 156 players.

Bernd Wiesberger leads the betting at a best price of 16/1 as he looks to build on his 8th place finish on his last start at the Catalunya Championship, his first top-10 finish of 2022. Sam Horsfield, Ryan Fox and Thomas Pieters follow the Austrian at around the 20/1 mark, however once again we have a very open looking heat where the bookies are struggling to differentiate the leading dozen or so players.

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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.

The layout played for the Belgian Knockout was a composite of the North and South courses and measured 6,924 yards for its par of 71; this week’s event is listed with the same metrics, so barring any late change from the DP World Tour we should be looking at the same routing as 2019 when we last visited these parts.

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 over the 2 Belgian Knockout events and offers birdie and eagle opportunities to those who take it on. 3 Par-3s explains the overall Par of 71, with 13 Par-4s eclipsing last week’s 12 at The Belfry.

The greens are Poa Annua-based, but overseeded with Bentgrass each year to achieve the desired playing surface of 80% Bentgrass, 20% Poa.

soudal open tips

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key statistics for this week’s event that will help to shape a view on players who might go well this week.

Course stats include results from the 3 events held here at Rinkven since 2010: Current Form | Course Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.

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

Course Winners. Belgian Knockout: 2019: Guido Migliozzi; 2018: Adrian Otaegui; Telenet Trophy (Challenge Tour): 2010: Lee Slattery, -21.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here.

Very similar conditions to last week in England are to be expected as we hop over to Belgium, with sunny spells and the odd shower expected to accompany a fairly light breeze of 5-10mph, with the odd gust maybe a little higher. Temperatures will once again peak in the high 60s to low 70s Fahrenheit.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

Digging beneath the numbers from the two Belgian Knockout events gives us a starting point for this week. Analysing the final stats of the top 2 after the 36-hole strokeplay element gives us a little insight into this test:

  • 2019: Chris Paisley (-12). 66.7 % fairways (16th), 72.2% greens in regulation (42nd), 80.0% scrambling (11th), 1.58 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2018: Jorge Campillo (-8). 73.3% fairways (1st), 80.6% greens in regulation (5th), 28.6% scrambling (87th), 1.66 putts per GIR (12th).

Looking at the same 36-hole data for the eventual winners gives us another angle:

  • 2019: Guido Migliozzi. 60.0% fairways (34th), 86.1% greens in regulation (2nd), 100% scrambling (1st), 1.77 putts per GIR (64th).
  • 2018: Adrian Otaegui. 60.0% fairways (28th), 69.4% greens in regulation (35th), 54.5% scrambling (25th), 1.76 putts per GIR (50th).

Of course these numbers exclude the Matchplay element so the sample sizes are small, so basing decision on any inferences from this may be dangerous, although there’s a hint that a tidy performance from tee to green may be favoured, combined with a good short game.

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 at the time, it was the par-4s that proved pivotal for Slattery 12 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 course routing now, it may well be worth considering positive par-4 performance as a critical success factor.

Strokes Gained: There’s a similar caveat with the SG numbers that were captured in 2019 only, in that they are from the first 36 holes before the Matchplay element began. Some correlation is evident though with 36-hole leader Chris Paisley ranking 2nd for SG Tee to Green behind eventual winner Guido Migliozzi:

2019 – 36 Hole Leader:

  • 1st, Chris Paisley: T: 45th; A: 4th; T2G: 2nd; ATG: 17th; P: 5th

2019 – Overall Winner:

  • 1st, Guido Migliozzi: T: 1st; A: 35th; T2G: 1st; ATG: 48th; P: 76th

Key: T: SG Off the Tee; A; SG Approach; T2G: SG Tee to Green; ATG: SG Around the Green; P: SG Putting.

Incoming Form: Looking at the same players who finished ahead after 36 holes over the 2 Belgian knockout events, we see some solid recent form trends:

  • 2019, Chris Paisley: 34/24/18/MC/56/24/9/48/57/38/MC/4
  • 2018, Jorge Campillo: 35/27/MC/12/14/MC/2/4/27/5/46/3

Similarly, eventual 2018 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, whereas 2019 winner Guido Migliozzi had won the Kenya Open earlier in the season and hadn’t missed a cut since:

  • 2019, Guido Migliozzi: MC/MC/56/MC/MC/63/MC/1/41/25/32/35/33
  • 2018, Adrian Otaegui: 12/73/60/42/40/22/39/12/10/12/19/2

My selections are as follows:

Adrian Otaegui 2pts EW 25/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

With 9 players at 33/1 or shorter with the vast majority of bookmakers, finding one of the leading players with markedly better credentials than the others is a challenge.

Bernd Wiesberger has Rolex Series wins to his name, yet hasn’t justified his position at the head of the betting in these sorts of low-level DP World Tour events so far in 2022 to justify taking what would need to be a decent plunge given his price.

Thomas Pieters returns to Europe after a largely unsuccessful foray Stateside following his early-season success in Abu Dhabi, yet a record of MC/MC/39/39/MC on home soil hardly excites and I can leave him alone this week also.

The last 2 efforts on that string of form for Pieters came here at Rinkven for the Belgian Knockout, and one player with fond memories of his time here is Adrian Otaegui who won the 2018 edition.

8th after 36 holes to prove that the hard work wasn’t all done when the tournament shifted to its 9-hole Matchplay format, the 29 year-old also made the weekend when defending his title a year later, eventually finishing 26th. 20th and 12th prior to those efforts on Belgian soil on the Challenge Tour suggests he’s comfortable in this part of the world and with pleasant, sunny conditions expected this week, the Spaniard should feel almost like he’s playing closer to home.

3rd at the Ras al Khaimah Championship, 5th at the Qatar Masters and 2nd at the ISPS Handa Championship so far this calendar year, the 3-time DP World Tour champion is looking increasingly likely to add to his silverware collection sooner rather than later. 27th last week saw him putt nicely on the Bent/Poa putting surfaces at The Belfry, ranking 11th for SG Putting, as well as continuing to demonstrate that his short game is amongst the best on display in this kind of company. 16th for Par-4 scoring is also an interesting stat given the nature of the card here at Rinkven, and that’s clearly no fluke given he ranked 15th on the same count for the whole of last season too. RESULT: T15

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Oliver Bekker 2pts EW 28/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

While we’re on the subject of Par-4 scoring and how that might prove to be critical in a week where the course is pencilled in to have 13 of 18 holes in that category, Oliver Bekker also appeals. 11th on that stat for the season to date should earn him a spot on everyone’s shortlist this week I would say, given what we know of the layout here.

Now taking a chance on a DP World Tour maiden at a price that’s only marginally longer than a number of players with far stronger credentials at this level may not sit comfortably with some punters and I understand that, however there are plenty of reasons to suggest that he’s more than capable of putting that particular record straight.

A pair of 9th place finishes at Ras al Khaimah at the start of February was followed by 8th at the Kenya Open, 11th at Pecanwood, 3rd at Steyn City, 10th in Tarragona and 2nd in Catalunya as he’s continued to knock ever louder on the door.

27th last week at The Belfry needs to be taken into context as the South African was 6-over through his first 10 holes on Thursday. To his credit he recovered from there to post a respectable 4-round total and had he played the same 10 holes around level par instead he’d have been right in contention, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

7 wins on the Sunshine Tour is also a decent haul for the 37 year-old who at 89th in the OWGR is currently sitting at a career-high – that’s a decent platform to push on and potentially start competing in some of golf’s biggest events. RESULT: T4

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Ashun Wu 1pt EW 50/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

With limited course form here at Rinkven International, finding any links to other courses on the circuit – even tenuous ones – isn’t easy, however Diamond Country Club, home of the Austrian Open/Lyoness Open/Shot Clock Masters in recent years, does stick out as one to explore further.

2010 Rinkven winner Lee Slattery has 4th and 9th place finishes to his name at Diamond CC; 2018 winner Adrian Otaegui finished 2nd there in 2016 and runner-up Benjamin Hebert also finished 6th in 2012; 2019 winner Guido Migliozzi hasn’t played Diamond competitively, however runner-up Darius Van Driel was 4th there on debut in 2020. Maybe something, maybe not, however I’ll roll with that angle and happily add 2016 Lyoness Open winner Ashun Wu to this week’s team.

A good all-rounder who suits shorter tracks, the Chinese star sits 24th for Par-4 scoring for the season to date which is also a positive, plus he’s recently added a 4th DP World Tour title to his name, capturing the Magical Kenya Open a little over 2 months ago by an impressive 4 strokes.

That recent success came at Muthaiga rather than Karen Country Club. which is shame when trying to link Guido Migliozzi’s win at the latter venue to the 36 year-old’s success, however they’re close enough in style and geography to not dismiss the correlation out of hand. 4th for the SG Approach and 4th for SG Tee to Green were the main drivers that week which is encouraging, however we also saw a spark with the putter last week at the Belfry where Wu topped the SG Putting charts on his way to a tie for 27th. RESULT: T44

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Daniel van Tonder WD Pre-Event

Another winner in Kenya to potentially tie into Guido’s success both there and here at Rinkven comes in the shape of Daniel van Tonder.

Where Ashun Wu’s Kenya success was a little more tenuous, van Tonder’s maiden DP World Tour win last year came at the same Karen Country Club track as Migliozzi’s, so him completing the same double here this week wouldn’t come as complete surprise if that form line is followed. Not should that win last year have come as a surprise either, despite the South African having missed the cut on the same course the week before, as he’d racked up 4 top-12 finishes there at lower levels beforehand.

Victory at the South African Open last December won’t go down on the 31 year-old’s CV as a second DP World Tour title given its Omicron-enforced changes, however that was still an impressive win over Oliver Bekker and his 8th Sunshine Tour win in total, suggesting that he’s more than capable of adding to his DP World tally in the years to come.

No such fireworks since that win to get bookies or punters overly excited it has to be said, however 10 cuts made from 11 starts is impressively consistent and Saturday’s round of 68 was beaten by just one other player in the field to inject a little confidence into his game as he recorded another mid-division finish of 27th overall.

Results seem to be trending positively though, 64th, 42nd and 27th over the past 3 weeks, and 10th for SG Putting last week on similar Bent/Poa greens tied his best in-field ranking on that count on the DP World Tour. Any improvement with his approach play this week could well see him in the mix here in Belgium. RESULT: WD Pre-Event

Richard McEvoy 0.5pt EW 400/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to take a chance on an outsider given that I’ve backed a couple near the top of the market, and to that end Richard McEvoy appeals at a huge price.

The Essex man has his Porsche European Open title from 2018 to accompany his 3 Challenge Tour trophies, so should he not win again between now and retirement he can still be happy with his achievements I’m sure. At the age of 42 perhaps there’s still a little left in the tank though – certainly 3rd at the Catalunya Championship on his penultimate start where he putted beautifully suggests he’s not done quite yet.

At just of 7,350 yards in Spain a fortnight ago and a Par 72, this week’s layout should suit McEvoy even better and his two attempts here at Rinkven produced solid enough results of 15th and 42nd, having made the Matchplay weekend on both occasions. 8th and 21st on different Belgian tracks on the Challenge Tour in 2009 and 2014 saw Richard sitting in 3rd and 4th place respectively heading into the final day, so perhaps we’ll see something positive again from him this week in a part of the world that seems to suit quite nicely. RESULT: T37

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:30BST 9.5.22 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.