Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Soudal Open Tips 2024

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The DP World Tour hits mainland Europe for the first time in 2024 this week, with the Soudal Open kicking off a 3-event stretch before we break again for the US Open. Talking of the US Open, more than 60 players from this week’s field were involved in the qualifier on Monday over at Walton Heath – the final leaderboard is here.

This is the third renewal of the Soudal Open, an event that picked 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 – the Soudal Open is a regular 72 holes of strokeplay with a full field of 156 players.

Jordan Smith returns from State-side action to head this week’s betting market at 22/1, fresh from a sparkling round of 64 at Valhalla where he finished in 39th place overall which was the best result of anyone in this field. Yannik Paul, Thomas Pieters, Adrian Otaegui, Thriston Lawrence, Alex Fitzpatrick and Bernd Wiesberger follow the Englishman in what looks to be a very open betting heat.

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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 is a composite of the North and South courses, measuring 6,940 yards for its par of 71, and is the same routing as we saw both in 2022 & 2023 as well as at the Belgian Knockout events hosted here.

The front 9 is slightly longer than the back 9 with a solitary par-5 on both halves, however the short par-4s at the 11th and 16th both generally play easier than the long 17th and present eagle and birdie opportunities to those who were aggressive on those holes. Just 3 par-3s explains the par of 71, with 13 par-4s overall for the players to tackle.

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 5 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. Soudal Open: 2023: Simon Forsstrom, 200/1; 2022: Sam Horsfield, -13, 22/1; Belgian Knockout: 2019: Adrian Otaegui; 2018: Guido Migliozzi; Telenet Trophy (Challenge Tour): 2010: Lee Slattery, -21.

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

Sunshine and showers is the summary for the week, with the bulk of any rain centred around Friday afternoon into Saturday morning. Winds will be generally light at around 5-10mph with temperatures edging towards 70 Fahrenheit in the afternoons.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. The last two Soudal Opens give us a starting point for this week, with the winners producing the following core statistics:

  • 2023: Simon Forsstrom (-17). 53.3% fairways (62nd), 73.6% greens in regulation (16th), 84.2% scrambling (1st), 1.69 putts per GIR (24th).
  • 2022: Sam Horsfield (-13). 46.7% fairways (58th), 70.8% greens in regulation (15th), 81% scrambling (2nd), 1.67 putts per GIR (13th).

Accuracy off the tee didn’t prove pivotal here in either renewal, with performance from the second shot and in much more important. With 18-24 a typical number of missed greens on the week for those contending near the top of the leaderboard, the ability to get up and down with regularity seems critical.

Digging beneath the numbers from the two Belgian Knockout events gives us more history to peruse for this week. Analysing the final stats of the top 2 after the 36-hole strokeplay element gives us a little more 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, however the requirement to either hit greens or save bogeys when you don’t is at least fairly consistent.

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 14 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, and although we’re playing a different course routing now, the requirement for par-4 scoring was evident again over the past 2 years:

  • 2023: Simon Forsstrom: Par 3, Level; Par 4, -14; Par 5, -3.
  • 2022: Sam Horsfield: Par 3, -2; Par 4, -8; Par 5, -3.

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

With SG stats captured for both Soudal Opens, SG Approach and SG Tee to Green were the most consistent metrics, with Forsstrom also excelling Around the Green and Horsfield in terms of Putting:

2022 & 23 – Soudal Opens:

  • 2023, Simon Forsstrom: T: 38th; A: 13th; T2G: 2nd; ATG: 1st; P: 27th
  • 2022, Sam Horsfield: T: 51st; A: 3rd; T2G: 12th; ATG: 32nd; P: 5th

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.

2022 winner Sam Horsfield had returned from a 3-month absence due to injury the week before his victory, finishing 21st at the British Masters. Prior to that, 12th in Abu Dhabi and 4th in Dubai had signalled some good form in stronger fields. Last year’s winner Simon Forsstrom was a little tougher to find, although there were 3 top-10 finishes in his previous 11 starts to encourage punters and a second round 67 the week before in Italy tied the best round of the day:

  • 2023, Simon Forsstrom: 29/9/50/MC/4/MC/58/62/8/60/MC/32
  • 2022, Sam Horsfield: MC/15/35/64/MC/12/44/9/12/4/WD/21
  • 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

With so many of this week’s field in action on Monday at Walton Heath, fatigue after 36 holes and travel/preparation time for this week’s event from those who were involved could be a factor, although conversely those who showed some form could bring forward momentum with others in this field not having played competitively since the end of last month.

My selections are as follows:

Thomas Pieters 3pts EW 20/1 (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

Whatever your personal stance is on LIV Golf in general, or on the slow re-emergence of LIV players in DP World Tour events, what can’t be denied is that they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand and Thomas Pieters’ place in this week’s field off the back of a ‘National Spot’ can’t be overlooked.

There was a time a little over a year ago when the Belgian would quite rightly go off as clear favourite in this kind of event, yet this week we find him alongside Jordan Smith and only marginally shorter than a whole host of players who aren’t even close to the same level as the 2016 Ryder Cup star when at his best.

When players drop down to DP World Tour level from the PGA Tour in otherwise indifferent form they must be respected; likewise, the same goes for LIV players, especially those who’ve been showing some positive signs.

9th at LIV Miami, 14th at LIV Adelaide and 5th last time out at LIV Singapore behind Brooks Koepka shows a definite up-shift in results over his early season efforts and 9th, 8th at 14th for GIR combined with 13th, 14th and 1st for Scrambling across those three efforts is encouraging for this week’s task.

We saw at the back end of 2023 with Dean Burmester, Joaquin Niemann and Louis Oosthuizen mopping up five events on the spin between them that returning LIV players aren’t afraid to win on the DP World Tour, and regardless of any lingering animosity from his peers, Pieters will undoubtedly have enough local support this week to put that firmly to one side.

9th here at the 2022 Soudal Open, after three less prominent performances at the Belgian Knockout and on the Challenge Tour, Pieters is a class act in this field who deserves to be supported from a betting perspective. Result: T2

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Johannes Veerman 1.5pts EW 50/1 (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

Statistically speaking, Johannes Veerman caught the eye on a number of counts in my analysis for this, and having signed off before the US PGA Championship break with an 8th place finish in China, perhaps the American can seriously contend for a second DP World Tour title here this week.

Talking of seriously contending, the 32 year-old’s 2nd place finish to Keita Nakajima at the end of March probably doesn’t fall into that category despite the lofty finish as the Japanese star was so dominant, however it was a very positive outing nonetheless and rates as Veerman’s best finish on Tour since his breakthrough win at the Czech Masters back in 2021.

1st and 14th for SG Approach combined with 7th and 5th for SG Tee to Green over those two most recent outings is positive for this week’s task, as is 3rd and 6th for Scrambling. 8th for Par 4 Scoring for the season to date also ticks an important box given what we’ve seen in the past, and the Californian may well like what he sees when he makes his course debut this week.

A flat start to his first round at Walton Heath qualifier on Monday saw Johannes sit way off the pace at 1-over through 12 holes, however 4 birdies to finish improved matters and although he ultimately looks like falling short of making the 9 qualifying places at the time of writing, it was a positive outing nonetheless that he could build on in Belgium. Result: T41

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Matthias Schwab 1pt EW 110/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Another player who caught the eye in China was Matthias Schwab and with plenty of disparity from the bookmakers this week in terms of how they rate him here, I’ll take a chance that there’s more to come from the Austrian.

At the age of 29, Matthias is still a maiden in all forms of professional golf after a strong amateur career however that’s not to say he hasn’t come close to a breakthrough, most notably when being pipped by Tyrrell Hatton at the 2019 Turkish Airlines Open when the other 4 members of the 6-man play-off had already departed. That was his second runner-up finish in a year that saw him also record another 7 top-10 finishes, and although he’s not hit the same heights again, when he does find form he tends to retain it for a few weeks, making his 8th place finish in China at the start of the month all the more interesting.

3rd for Driving Accuracy, 3rd for GIR and 1st for Scrambling in old metrics was impressive at Hidden Grace, backed up by Strokes Gained ranks of 5th for Approach and 10th for Tee to Green as he recorded his best finish of the season off the back of 6 straight paid weekends.

Course form of 28th & 52nd is a little trickier to digest as both were in the Belgian Knockout format, however he made the weekend stages on both occasions and perhaps he’ll push on further in this regular 72-hole strokeplay format. Result: MC

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Matteo Manassero 1pt EW 100/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Finally I’ll take a chance on what’s a frankly disrespectful price about Matteo Manassero as he continues to rebuild his career following a decade in the wilderness.

The wins came easy for the talented Italian early on his career, with a breakthrough victory at the Castello Masters followed by further successes in Malaysia in 2011, Singapore in 2012, and most notably at Wentworth in 2013 before his form and the wins dried up.

All 4 wins came between 10- and 16-under par, which isn’t a bad barometer for this week’s task, and all shared some strong characteristics with Rinkven be that in terms of course length and/or agronomy, with Wentworth of course ticking the tree-lined, parkland box in indelible ink.

The 31 year-old had to wait a full 10 years and 2 days for his next trophy though at last year’s Copenhagen Challenge and more mainland Europe success followed on the 2nd tier in his homeland 6 weeks later.

Of course those two efforts were trumped at the Jonsson Workwear Open in March when Manny became a winner at DP World Tour level for the fifth time, and a month and a half on from that victory perhaps he’s ready to taste some more success.

This will be Matteo’s first look at a Rinkven course whose dimensions and demands should suit nicely, and his positive performance at US Open qualifying on Monday is something he can build on having shown further glimpses of form in India (5th) and China (23rd) between a pair of missed cuts. Result: T13

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:35BST 20.5.24 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.