For the second time in three weeks, the European Tour welcomes a different format to the International Schedule in the shape of the Belgian Knockout.
Following on from the innovative GolfSixes at Centurion Club, three-time Tour winner Thomas Pieters returns to his home city of Antwerp to host the inaugural edition of an event which combines 36 holes of stroke play with a weekend of head-to-head knockout matches.
The event marks the tour’s first visit to Belgium since 2000 and the first time that Rinkven International Golf Club has hosted some of Europe’s finest.
Our stats guru has crunched the numbers to come up with three players who might just be an ideal fit for your Fantasy team this week.
If host Pieters makes it to the weekend knockout matches, you can be sure there won’t be a player in the field relishing a match-up with the Belgian. Although the head-to-heads will be contested in stroke play over nine holes rather than match play, the prospect of a one-on-one match against an opponent will surely rekindle Pieters’ fond memories of his impressive Ryder Cup debut in 2016.
The 26 year old was superb at Hazeltine National two years ago, setting the record for most points won by a rookie as part of a formidable partnership with Rory McIlroy.
The fact that Pieters will know this course better than anyone will also play into his hands. Few players in the field will have teed it up at Rinkven International before, handing Pieters an undeniable advantage. Although he hasn’t enjoyed particularly strong form this year, he’ll undoubtedly find the positive signs pointing in his direction this week.
The last time Adrian Otaegui missed a cut on tour was October 2017, 13 tournaments ago. Not only has he been a weekend regular in the last seven months, he’s also been chalking up the top 20 finishes, too. In his last five appearances, Otaegui has finished no worse than tied 19th, with a best result of that run coming at the Volvo China Open where he finished runner-up.
The Spaniard, who is 81 under par this season, has previous in knockout format. His only European Tour title came at last season’s Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play, where he successfully navigated his way through six rounds to the title in Bad Griesbach. With form suggesting another made cut is likely and his last venture into knockout golf resulting in a trophy, Otaegui is one to keep an eye on in Belgium.
Despite his American accent, there is plenty of European excitement surrounding Sam Horsfield. The Manchester-born 21 year old calls Lake Nona in Florida his home, but has performed well on the other side of the Atlantic since winning European Tour Qualifying School last November.
He finished second at the Tshwane Open in March, firing a fine third round of 64 on his way to a best European Tour result of his career. However, it was his performance in the match play format in Perth in February that suggests he could enjoy himself this week. A fourth-placed finish in Western Australia showed he has the temperament to handle a one-on-one duel and means he’s a good bet to sneak under the radar if he makes the weekend in Belgium.
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