The European Tournament arrives into Belgium for the first time in 18 years as the country’s young superstar Thomas Pieters hosts The Belgian Knockout.
Yep, it’s a bizarre name and don’t you worry, it’s a bizarre tournament to match.
First things to get out the way – it’s being held on the outskirts of Antwerp at the Rinkven International Club. There are two tracks there and both the south and north course will be used over the week.
Two days of normal stroke play before the top 64 go into some crazy 9-hole knockouts over 6 rounds. It’ll also still be strokeplay so always going the distance and getting birdies is key. Obviously this is the element that is slightly bewildering – the final two will be playing 27 holes over 2 grueling days and without the matchplay element, you could argue it’s tougher mentally. You’ve always got to score.
But if that wasn’t complicated enough, the European Tour have thrown in the craziness that half the draw on Saturday will play the north course and the other half the south. There’s differences in both and will suit varying players. All about the luck on that front we suppose!
How to claim your FREE £10 bet
2 Bet £5 or more
3 Sun Bets will stick a £10 bet in your account
We have seen two amateur events here in years gone by – the Telenet Trophy, which Lee Slattery dominated (he’s not in the field this week) and the European Amateur Championship where Rory McIlroy came 4th (obviously he’s not in the field either…)
Guys that are teeing it up this week that did well were Joost Luiten (4th), Lorenzo Gagli and Matthew Baldwin (both 8th) and Jorge Campillo and Florian Fritsch (both 13th) We can gather from these events that it’s a shot makers course, the south course being tighter than the north but good ball striking will be needed to overcome the challenge.
Staking wise we will be looking pre-tournament obviously but it is worth having another gander come the weekend to see who gets through and is playing which side of the draw etc. It’s all a bit of fun whatever the weather though isn’t it?
Jordan Smith 33/1
Although Jordan Smith is at the top end of the market, the format of the event means he’s at a generous price, especially considering his form and talent in comparison to the field.
He is one of the best off the tee on Tour at the moment and that should come in really handy this week. He is straight and long, which you have to think could dominate a track like this and when it comes to the head-to-head, he could really nullify his opponent. He’s been so good with his irons as well and if he’s able to combine that and attack this course, he’ll be in with a great shout.
The win in Germany last year gives him further credence and a T3 in China last time out shows he’s back in that imperious sort of form.
Jorge Campillo 33/1
We know we’re going with another one of the guys at the top of the market, but Jorge Campillo has just too much appeal.
Firstly the Spaniard is entering the form of his professional life. He is starting to really knock on the door of a first win. 4 top 5 finishes in his last 6 outings proves that, including an impressive T3 in China last time out. He also recorded a T27 at the Mexico WGC which was his first big in a stellar field, so he’s finally showing his talents.
If this was a normal strokeplay event he’d fit the track perfectly. Much like Smith, he’s long and straight off the tee and is a fairly consistent performer with his irons. But the big difference has been the upturn in his skills with the short stick. He’s starting to hole putts and will surely be oozing with confidence in a relatively week field.
Finally, he’s no stranger to 1 on 1 combat. He was an elite amateur (hence the surprise he’s not got a pro win yet) and represented both Europe and Spain at the Palmer Cup and Eisenhower Trophy among others. He beat the likes of Rickie Fowler and Bud Cauley in matchplay in those years and we can really see him being a threat this week.
JB Hansen 50/1
JB Hansen has dipped in and out of the European and Challenge Tours in recent years not seemingly able to sustain his card. But he is still only 27 and this season has been on fire as he looks to get back on the main circuit.
He’s played 8 tournaments in 2018 and has 2 wins with a further 4 top 10 finishes. That is some remarkable form. If he’s able to recreate that in a field not hugely better than what he’s been used to, he could be a strong mid-range bet.
He’s a straight hitter who is renowned for his iron game and that could really fit the unknown nature of this track.
Chris Wood 50/1
We’ve written about Chris Wood in fields like this before. We all know how talented he is – he’s played in a Ryder Cup for crying out loud – but his form has dipped after injuries, so in our eyes it’s only a matter of time before he reaches his abilities again.
He did record a solo 2nd finish in Oman earlier this year, which by his own admission was incredibly encouraging, all be it frustrating not to win. However, with his Ryder Cup history and matchplay experience in recent years, this could be the week he makes his return to the winners enclosure.
Lorenzo Gagli 80/1
Lorenzo Gagli is our final pick of the week and much like JB Hansen, is playing out his skin on the Challenge Tour right now. The Italian recorded his first big victory in Kenya earlier this year and came T2 behind Hansen in Turkey.
He is the perfect tee to green player, straight off the tee and good with his irons, but his putting has been the thing to let him down on the big stage. With any outsider, you’ll always get the odd things that go against their names, but if he is able to get on a roll with the confidence of his 2018 so far, he could be one to watch.