The DP World Tour continues its European swing for the second straight week, moving from Italy to Belgium for the Soudal Open.
This event, formally known as the Belgium Open, has not been a consistent stop on the DP World Tour Schedule but is now being played for the second consecutive year.
It was first played in 1910 and was won by Frenchman Arnaud Massey. Lee Westwood won two editions of this event in 1998 and 2000 but then the event was dropped from the schedule following his second victory.
It wasn’t until 2018 that the event made a return but in a different format as the Belgian Knockout. This event was a match play/stroke play hybrid event but was only staged twice. However, it was played at this year’s venue - Rinkven International.
From there, the event returned in 2022 as a typical stroke play event and will now be played for two consecutive seasons.
Rinkven International Golf Club in Antwerp plays host to the Soudal Open for the second consecutive season.
It plays on the shorter side in terms of DP World Tour venues at 6,924 yards and a Par 71.
Rinkven was in existence in the early 1980’s and was originally designed by Belgian golfer and coach, Paul Rolin. Since, the course has undergone a series of changes and was expanded to two 18 hole courses - the North and the South.
This week’s event will be held as a composite of both of the courses.
The course is described as “a wonderfully peaceful area of nature” with a “mixture of woodland and parkland holes with water coming into play on several holes,” per the venue’s website.
Getting off the tee with distance won’t be of the utmost importance this week as many of the holes will force layups. The fairways, although flat and exposed, are tight and tree lined. Oftentimes golfers will be taking irons off the tee.
In the long list of defenses that the course offers is smaller than average Bentgrass greens.
Guido Migliozzi won the event in 2019 when the event was played in the alternate format that I previously mentioned. He ranked second in the field for greens in regulation percentage. Benjamin Hebert placed second in 2018 in the same format and ranked first in the same statistic.
Taking a look at last year, the top three finishers ranked 15th, seventh and 12th in greens in regulation percentage.
This is an accuracy based course, so of course, strokes gained: approach will be a key stat. Last year’s top three ranked third, first and fourth in that statistic.
Scrambling too will be of the utmost importance this week as the best three scramblers from a year ago finished in the top eight. Scrambling comes into play with the smaller-than-average greens.
The par five fifth here at Rinkven plays as the easiest hole on the course but is followed by a very tough stretch. Holes six, seven, eight, nine and ten ranked as the fourth, fifth, 14th, second and first in terms of toughness a year ago.
In all, this is a much different track than we saw a week ago in Italy.
Last year in the inaugural installment of this event, Sam Horsfield won the event at -13. However, as he has joined the LIV Tour, he won’t be back to defend his title.
The likes of Ryan Fox and Yannik Paul finished right behind Horsfield a year ago. Paul is back again this week in hopes to strengthen his Ryder Cup credentials.
Also teeing it up this week is 15-year-old amateur Lev Grinberg of Ukraine. He was the low amateur at this event a year ago.
Spain’s Adrian Otaegui is also teeing it up this week. He won the discontinued match play/stroke play version of this event held at the same course in 2018. The Dutchman Darius van Driel lost in the final of the same format in 2019 and is in the field this week.
Home favorite Thomas Detry will be featured this week as well as he looks to claim victory on his home soil. Detry has most recently played on the PGA Tour where he has found some moderate success.
Another Belgian favorite is Nicolas Colsaerts who plays regularly on the DP World Tour.
Additional favorites include Marcel Siem of Germany and Jordan Smith of England.
The field this week is set at 156-golfers.
Much like this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson of the PGA Tour, rain will be the biggest conversation this week. As of the time of writing this, there is at least a 40-percent chance of precipitation each day. Thursday currently calls for a 60-percent chance, Friday a 70-percent chance, Saturday a 40-percent chance and Sunday a 60-percent chance. In all, there's a large chance for some delays this week. Temperatures will range from the mid-to-high 60-degrees across all four days. Winds will peak on Friday at 12 miles-per-hour and 11 miles-per-hour on Saturday. Thursday will have the lowest winds at six miles-per-hour.
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (SG: TTG)
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Birdie or Better Percentage
Thorbjorn Olesen (+2100)
Per my model this week, Olesen is once again my favorite to claim the title in Belgian. He’s currently third on Tour in both SG: TTG and bogey avoidance, sixth in birdie or better percentage, seventh in scrambling, eighth in SG: APP, tenth in GIR%, 34th in SG: PUTT and 50th in driving accuracy. Olesen was back in action a week ago at the DS Automobiles Italian Open where he placed T40th. Luckily for him, this week’s course is unlike last week’s track. Olesen has a victory on the season at the Thailand Classic back in February. He also placed T4th at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship and T6th at the Hero Indian Open.
Marcus Helligkilde (+3400)
I did play Marcus Helligkidle a week ago in Italy as well but as I mentioned with fellow Danish golfer Olesen, it wasn’t the best of moves. He missed the cut but again, this course is much different than that of a week ago. It was just two weeks ago that he came in second at the Korea Championship. He also placed T14th at the ISPS Handa Championship and T13th at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship on the season. He is currently eighth on tour in bogey avoidance, 15th in GIR%, 20th in scrambling, 28th in SG: TTG, 40th in SG: APP, 55th in SG: PUTT, 75th in birdie or better percentage and 92nd in driving accuracy. I feel like this course fits Helligkilde’s game rather well.
Julien Brun (+4500)
The Frenchman continues to pop in my model each-and-every week and that is for good reason. He was in attendance a week ago in Italy but an awful third round derailed his tournament. On the season he has finishes of third at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, fifth at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, T7th at the Magical Kenya Open and T12th at the Singapore Classic. He is currently ninth on Tour in both SG: PUTT and bogey avoidance, 18th in SG: APP, 19th in GIR%, 39th in scrambling, 68th in birdie or better percentage, 81st in SG: TTG and 96th in driving accuracy. It’s about time Brun gets his first DP World Tour victory.
Daniel Brown (+9500)
Brown is one of just a few golfers in this week’s field that is above average in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week. He is currently 14th in driving accuracy, 19th in scrambling, 21st in birdie or better percentage, 37th in SG: PUTT, 40th in bogey avoidance, 54th in SG: APP, 59th in SG: TTG and 68th in GIR%. Brown has been busy on the DP World Tour, playing in 11 tournaments on the season. He has made the cut in each of the 11 tournaments he has played this season. His season has been highlighted by a T5th at the Investec South African Open Championship, T9th at the SDC Championship and T17th at the Jonsson Workwear Open. I’m all over Brown this week.