Most golf tournaments are played over four days and consist of 72 holes of stroke play. Players often say they would like something different but when it comes down to the reality maybe many do not like to be out of their comfort zone of the regular format. This week the Belgian Knockout on the European Tour has a unique format and host Thomas Pieters could win his own event. As a Ryder Cup player he is a cut above the rest of the field and beat the field with his eyes shut.
However, Pieters will have off course duties which may take him away from the practice ground. The player from Belgium will be keen for the unique concept to be a success in the country of his birth. The event is being promoted by his family’s company so he has a vested interest in things going well. Pieters has won nine times in Europe and won four points at the Ryder Cup in 2016. He could be good enough to carry out the role of host and leading contender but other players are preferred.
The first two days of the tournament will have a familiar feel. The cut will be made after 36 holes as usual and 64 players will progress to the knockout rounds. At that point matches are played over nine holes but not in matchplay. Each knockout match will be decided by strokes and every clash will go the ninth hole. Any tied matches will be decided by a sudden-death playoff and the last eight men standing will meet from the quarter-final stage to the final on Sunday.
Belgium last hosted a European Tour event in 2000 when Lee Westwood won the Belgium Open. There is no player of that quality in the field this week because Westwood is a former world number one who is a multiple winner and Ryder Cup player. The only competitor who comes close to that record is Pieters but his focus will be elsewhere. There is an argument that the course could provide a refuge from his hosting responsibilities but in this case playing will be a distraction.
Not only is there no course form to assess there is no form in the format and some players may enjoy the experience while others may crave what they know best. Good judges have suggested that Sam Horsfield is a future winner in Europe so he has to be competitive at this level. In a normal week Pieters would be a big favourite in this field but this week is far from normal and Horsfield is a viable alternative. Joost Luiten and Adrian Otaegui are other players with the ability to contend.
Its conventional fare on the PGA Tour with the Byron Nelson event at which Billy Horschel is the defending champion. It’s a decent field at the top of the betting market and Jordan Spieth is the clear favourite. Matt Kuchar is next in the betting and he battled with Spieth in the British Open at Royal Birkdale last July but came off second best. Sergio Garcia has won his major and become a parent so his focus may be reduced and the host course does not suit his game. Adam Scott looks a big price and is the standout bet in this field.
The best players are now focusing on the US Open, the second major of the season. Webb Simpson who won the title in 2012 is now a contender after winning the Players Championship in impressive style. The Belgian Knockout is a departure from the norm and Horsfield is the player to have on your side.