Soudal Open Betting Tips: Eye-catching former Ryder Cup winner can net some profits at 125/1
The Belfry just seems to breed dramatic finishes. Following on from playoffs in the events staged there in the previous two years, Thorbjorn Olesen upped the drama stakes in 2022. Rallying from a borderline impossible position, on a day where he’d looked largely out of sorts, he holed putts totalling 60ft+ on his final two holes to finish eagle-birdie and heartbreakingly deny the watching on Sebastian Soderberg. A sensational finish to an event in which everyone in with a chance in the final round did their best to throw the event away on a typical DP World Tour Sunday.
Soudal Open Tips
Onto this week and the DP World Tour returns to Belgium for the first time since 2019 for the Soudal Open at Rinkven International Golf Club. The event replaces the previous Belgian Knockout format of the 2018 & 2019 seasons (which was held at the same course as this week), that saw players compete in normal stroke-play over the first two rounds, before a 36-hole cut occurred and they played a knockout format over the weekend consisting of stroke-play matches. This new event reverting to a regular stroke-play format.
Adrian Otaegui won the 2018 event here, prevailing over Frenchman Benjamin Hebert in the final by three strokes. This was followed by Guido Migliozzi in 2019, who triumphed over the Netherlands’ Darius Van Driel by four shots. Two rather contrasting winners of those two events, giving us the impression that this course may well give all types a chance this week.
Rinkven International Golf Club is a short par 71, measuring 6924 yards. It is a composite course, made up of holes taken from the club’s North and South Courses. An unusual course setup, with just the two par 5s, three par 3s and a whopping thirteen par 4s.
As you’d expect with such a short course, there are a lot of short holes. Just one of the par 3s measures over 200 yards, the 2nd hole at 201 yards. Whilst the two par 5s should be reachable for most.
There are a number of sub 350yard par 4s, which some of the bigger hitters may fancy their chances at getting close to, with just the four holes measuring over 450 yards, the longest of which is the 515 yard 10th. On the face of it there looks to be plenty of scoring chances on offer this week.
Having said that, the course will find you out if the ball-striking is off. The fairways are tree-lined and predominantly tight, with many doglegging, creating some awkward lines into the greens should you not hit the right spot off-the-tee. The greens offer great variety in both size and shape, some are elevated, with bunkers and run-off areas offering some defence.
Further defence come from water in-play on upwards of 6 holes and though the course is heavily tree-lined, it is exposed in places and could be susceptible to wind trouble, should it blow this week.
It’s difficult to glean anything from the two Belgian Knockout events in 2018 & 2019 because of the uniqueness of that format. I’m also not sure I can look at the stats from those two years with any kind of confidence, as they only take into account play over the first two days.
We can, however, look at the types of players that went well here and what we find is that it wasn’t really exclusive to one type. Both of the winners contrast greatly and for every straight-hitting David Drysdale type, there’s the bigger hitting, more inaccurate Gavin Green type.
It’s a course that just levels the playing field for me. Big hitters can club down to play for position off the tee or play with the risks that trying to get closer to the greens on some of these shorter holes will bring. Whilst shorter, more accurate players can go about their business as usual and take advantage of having a lot of shorter numbers into these greens than they ordinarily would on many other courses.
When we think tight, tree-lined courses on the DP World Tour, there’s a few that immediately spring to mind: Crans-sur-Sierre, host of the Omega European Masters and Valderrama, home of the Andalucia Masters.
2019 Belgian Knockout winner, Guido Migliozzi very much backs this up, with top 10s in each, whilst 2018 champion, Adrian Otaegui has multiple top 20s at Valderrama. Gavin Green, who was 5th here in 2019 backing up these potential links further, possessing an 8th place finish at Valderrama and 12th place finish at Crans.
The Kenya Open, both at Karen Country Club and Muthaiga Golf Club is another event to take notice of. Guido Migliozzi was the 2019 champion at Karen, whilst Ewen Ferguson who was 3rd in Belgium in 2019 finished 8th at Muthaiga this year, once looking a very likely winner. Daniel Gavins and Jorge Campillo strengthening the ties to both of those tight tree-lined tracks further.
Hong Kong Golf Club, home of the Hong Kong Open has always been an event where accuracy is rewarded. Victor Perez has a 3rd place finish there and was 6th here in Belgium in 2018, whilst Jorge Campillo ties the form in again possessing a top 10 in Hong Kong.
Current host of the ISPS Handa World Invitational and 2020 Irish Open host, Galgorm Castle makes plenty of sense. This tight course has provided a real test in the last two seasons since gaining DP World Tour status, after previously hosting the Northern Ireland Open on the Challenge Tour from 2013. Last year’s ISPS Handa winner, Daniel Gavins finished 16th here in 2019, whilst 2nd and 3rd place finishers that year, Darius Van Driel and Ewen Ferguson have both gone well there in Northern Ireland.
Van Driel and Ferguson crop up again here for my final comp course and that lies with Adamstal GC, host of the Euram Bank Open on the Challenge Tour and briefly on the DP World Tour in the covid hit 2020 season. Van Driel is a past champion and Ferguson a two-time runner-up at this quirky, short tree-lined course in the Austrian Alps. With players like Daniel Gavins and JB Hansen going well at both courses, strengthening that tie further.
Barring the threat of some rain in the forecast early on Thursday, the weather is currently forecast to provide good golf conditions throughout the week in Belgium. With warm(ish) temperatures predicted over the four days and the strong breeze currently in the forecast for Thursday and Friday dying down for the weekend action.
The field is stronger than I expected for this event, with many of last week’s British Masters competitors making the trip to Belgium. They are joined by the undoubted star of the field, world #36 Thomas Pieters, who has taken the admirable decision to play here, in his home open the week before he heads off to Oklahoma for the PGA Championship. He is joined by just two more players from inside the world’s top 100, #82 Bernd Wiesberger and #89 Oliver Bekker, as well as Belgium’s 2nd best golfer called Thomas, Thomas Detry.
I was originally quite keen on Justin Harding before he withdrew from this week’s field. So instead of replacing him with someone else, I’ve decided to just go with this team of five:
Big-hitting JC Ritchie comes here following an excellent 8th place finish in the British Masters last week. I’m taking him to improve on the excellent year he’s enjoyed so far, by adding a first DPWT title to his resume.
Since 2017, Ritchie has been collecting victories in South Africa at an impressive rate, with eight titles to his name and has managed to win at least once in each of the last six years.
This has continued into this year, where he dominated the Sunshine Tour/Challenge Tour co-sanctioned events at the start of the year. He won back-to-back titles there, starting with a one shot victory in the Cape Town Open, then coming out the week after and annihilating the field at the Jonsson Workwear Open by six shots. Picking up a further pair of top 10s amongst other starts in those events.
Ritchie has had three starts on the DPWT this year, the first two coming in South Africa, where he finished 23rd in the MyGolfLife Open and missed the cut in the Steyn City Championship. Before that superb showing at The Belfry last week. A week where he was one of the best ranked iron players in the field, ranking 4th. Something which I’m hoping to see him replicate this week.
Ritchie is much more about power than accuracy off-the-tee but will be able to club down for position on many of these holes as well as possessing the arsenal to create excellent scoring opportunities on the par 5s and drivable par 4s.
There should be fewer players in this field playing with much more confidence than Ritchie right now. If he can carry over the high class approach performance that he showed at The Belfry, the talented South African would look a big danger and can be the latest South African to fully make his way on the DPWT.
John Catlin’s year has been a little slow to get going on the DPWT this year. Though in finishing 36th in the British Masters last week he produced his best performance of the year on the tour and on the type of course in which he’s made his name as a three-time DPWT winner, I fancy him to kick on from there in Belgium this week.
Before last week, Catlin had played six times on the DPWT this year, making just three cuts and finishing no better than 57th. However he does have some strong form on the Asian Tour this year, with 5th and 12th place finishes achieved in Thailand, so the game clearly hasn’t been as far away as his underwhelming DPWT form would suggest.
Catlin was hitting the ball to a high standard last year, something which he struggled to carry over to this year in his first four starts. Though over the last three weeks, where the tour has moved on to Europe, there’s been a notable improvement in his driving, where he’s gained strokes in his last three starts and has also found something with putter the last two weeks.
The main area of concern heading into this week is the approach play, which has been off for the entire year on the DPWT. Though he did sign off from The Belfry with his best approach performance of the week on Sunday, no massive gains but certainly a big improvement on the previous three days play.
The most attractive reason for backing Catlin this week is the level of form he’s produced at courses that look as though they may correlate to Rinkven. He did actually miss the cut in the Belgian Knockout here in 2019, though his career has really taken off since then and looks a different prospect this week.
The belief he can play well here comes in the form of two of his three DPWT victories. The first of which came with that incredible wire-to-wire win at Valderrama in 2020, a course that shares the same short, tight tree-lined characteristics as this week’s venue, for all it’s hard to see this playing as difficult as Valdderrama. Catlin followed that victory at Valderrama by coming out and winning the Irish Open two starts later at Galgorm Castle. That giving him two victories at correlating courses and he’s since franked his form at both of those events, finishing 7th in Northern Ireland and 11th at Valderrama last year.
The only area that misfired in Catlin’s game last week was the irons. If he can kick on from the small improvements he made there in the final round, the rest of his game looks ready to contend on a course, the type of which he’s gone excellently on in the past.
I must admit I was surprised to find Ewen Ferguson at such a price this week. He won just four starts ago and has gone well here before. Though his three latest results may look a little underwhelming he’s still hitting the ball perfectly well and I think he looks a good shout to bounce back from a missed cut at The Belfry this week.
That victory for Ferguson came back in Qatar where he came through in difficult conditions on the Sunday, capitalising on faltering performances from the leaders. Even more impressive about that victory was the fact just three starts prior to that Ferguson had given away an excellent chance of picking up his first victory in Kenya, showing brilliant mental strength to come back and win so quickly following that huge disappointment.
He’s been hitting the ball excellently this year, ranking 9th in GIR, 9th in driving accuracy, 38th off-the-tee and 44th in approach. Even on his recent starts, where he’s recorded finishes of MC-52-MC, Ferguson has continued to hit the ball well, with the short-game being the real cause of him not achieving better finishes in those events.
As a strong ball-striking, fairways and greens type, it’s no surprise to see Ferguson go well here, when finishing 3rd in 2019. This part of a strong book of form at these types of courses, as he’s twice been a runner-up in the Euram Bank Open on the Challenge Tour and finished 8th at Muthaiga earlier this year, an event which he was in control of. With a 14th place finish at Galgorm Castle in 2020 emphasising his suitability to such a test even further.
As so often happens when players get that first win, they can go off the boil a little in subsequent starts. However, there’s little to be concerned about with Ferguson as the long game continues to look in good enough shape and I expect him to relish the return to Belgium this week.
Daniel Gavins has played some consistent golf this year with his irons looking in particularly good shape. Back at a place he’s gone well at before, as well as possessing attractive form at correlating events, he can go well once again this week in Belgium.
Gavins has played ten events this year, recording best finishes of 6th in Kenya and 13th in the Catalunya Championship. Whilst last week’s missed cut at The Belfry was the latest of just three MCs for the year.
The quality of Gavins’ game has been in approach play, where he ranks 16th on the DPWT this season and 38th for GIR. This is what engineered both of his best performances in 2022, as he led the field in approach both in Kenya and in Catalunya. He’s also looked in good condition around-the-greens, with the driver and putter the weak spots, though as someone who does possess plenty of power off-the-tee, he won’t need to use the big stick around much of this course.
He has the benefit of a spin around here, finishing a solid 16th in 2019. Perhaps more importantly, Gavins’ solo DPWT win came at the ISPS Handa World Invitational last year at Galgorm Castle. Whilst a 6th place finish in Kenya this year at Muthaiga, an 11th place finish at Vaderrama last year and 18th place finish in the Euram Bank Open in 2018 indicate this the type of test that brings the best out of him.
Gavins’ win in Northern Ireland came a little out of the blue, for all he’d shown some good form on the Challenge Tour. He has however managed to show this was no fluke, with continued good performances at this level since and he can produce the latest of those this week in Belgium.
After a poor start to the year in which Jamie Donaldson had struggled to show the type of high class form he showed in the latter part of 2021, he finally burst into action last week, finishing 8th at the British Masters. With some eye-catching approach play there I’m hoping he can carry that form over to Rinkven this week.
Undoubtedly the standout effort of that run in the second part of last year was his excellent runner-up finish at Wentworth in the BMW PGA Championship. He hadn’t got close to replicating that level of performance so far this year, missing five of his first eight cuts and finishing no better than 40th, before that 8th place finish at The Belfry last week.
Despite the underwhelming performances, Donaldson has putted well this year, though besides the odd glimpse with the irons and short-game he’s largely struggled in all other areas. That was until he found some form in approach last week. In ranking 8th in the field and gaining 1.22 strokes he produced his best performance in this regard since the latter part of 2020.
Donaldson missed the cut on both visits here in 2018 & 2019, though his game was in a much worse place at that point than the stuff he’s shown in the last 18 months. He does have strong correlating form, with multiple top 10s at the European Masters and at Valderrama, in addition to also going well in Hong Kong in the past, including a further top 10.
Donaldson is seven years without a victory but has shown over the last couple of years that he’s still capable of adding to those three DPWT titles that he has in his cabinet. If able to carry the momentum over from his 8th place finish last week and reproduce the level of performance he found in approach, he can go close again this week.