The Belgian Knockout will bring an innovative new head-to-head, single-elimination strokeplay format to the Race to Dubai this week, giving fans and players another way to enjoy elite-level competitive golf. Here are Five Things To Know about this week’s Belgian Knockout at Rinkven International Golf Club in Antwerp:
1) The format: The first two days will have a familiar feel as a full field of players jockey for position across 36 holes of strokeplay before a cut establishes the top 64 golfers. If there are any ties for the 64th position, a sudden-death play-off will take place on Friday evening.
Once established, the top 64 players will head into Saturday’s knockout matches where the pressure picks up. Qualifying players are seeded into a single-elimination knockout bracket, where anything can happen.
Each knockout match will be nine holes of stroke play, which means that no lead is safe, and every battle will come down the ninth hole. All ties at the end of nine holes will immediately go into a sudden-death play-off.
The first three knockout rounds will be played out on Saturday, meaning that only eight players will advance to the final day. From there, the competition only becomes more exciting as the eight quarter finalists are dwindled down to two men who will then battle it out for the right to become the last man standing and the inaugural Belgian Knockout Champion.
2) The return: The Belgian Knockout marks the first time the tri-lingual nation has hosted a European Tour event in 18 years. That event, the 2000 Belgian Open, saw Lee Westwood card a final round 65 to win by four and claim his 14th European Tour title. Interestingly, it was Westwood’s second Belgian Open win. His first came two years earlier where – in a nod to the future Belgian Knockout—Westwood defeated Freddie Jacobsen in a sudden-death play-off.
3) What’s old is new again: Despite the 18-year hiatus, Belgium has a rich history of hosting world-class golf tournaments. In fact, the first Belgian Open was a 36-hole event held 108 years ago in 1910 at the Royal Golf Club of Belgium. In 1928, the format was changed to 72 holes of strokeplay, and in 1978 the Belgian Open was added to the European Tour International Schedule for the first time.
4) Notable winners: In addition to Lee Westwood’s pair of wins, several other iconic golfers have triumphed on Belgian soil over the years. American legend Walter Hagen won the Belgian Open in 1924, Sir Henry Cotton took the trophy in 1930, ’34 and ’38, Miguel Ángel Jiménez was victorious in 1992, and three Ryder Cup Captains have earned the prize; José Maria Olazábal in 1988, Darren Clarke in 1993 and Sir Nick Faldo in 1994.
5) The host: Ryder Cup star, and Belgian native Thomas Pieters, will serve as host of this year’s innovative tournament and indeed the event is being organised and promoted by his family’s company Pieters Productions. Pieters secured four points for Team Europe at The 2016 Ryder Cup and represents an emergence of talent in Belgian golf along with fellow Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts and European Challenge Tour winner Thomas Detry, now a fully-fledged European Tour Member.“I think it’s going to be exciting,” said Pieters, the three-time European Tour winner who finished fourth at the Olympic Games in Rio. “We are going to see an innovative new format and it will make it really exciting for people who come along to watch and also for people watching it at home on TV.”