Strokes Gained Approach and Scrambling the stats to ponder
Look to Karen for correlation clues
Last month's ISPS Handa worth pondering
First played in 1910 and won by Frenchman, Arnaud Massy, the Belgian Open, which is now known as the Soudal Open, has been staged only intermittently since its inception.
Lee Westwood won two editions in 1998 and 2000 but it dropped off the DP World Tour schedule after his second win before returning 18 years later in a different format.
The Belgian Knockout - a match play/stroke play hybrid tournament - was staged only twice but it was staged at this year's venue - Rinkven International.
Spain's Adrian Otaegui beat Benjamin Herbert in the 2018 final and Guido Migliozzi comfortably disposed of Darius van Driel in the 2019 final.
After another break of a couple of years, the Soudal Open returned to the schedule 12 months ago as a regulation 72-hole stroke play event and Sam Horsfield took the title with a 13-under-par total.
Rinkven International Golf Club, Antwerp.
Par 71, 6,924 yards
Stroke Index in 2022 - 71.38
Rinkven has been in existence since the early 1980s. Originally designed by Belgian golfer and coach, Paul Rolin, the venue has undergone a series of changes and it's expanded to include two 18 hole courses - the North and the South. This week's course is a composite of the two.
According to the event's website back in 2019, the venue is set in "a wonderfully peaceful area of natural "Kempense" fenland just 15 km outside the city of Antwerp". The website goes on to describe the course used as a "mixture of woodland and parkland holes with water coming in play on several holes".
Rinkven was described as an exposed, flat, parkland course with poa annua tees, fairways and greens with a par of 72 and a really short yardage of just 6,622 when it was used to stage the now defunct Telenet Trophy (won by Lee Slattery by four in -21) on the Challenge Tour 13 years ago but it now measures just shy of 6,700 yards with a par of 71 and the smaller than average greens have been changed from poa to bentgrass.
Live on Sky Sports all four days. Starting at 12:30 on Thursday.
2022 Winner and Pre-event Exchange Price
2022 - Sam Horsfield -13 26.025/1
What Will it Take to Win the Soudal Open?
None of the eight players to reach the semi-finals in each of the two Belgium Knockouts staged here hit it far off the tee and accurate types thrived.
With tree-lined fairways that all made sense but if last year's stats can be believed, it was a different story in this format.
The winner, Sam Horsfield, who now plays on the LIV Tour so won't be defending, ranked fifth for Driving Distance but only 58th for Driving Accuracy, and the two men to end the week tied for second, Yannik Paul and Ryan Fox, ranked only 23rd and 61st for DA.
The 2019 winner in the funky format, Guido Migliozzi, ranked second for Greens In Regulation and the runner-up in 2018, Benjamin Hebert, ranked first for that stat, and that was a key metric again last year with the front three ranking 15th, seventh and 12th.
The first three home also ranked third, first and fourth for Strokes Gained Approach.
The best three scramblers all finished inside the top-eight 12 months ago, which isn't a surprise given the smaller than average putting surfaces, so that's something to bear in mind too.
Is There an Angle In?
Despite last year's Driving Accuracy stats, this is a track where players that have prospered on tight layouts have thrived.
Otaegui, who won here in 2018, was a very impressive winner of the Andalucía Masters at Valderrama last year and form at Karen Country Club in Kenya has come to the fore too.
For the last two years, the Kenya Open has been staged at Muthaiga, and that's a fiddly tree-lined track that's worth considering too, but form at the event's previous venue, Karen CC, has telegraphed the last two winners here.
Guido Migliozzi won at Karen before he won here in 2019 and last year's winner, Horsfield, finished eighth in the Kenya Open and third in the Kenya Savannah Classic there in consecutive weeks in March 2021
Next month's British Masters venue, the Belfry, may also correlate nicely (Migliozzi lost a playoff there two years ago) but the event that kept cropping up when I was digging around was the Austrian Open, even though the host course, the Jeremy Pern designed Diamond Course, isn't a tight tree-lined venue.
The 2018 winner here, Otaegui, finished second at the Diamond Course in 2016, the 2019 runner-up here, Darius van Driel, finished fourth in Austria a year later, the 2018 runner-up, Benjamin Hebert, was sixth in Austria 11 years ago and the 2010 winner here, Lee Slattery, finished fourth in Austria in 2014 and ninth the year before.
That's quite a strong link given the calibre of those players and how seldomly they all place and it was boosted again 12 months ago when Horsfield won here.
Although the Englishman only finished 15th on the only occasion that he played the Diamond Course, at the last renewal of the Austrian Open two years ago, he only just made the cut - sitting tied for 62nd at halfway.
A far more recent event that might be worthy of consideration is the ISPS Handa Championship in Japan - won by Lucas Herbert.
The ISPS Handa was staged at Ishioka Golf Club, which like Rinkven is tree-lined, and it was interesting to see that a number of players with form at the aforementioned Karen Country Club contended last month in Japan.
Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2022 - Sam Horsfield - solo second, trailing by one 4.216/5
If you're betting in-running, the start is straightforward and the par five fifth was the easiest hole on the course last year, averaging 4.63, but there's a tough stretch after that with holes six, seven, eight, nine and ten ranking as the fourth, fifth, 14th, second and first in terms of toughness 12 months ago.
The 54-hole leader, Ryan Fox, who was beaten by two strokes, was matched at a low of just 1.331/3 when he led by three after five holes on Sunday and it's far from unusual to see someone trade at long odds-on and get beat on this Tour but if last year's renewal is anything to go by, up with the pace looks like the place to be here.
Horsfield was in the van throughout, sitting tied first after rounds one and two and solo second, trailing by just one, after the third round and the top-six sat T1, T6, T6, T6, T6 and T21 at halfway and 2, 1, 3, T4, T8 and T21 after three rounds.
In what is a typically open market on the DP World Tour, Alexander Bjork just edges favouritism over the 30-year-old Belgian, Thomas Detry, and Spain's Adrian Otaegui and all three look short.
With recent form figures reading 16-14-4, the straight hitting Bjork comes into the event in fine form, and he was 23rd here 12 months ago but this is his 147th start on the DP World Tour and his sole success to date, at the Volvo China Open, was now five years ago.
Having qualified for the PGA Tour via the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, this is Detry's first event on the DP World Tour this year, but he hasn't really impressed in the States.
He finished second behind Seamus Power in the Bermuda Championship back in October, but he's been largely disappointing since with an eighth place finish at the Corales Puntacana Championship the highlight.
Detry missed the cut here last year and he's still in search of his first victory on the DP World Tour.
The course winner, Otaegui, was in-contention up until halfway in Italy last week but rounds of 76 and 74 saw him fall from second to 40th over the weekend and I'm not convinced that's a solid prep after a couple of missed cuts in South Africa.
His course form and win at Valderrama had put him on my shortlist but his price has removed him.
I'm quite surprised that there's been so little interest in the prolific Dane, Thorbjorn Olesen, who's in search of his eighth victory on the DP World Tour and his third win in 26 starts.
He's cooled off a bit since winning in Thailand in February and he's playing here for the first time but there's every reason to think he'll immediately take to the track.
Olesen won his first couple of events around links tracks but he's accurate from the tee and he' won at tree-lined venues all across the world.
Olesen has won DP World Tour events around Lake Karrinyup in Perth Australia, Carya Golf Course in Turkey, Gardagolf Country Club in Italy and last year at the Belfry in England.
I'm in complete agreement with Matt Cooper about the Karen Country Club winner, Daniel van Tonder, who caught the eye in Italy last week.
He'll be a bit disappointed by his finish on Sunday (shot 72 to move from sixth to fifth) but playing alongside the winner, Adrian Meronk, in round four will provide inspiration and this track is far more suitable.
Thorbjorn Olesen @ 25.024/1
Daniel van Tonder @ 80.079/1
I'll be back later today with the Find Me a 100 Winner column.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter