This week sees a break from the norm on the European Tour as Thomas Pieters hosts the inaugural edition of the Belgian Knockout at the Rinkven International Golf Club on the outskirts of Antwerp.
It is the first time Belgium has hosted a European Tour event since Lee Westwood won the Belgium Open in 2000.
The tournament is a hybrid of regular strokeplay and head-to-head elimination, played over the nine holes of two separate – and rather distinct – courses.
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May 17, 2018, 10:00am
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The first two rounds will have a familiar format, with the field of 144 playing two rounds of strokeplay across the composite 18 holes and the top 64 qualifying for the weekend’s knockout matches.
Any ties for 64th will play a sudden-death play-off on Friday evening.
The weekend’s survivors will be seeded into head-to-head duels in a knockout bracket, with each match played over nine holes of strokeplay, so every contest will go the distance. Again, any ties after nine holes will go to a sudden-death play-off.
Saturday will feature the first three knockout rounds, leaving just eight players standing come the final day. Those eight will then battle it out to become the first Knockout champion.
The nine holes being used on the North course at Rinkven play longer than the South but are more open, while the South is narrower with a more traditional set-up.
The North also has two par-fives and two par-threes in its nine holes compared to just one of each on the South, so predicting winners becomes difficult as much will depend on which course matches are played.
World No 60 Pieters, who won four points at Hazeltine National last year to become the most successful European rookie in the Ryder Cup, is looking forward to an exciting week.
“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,” he said.
“I like match play a lot more, that’s why I’m hosting my own tournament as match play, as well,” said Pieters, who enjoyed a superb Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine in 2016 as he won four of his five matches.
“It means the world to Belgium to have another European Tour event. We’ve had a decent increase in interest in golf in the last few years with Nico’s (Colsaerts) Ryder Cup, my Ryder Cup and the Olympics helping, so we thought it was time to get our own tournament back.”
Watch the Belgian Knockout on Sky Sports Golf every day from 10am from Thursday May 17.