The European Tour will return to Belgium for the first time in 18 years in 2018 when Thomas Pieters hosts the Belgian Knockout – an innovative new event which incorporates a head-to-head strokeplay knockout format – at Rinkven International Golf Club, Antwerp, from May 17-20.
Ryder Cup star Pieters, who claimed four points at Hazeltine National last year to become the most successful European rookie in the history of the biennial contest, unveiled the tournament, which will be part of the 2018 Race to Dubai, at a press conference in Antwerp today.
The opening two rounds will follow a familiar strokeplay format for 36 holes, before the leading 64 players then go head-to-head in knockout strokeplay matches contested over nine holes on the weekend to determine the winner.
“I think it’s going to be exciting,” said three-time European Tour winner Pieters, 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.”
The Belgian Knockout will be the first time the country has hosted a European Tour event since Lee Westwood won the last edition of the Belgian Open at Royal Zoute in 2000. The tournament was first played in 1910 and was won five times by the forefather of Belgian golf, Flory van Donck, who was also a two-time runner-up in The Open Championship.
Pieters, along with Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts and emerging star Thomas Detry, represent an impressive new generation of talented Belgians competing on the world stage, and Pieters believes the time was right to take European Tour golf back to the country.
“It means the world to Belgium to have another European Tour event,” said Pieters. “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.
“It is a big role for my family, with my sister and brother-in-law promoting the tournament. I’m obviously closely involved with it too, which is a different challenge for me, but hopefully it is going to be very satisfying when the tournament starts.”
Keith Waters, the European Tour’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “We are delighted to be going back to Belgium next year for this exciting new event which is fronted by one of our most exciting young players, Thomas Pieters.
“Thomas really has been the driving force behind this tournament and we are very pleased to be able to help him realise his vision. Along with Nicolas Colsaerts and now Thomas Detry, Thomas has certainly put Belgian golf back on the world map in recent years and this new tournament will be another exciting chapter for the country. It also provides another new format on the European Tour, continuing our innovative approach to tournament golf.”
For more information or tickets, please visit www.belgianknockout.com.