The 2018 Belgian Knockout format represents a new kind of tournament format for the European Tour, seeking to mix stroke play and match play together in the same event.
The Belgian Knockout, which is played at Rinkven International Golf Club in Antwerp, begins with a full field of players competing for 36 holes of stroke-play golf to get down to the top 64 players. If there are ties to determine the top 64, there will be a playoff to decide the final weekend field.
At that point, the tournament will then go into a bracket-style affair, with the 64 players ranked in a single-elimination tournament format -- No. 1 vs. No. 64, No. 2 vs. No. 63, etc. -- competing in nine-hole matches. The matches are stroke-play matches, meaning the players must hole out on every hole and the total score for the nine holes determines the winner. Ties after nine holes go to a sudden-death playoff.
On Saturday, there will be three nine-hole rounds of match play to get down to a final eight. On Sunday, the final eight will compete in quarterfinals, semifinals and the final and consolation matches to determine the champion.
“I think it’s going to be exciting,” said Thomas Pieters, who is the pseudo-host of the event this week as the top-ranked Belgian player. “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 European Tour has tried to introduce short-form match play in recent years, with the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth and GolfSixes offering six-hole matches in a traditional match-play style. The nine-hole, stroke-play matches could be a great compromise for the traditional golf fan.