US Women-s Open, European Belgian Knockout, on Tap

By Wes Reynolds  () 

KO, LEE HEADLINE U.S. WOMEN’S OPEN

The U.S. Women’s Open moves up a few weeks in the calendar this year and descends upon Charleston, S.C., for the first time. The favorite is 23-year-old Jin-Young Ko (10/1), who is currently the No. 1 ranked player in the world and has two wins already this year, including the first major of the year at the ANA Inspiration.

World No. 2 Minjee Lee and No. 6 Brooke Henderson both check in at 12/1. Both players have won on tour this season (Henderson in Hawaii and Lee in Los Angeles) within the last several weeks.

The Course

The Country Club of Charleston was designed in 1921 by Seth Raynor, who also designed Waialae (Sony Open) and the Greenbrier amongst many others. The course has undergone numerous renovations and restorations and really came on the radar as a course worthy of hosting a major championship after serving as the venue for the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur. The track will play as a par 72 of 6,732 yards and it is a flat, watery and marshy parklands. Bermuda grass runs throughout the layout and there are not many trees but the main challenge will be on the greens which are heavily protected by steepsided classic Raynor bunkers. Scrambling, bunker play and putting will be the main keys here.

Recent History/Winners

2018: Ariya Jutanugarn -11 (8/1) Shoal Creek

2017: Sung-Hyun Park -11 (16/1) Trump National

2016: Brittany Lang -6 (100/1) CordeValle

2015: In-gee Chun -8 Lancaster

2014: Michelle Wie -2 Pinehurst No. 2

2013: Inbee Park -8 Sebonack

Picks Jeongeun Lee 20/1

The 23-year-old is an LPGA Tour rookie this season but has already shown she belongs. Prior to this season, she already had seven professional wins on the Korean LPGA Tour, including two last season. This season she has finished 16th or better in seven of her eight events including a T-6 in the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration. She lost in a playoff earlier this month at the Mediheal Championship, held just outside of San Francisco, to World No. 9 Sei Young Kim. This is a player that it’s not a matter of if, but when she finally wins her maiden major.

Sei Young Kim 25/1

She has eight LPGA Tour wins (13 as a pro) and has won every year she’s been out there including this one. Over her four years as an LPGA Tour professional, Sei Young Kim has six Top 5 major finishes including two last season. She’s missed the cut in only three of 23 majors including earlier this year at the ANA Inspiration but has since won on tour and should be confident and out for some redemption.

Hyo Joo Kim 30/1

The Country Club of Charleston looks to be all about the short game and there may not be a better game around the Green on the LPGA Tour than the one Hyo Joo Kim possesses. She ranks No. 1 on the tour in both Putting Average (28.21 putts per round) and Sand Saves (70.4 percent). She’s finished no worse than 12th in her past five events on the tour including a T-6 in her last major. She also has major championship pedigree winning the 2014 Evian Championship with the lowest round ever in a major (61) in R1. Last year, she was runner-up in this championship at Shoal Creek losing out by 1 in a 4-hole playoff to Ariya Jutanugarn.

EUROPEAN BELGIAN KNOCKOUT

The European Tour goes with another unique, or gimmicky, format this week with the Belgian Knockout near Antwerp, Belgium. The event is very similar to the World Super 6 that’s played in Australia earlier in the season. The first two rounds are played as a normal stroke-play event and then there is a cut to 64 players. After the first cut, players are seeded based on stroke play standings and then 9-hole head-to-head knockout matches ensue before whittling down the field to eight players on Sunday to continue to 9-hole matches until an eventual winner.

To no surprise, two Belgians top the betting market here with Thomas Pieters (20/1) and Thomas Detry (25/1). In fact, this event is a family affair as Pieters is the promoter of the event and his two siblings, along with their significant others, and his mother serve in various leadership roles in putting on the event. Bernd Wiesberger, last week’s winner in Denmark, and Adrian Otaegui, last year’s champion here, both check in just behind at 30/1. Due to the field not having any real standouts and the format of the event, there is no real overwhelming favorite and it is truly a wide-open affair.

The Course

Rinkven International Golf & Country Club plays host for the Belgian Knockout. The layout was a composite of North and South courses that measures out to a 6,921-yard, par 71 flat, parklands track. Water is in play on eight holes and the fairways are Poa Annua. The greens are also Poa but also overseeded with Bentgrass.  key stats to look for here are Driving Accuracy and Greens In Regulation.

Recent History/Winners

2018: Adrian Otaegui (35/1)

Picks

Romain Langasque 30/1

The 24-year-old Frenchman has three top six finishes in his last five starts. He shot a pair of 66s in Denmark last week and finished ninth in the field for Driving Accuracy and fifth for Greens in Regulation.

Richie Ramsay 40/1

The Scot is on an upward trajectory with finishes of 14th or better in each of his past three events. The former US Amateur Champion (2006) should take a liking to this layout, which plays to his strengths of accuracy and ball striking.

Jeff Winther 60/1

The Norwegian won a knockout match here last year and has four Top 25s or better in his last six events.

Alejandro Canizares 80/1

He was to co-leader after R1 in Denmark last week before finishing a solid 9th. Canizares has been working on his swing with fellow European Tour player Robert Rock, who also works with Matt Wallace (T-3 at PGA Championship). Finished Top 5 in the Paul Lawrie Match Play twice, so he should take to this format.

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