Gaining its title in 2022 for sponsorship reasons, this May tournament is an incarnation of the Belgian Open which has taken place since 1910. Not the most consistent of tournaments, there have been numerous multi-year gaps throughout the history of the event. Joining the European Tour in 1978 the tournament has visited various locations in and around the Antwerp area, including Royal Zoute, Royal Waterloo, Royal GC Belgium, and Rinkven International.
Following the 2000 edition, the tournament embarked on an extended hiatus, only returning in 2018 under its new title of the Belgian Knockout. That half stroke play, half match play knockout event lasted for two years before the tournament disappeared again in 2020 and 2021. Back once more in 2022, the Belgian Open has reverted to a traditional stroke play format, with Soudal stepping in as the new sponsor. Numerous greats feature on the list of winners, including José María Olazábal, Nick Faldo, and Lee Westwood, but possibly the most popular player in the tournament’s history was local hero Flory Van Donck who lifted the trophy five times between 1939 and 1956.
|2023||Rinkven International Golf & Country Club||Simon Forsström|
|2022||Rinkven International Golf & Country Club||Sam Horsfield|
2023: Simon Forsström
Belgium seems to be a happy hunting ground for Swedish pro Simon Forsström. Having landed the sole Challenge Tour success of his career at the 2016 KPMG Trophy in the North Belgian region of Paal, 2023 saw the 34-year-old break his DP World Tour duck with a hard-fought victory at the Soudal Open in Antwerp.
Only earning his tour card courtesy of a win in the final stages of qualifying, Forsström has quickly set about making the most of his opportunity – posting three top-10 performances in the past five months. He was certainly quick out of the blocks here, with an opening 64 seeing him sitting atop the leader board. Still clear at the end of round two, he kept the momentum going to take a one-shot advantage into the closing round.
All appeared to be going to plan over the front nine on Sunday, with birdies at the fourth and eighth holes – the former courtesy of a spectacular 40ft putt from the fringe – seeing the Bromma native take a three-shot advantage into the turn. And then it all threatened to come crashing down – an errant tee shot resulting in a double bogey at 10, which was compounded by another dropped shot at 12. With Jens Dantorp birdieing 13, Forsström suddenly found himself one shot behind.
However, what threatened to prove calamitous was merely a blip, as Forsström roared back with birdies at the 14th, 16th, and 17th to take a one-shot lead into the final hole. Looking set for another birdie when firing his approach to within five feet, he had to settle for par in the end – but that was still good enough for a one-shot victory.
There was a strong Scandinavian flavour to the final leader board, with fellow Swede Dantorp filling the runners-up spot, and Thorbjørn Olesen of Denmark finishing two further back in a solo third. With this win, Forsström boosted his bank balance to the tune of €311,227.16 and moved up to 17th in the Race To Dubai.
2022: Sam Horsfield
After finishing his four rounds at the Soudal Open, Edoardo Molinari wrote an impassioned post on Twitter in which he urged the DP World Tour to host more quality events at top-class golf courses. Molinari argued that more high-class tournaments held at quality venues like Rinkven International Golf & Country Club would stop the threat of breakaway tours in their tracks. Molinari was far from the only golf fan who thoroughly enjoyed the Soudal Open which produced a thrilling finish in which Sam Horsfield edged out in front to claim his third win on tour.
Horsfield may talk with an American accent after years spent living stateside but the Manchester-born 25 year old loves competing on the DP World Tour and reminded people, once again, that he has the class to compete at the top level. His win was hard-earned thanks to a combination of technical class and mental fortitude as he left Yannik Paul and Ryan Fox trailing in his wake by two shots.
It was Fox who started the day with the lead but he arguably did a great deal to help Horsfield. The final pairing looked like old friends in the way they laughed and chatted throughout their Sunday round but it was very much down to business when it mattered. Horsfield was also helped by his girlfriend Issi who was on his bag as he kept the pressure on Fox until it ultimately told in the closing stages.