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Across the Pond

Turkish Airlines Open Preview

by Matt Cooper
Updated On: November 14, 2018, 7:07 am ET

The slightly helter-skelter round-the-world nature of the schedule (China-Turkey-South Africa-Dubai) means that the real superstars of the European Tour tend to pick and choose their stops as the Race to Dubai hurtles towards a conclusion, but there remains plenty of quality in this week's fifth renewal of the Turkish Airlines Open.

 

What's more, with plenty of points up for grabs, Tommy Fleetwood can eye narrowing the gap between himself and Francesco Molinari at the top of the Race to Dubai (a sub-plot the Tour will enjoy) and those points also represent huge potential for gamers in the Official Fantasy Game.

 

The tournament returns to the small town of Belek which at the end of the 20th century was almost nothing but sand dunes and wasteland, yet now boasts a series of plush golf courses and five star hotels, all offering all inclusive packages for golfers. 

 

This week the quality of golf at Regnum Carya, host for the third year in a row, will be higher than when it welcomes club outings and buddy trips, but it continues to be popular with players and caddies already tweeting about their good fortune to be returning.

 

Remaining focused among the luxury might be key. Season- and career-changing opportunities are on offer as the countdown to the DP World Tour Championship continues; any end-of-term over-excitement would be misplaced.

 

The Course – Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort

 

Set in a pine forest, the design team at Thomson, Perrett & Lobb were said to be inspired by the classic heathland courses found in the UK. If that makes you think "Hmm, the tour just played at Walton Heath ..." maybe think again. For one thing the weather will not be as brutal as it was in Surrey. For another, although a sand ridge and nursery-grown heather has given some appearance of heathland, it's still a bit of a stretch. A par 71 at 7,159 yards there is water on eight holes and it yields plenty of birdies. The greens are large, undulating and easy to hit on the whole. However the Bermuda Tiff Eagle grass (overseeded with Poa Trivialis) is another feature which prompts caution with the Surrey/Berkshire sandbelt link.

 

 

Last two years at Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort

 

2018:

-18 Justin Rose (DD: 24, DA: 2, GIR: 1, Scr: 3, PA: 24, AA: 1)

-17 Nicolas Colsaerts (DD: 7, DA: 11, GIR: 5, Scr: 37, PA: 2, AA: 3)

-17 Dylan Frittelli (DD: 9, DA: 37, GIR: 19, Scr: 6, PA: 25, AA: 5)

-16 Padraig Harrington (DD: 15, DA: 15, GIR: 50, Scr: 34, PA: 10, AA: 13)

-15 Thorbjorn Olesen (DD: 46, DA: 31, GIR: 21, Scr: 12, PA: 1, AA: 10)

 

2017:

-20 Thorbjorn Olesen (DD: 17, DA: 63, GIR: 8, Scr: 10, PA: 7, AA: 5)

-17 David Horsey (DD: 65, DA: 19, GIR: 31, Scr: 4, PA: 2, AA: 8)

-17 HaoTong Li (DD: 12, DA: 6, GIR: 11, Scr: 25, PA: 9, AA: 1)

-15 Bernd Wiesberger (DD: 32, DA: 22, GIR: 2, Scr: 23, PA: 15, AA: 3)

-14 George Coetzee (DD: 6, DA: 13, GIR: 52, Scr: 3, PA: 5, AA: 2)

 

Notes: Plenty of greens hit but scrambling was important when failing to do so and converting birdie chances was key.

 

 

The Weather 

 

The current forecast is remarkable for its simplicity: sunny skies, temperatures in the lows 80s, hardly any wind and little to no chance of rain for the entire week.

 

 

The Leading Contenders

 

Justin Rose

His form continues to be superb, if a little lacking in wins. In fact he has ten top ten finishes in his last 12 starts and only the first was a victory. In more recent times he has four top fours from five finishes and the exception (T8 British Masters) witnessed a superb fightback from T79 after 18 holes. In those other four starts he slept on being 2nd or T2 at the end of a round yet that win still remained elusive. Might this be the location and field to alter that? He ranked 1st for All-round when winning here 12 months ago, shooting 64-65 at the weekend.

 

Tommy Fleetwood

A little like Rose in terms of form. In his case he's not been outside T11 in his last five starts and hasn't claimed a win since his first appearance of the calendar year in Abu Dhabi. Since then he has 21 top 25 finishes and has missed the cut just twice. He's ranked fourth and first for Greens in Regulation on the course, but not yet cracked the top 20 (T22-T23), partly because in a small field he has ranked 66th and 75th for Putts per Round (admittedly partly a consequence of hitting so many greens). Second in the Race to Dubai so has the hunger for a win to make up the 1.2 million Euro gap to first.

 

Tyrrell Hatton

A solid course record of T10-T16 but maybe bear in mind that he's never been closer than T10 at the end of any round and for such a fine putter he seems to have had his difficulties here. He's ranked 30th and 57th for Putts per Round, and 45th and 25th for Putts per GIR. Returns from a fortnight in Asia where he was T14 in the CJ Cup and T22 in the WGC-HSBC Champions, never nearer than T14 to the lead at a round's end so course and current form are aligned.

 

Thorbjorn Olesen

Struggled when this event as at the Montgomerie design, but has thrived since the move to Carya, winning two years ago and finishing T5 on defense (funnily enough he was only T43 on the track when he played it on the Challenge Tour in 2010). One key factor for his success has been on the greens, ranking seventh for Putts per GIR in the win and first last year. Missed the cut in the British Masters after his Ryder Cup excitement but traced through the field last week in the WG-HSBC Champions for T7.

 

Shane Lowry

The Irishman has two T8s in this event and the second came 12 months ago on his course debut when he need only 1.66 putts per green in regulation (3rd). He impressed on his last outing when solo second in the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama and likes a tree-lined venue, as evidenced by his strong form at Wentworth and Woburn.

 

HaoTong Li

The Chinese golfer ranked first for Ball-striking and All-round when second at this course in 2017 and no-one hit more fairways than him 12 months ago. Not that it did him much good on that occasion: He was T66. He's not finished outside T11 in his last three starts despite terrible first round efforts, all 73 or worse, all leaving him outside the top 40 on Thursday evening.

 

Kiradech Aphibarnrat

He has a fondness for this event, having finished third in 2015 at Montgomerie Maxx and then T25 and T6 here at Carya in the last two years. Grabbed T4 last week in the WGC-HSBC Champions which was his fourth top five in six WGC starts, but a first anywhere since the BMW PGA Championship. As such it might be a hint that he's ready to hit a run of form. 

 

Lucas Bjerregaard

A third tournament start for the Dane and he's yet to land a top 25 finish. Worse yet, on the course he has a best of T31 in 2017. That year he opened and closed his account with 67s, but he's failed to better 70 in his other six laps and trailed in T48 last year. The question will be if his current form supercedes all of that (and to what extent his T69 in the WGC-HSBC Champions was a hint that he's hit a wall). Before Shanghai he hung five T9 or better finishes in six starts.

 

Lucas Herbert

Tees it up for the first time on the course and in the tournament after a blistering end to the regular season which saw him lead the Portugal Masters after 54 holes before ending the week second, add T7 in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and T3 in the British Masters. More proof that the young Australian is one to watch. Few clues how the track will suit however.

 

Matt Wallace

In his last six starts he has broken 70, often by quite a margin, in every single first round to be ranked top 20. Only at the start of that run, however, has he maintained the pace. That was the Made in Denmark which he won and hoped would prove vital to his Ryder Cup wildcard chances, but alas it wasn't. Since then T16 has been his best effort yet he remains hungry and ambitious. Against that he only managed T54 on debut here 12 months ago.

 

 

The Next Rung

 

Andy Sullivan

A period of improvement (30-28-20-10-9) ground to a halt when he was T62 in the WGC-HSBC Championship, an effort that witnessed a shocking weekend of 79-77. A blip or a problem? He was fourth in the event four years ago but has managed only T25 and T61 at the course. Bookmakers are trusting his form prior to last week, gamers might not be so trusting.

 

Joost Luiten

Had a best of T18 when the event was at Montgomerie Maxx, but he managed T16 on his Carya debut 12 months ago and that featured a 64 for the first round lead. Not seen on tour since Wentworth, he returned at Valderrama and improved all week carding 73-71-67.

 

Tom Lewis

The fact that this is the Englishman's tournament debut is telling: he's just not been a top 70 performer for the last five years. This is a return to Turkey though, because he played the Challenge Tour event there in April, notching a 65 and a 67 on the way to T9. It could be a nice prompt, a reminder of how much has has achieved this summer in finding form, winning again and getting back to the level he was always capable of.

 

Thomas Pieters

The Belgian made a smart debut on the course last year, logging laps of 69-67-66-60 to finish the week T11. He's also in a run of improving form: MC-60-30-18. Can he maintain that pace? He was T7 at halfway last week in China before a pair of weekend 74s ruined his hopes.

 

Jordan Smith

Last year the Englishman opened his campaign with 69-67 to lie T9 at halfway but shot 74-71 at the weekend to fall back to T42. A year earlier a final round 65 earned him T12 in the Challenge Tour version of this event (in the same town). He arrives this week off a run of six decent efforts which climaxed in the British Masters: 36-20-10-27-32-3.

 

Mikko Korhonen

One of the few in the field to have experienced the layout when it was used on the Challenge Tour, but he missed the cut. No such problems when he played it last year, but he didn't pull up any trees in finishing T31. Last seen at Valderrama where he was in the top ten all week and eventually notched T3.

 

Ross Fisher

A first course visit for Fisher, but he has played the tournament three times (a best of T10 in 2013). He was T5 at halfway last time out in the British Masters but could only record T34, hasn't made a top ten since Wentworth in May and has only two all season (and only three top 20s).

 

Lee Westwood

A two-time visitor to the course, struggling to T52 in 2017 and managing T20 last year. T5 on his last start in Valderrama when he had his son on the bag. Has had other success this year with his girlfriend on the bag. It's been a curio of a season. Laid back and occasionally suggesting something good would happen, but it's not happened yet.

 

Andrea Pavan

No course experience, nor tournament exposure, but he was T7 on the Challenge Tour in Belek back in 2016. More relevant might be his form. Has 15 top 25s this season, arrives off the back of four in a row and the last of those was T22 on his WGC debut in Shanghai. Has to be confident and his 2018 thrills might not be at an end.

 

Russell Knox

A course and tournament debut, and he will be hoping for some sort of respite from a messy run of form, one which has come fresh off the back of his scintillating mid-summer run of 2-1 at the Open de France and Irish Open. T68 last week at a venue he has won at, he could only log 74-77-76-76.

 

 

Sleepers

 

Padraig Harrington

T31 on the course two years ago but closed with three laps of 69 and it was a good hint: He was T4 last year with a first round 65 and a Saturday 64. Three top tens in his last six starts, but T66 last time out in the Andalucia Masters.

 

Nicolas Colsaerts

T10 in the Dunhill Links, a first top ten since the Shotclock Masters in June, but withdrew after 18 holes of the British Masters. No reported problems so remember that he opened 64-64 last year to lead the event before finishing second.

 

Joakim Lagergren

Only played the course the once, two years ago, and impressed, carding a Friday 64 on his way to T6. A maiden winner this year, only made one cut in six starts, but does like a tree-lined track.

 

Alexander Levy

Only has finishes of T25 and T30 on the course but don't overlook that he found something on the greens two years ago, ranking first for Putts per GIR (1.57) and second for Putts per Round (27.00). T28 last week in Shanghai.

 

Julian Suri

T8 on his course debut 12 months ago, ranking sixth for All-round and finishing 66-67. Didn't break 74 last week in the WGC-HSBC Champions but was T5 in his previous start, the British Masters.

 

Matthew Southgate

Despite a pair of 76s in the middle of the British Masters he finished T22, but was only T58 last time out in the Andalucia Masters. Opened 72-72 on course debut in 2016, but closed 67-68 for T31 and then shot 69-65-69-69 when T11 last year. 

 

George Coetzee

He likes the greens at Carya. Ranked fourth for Total Putting on his way to T5 in 2017 and was first in that category when T27 last year. Lack a top 20 since April however.

 

Tapio Pulkkanen

Got the late call to play and might thrive on memories of Belek because it was here that he turned his career round in early 2017. Previously a struggling Challenge Tour performer he wintered in Florida and then finished second on an invite at the CT's Turkish Airlines Challenge. Never looked back, winning the CT rankings and retaining his card with a top five in the Dunhill Links last month. 

 

 

Who's on the team?

 

It's surely folly to leave Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood off the team, but beyond that there are some tricky calls to make.

 

Shane Lowry's fondness for a challenge within the trees appeals, as does the course form of Thorbjorn Olesen and if HaoTong Li can sort out his Thursday blues a title bid could be on the cards.

 

A leftfield pick might be required to make up valuable points; Tapio Pulkkanen and Matthew Southgate are among those on the short list.

 

The full team will be revealed in Wednesday's Expert Picks column.

 

 

One to swerve

 

Lucas Bjerregaard has struggled with the Carya examination and although I'd have been wary of taking on his mighty form, the dip in Shanghai persuades me that he might have peaked.