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With the final WGC event of the season in the record books, the European Tour heads to Turkey for the remaining Rolex Series events that will conclude the 2017/18 season in Dubai in just over a fortnight's time. Despite these next two weeks being pivotal to determining who's in position to top the Race To Dubai charts at the Earth Course, only 3 of the current top-10 in the rankings tee it up here this week. Tommy Fleetwood has a chance to close the gap on leader Francesco Molinari with the Italian opting not to play, with Thorbjorn Olesen (7th) and Justin Rose (10th) the only other players in the top 10 who are in attendance. Let's hope for a better showing at Sun City next week.
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford previews the Shriners Hospitals Open - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Course Overview. After 3 years at the nearby Montgomerie Maxx for the 2013-15 events, the 2016 renewal shifted a little way up the coast to a new layout for the European Tour at the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort and we stay at the same location for a third year running this week. The par 71, which measures a modest 7,159 yards, is a lopsided 34-37 where the back 9 measures over 500 yards longer than the front. Save for the 505 yard 10th, the par-4s are generally of scoreable length where a decent drive will result in a wedge into the large, undulating Bermuda TifEagle greens and birdies will most likely be the order of the day here this week once again. With the 10th hole safely navigated, players are presented with the short par-4 11th and a couple of reachable par-5s before they reach the closing holes on a course where birdies are there to be made.
The Peter Thomson design is a classical layout with its inspiration taken from the heathland tracks in England with most holes flanked by pine and eucalyptus trees. Around a million heather plants were added to the course to enhance its look and feel and floodlights allow for play at night making the course an extremely popular destination for visiting golfers.
Tournament Stats. We've published some key player statistics for this week's Turkish Airlines Open that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event, however as noted above the event moved to its current home in 2016 so the data should be considered accordingly: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Top 20 Finishes.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2017: Justin Rose, 8/1; 2016: Thorbjorn Olesen, 125/1; 2015: Victor Dubuisson, 45/1; 2014: Brooks Koepka, 33/1; 2013: Victor Dubuisson, 80/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the European Tour since 2010 click here.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the Antalya region is here. Perfect conditions are likely to be presented to the players with wall-to-wall sunshine expected throughout the 4 days accompanied by a negligible breeze. Temperatures will peak in the low 80s Fahrenheit in the afternoons.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Analysing the final stats of the top 3 finishers here for the past 2 years gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
The consensus prior to the 2016 event was that a sound tee-to-green game was the primary weapon to attack this course, however eventual winner Thorbjorn Olesen, ranking 63rd out of 78 players in terms of driving accuracy, raised questions over that approach. Justin Rose's success 12 months ago redressed the balance somewhat, although it's clear from those two results that there's more than one way to succeed here.
The Regnum Carya is a resort course first and foremost and despite some thick-looking rough, those players who drift from the straight and narrow tend to find it relatively straightforward to play their ball unless they're blocked out by trees. The greens are typically firm and fast, however very smooth and true which means that a lot of mid-range putts can be converted for birdie.
Incoming Form: Looking at the recent form of the same top-3 finishers from both years held here gives a mixed picture. Last year's winner Justin Rose arrived here having won the WGC HSBC Champions at Sheshan the week before and prior to that had recorded 4 consecutive top-10 finishes, hence his 8/1 price point. Runner-up Nicolas Colsaerts had 3 top-25 finishes from 4 events prior to arriving here and was also pickable, however Dylan Fritelli less so given some indifferent finishes of late. Going back to 2016, 3-shot winner Thorbjorn Olesen had failed to break the top-50 in any of his previous 6 starts and runner-up Hao-tong Li was also quite difficult to fancy. Fellow 2nd-place finisher David Horsey was in better form though with 4 top-12 finishes in his previous 6 starts:
High GIR seems to be the common theme here this week and those who can find a higher proportion of greens than most and convert more chances this week should stand the best chance of success. The heather may well be little more than an aesthetic feature than something to truly differentiate a player's chances, however those with a liking for Bermuda greens will enjoy putting here.
My selections are as follows:
Andrea Pavan 2pts EW 50/1 with £40 welcome bonus* for new customers, 18+, T&Cs apply (5 places, 1/4 odds)
Ryder Cup stars Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood dominate the betting this week at 9/2 and 8/1 respectively, although how much more the pair have left in the tank is debatable. Rose hosted at Walton Heath, was defending champion last week in Shanghai and is defending champion again this week, and the media pressures and distractions must be starting to grate a little by now in what's been a long season. Fleetwood will undoubtedly by buoyed by the news that the British Masters has received a stay of execution and he'll be hosting next year's renewal at Hillside Golf Club in his home town of Southport, however once again we saw signs that perhaps he could do with a rest after fading from a good position on Sunday at Sheshan.
Thorbjorn Olesen will undoubtedly have his backers with the course/current form combination, however he often flatters do deceive from a short price and 16/1 holds little appeal to me, despite his clear chance on paper. Shane Lowry and Kiradech Aphibarnrat hold more appeal of the shorter prices, however I'll take a chance on the talented Italian Andrea Pavan who has all the tools to push on following his Czech Masters breakthrough on the European Tour in August.
Already a 4-time winner on the Challenge Tour, the 29 year-old had hinted at a maiden victory earlier in the year with top-10 finishes at the World Super 6, Trophee Hassan II and Sicilian Open before progressive form of 14th (Scottish Open) and 6th (Nordea Masters) culminated in that aforementioned victory in Prague, where he shot 22-under on a fairly straightforward resort course to secure his first piece of silverware at this level. Pavan's high GIR game was in full flow over that 3-week spell and when the putter finally clicked the rest was history, and I suspect that we'll see more of this happening over the next few years now that he's got himself over the line.
A missed cut at Crans can be easily forgiven, particularly as it was Andrea's first event back after becoming a father the week before, and instead it would appear that he's picked up where he left off with a 5th place finish at the Dunhill Links (he led at halfway), 16th at Walton Heath where he was 6th going into Sunday and 22nd last week on WGC debut in China where he was 13th heading into the final day. A return to this lower grade might well see an instant return and he'll have positive memories of the area having produced a fast-finishing 7th at the Turkish Airlines Challenge nearby back in 2016.
Padraig Harrington 2pts EW 50/1 with £40 welcome bonus* for new customers, 18+, T&Cs apply (5 places, 1/4 odds)
Of the other players I seriously considered, I've left Lucas Herbert out despite some very strong recent form as the value's all gone with him, as it is with Tom Lewis who's also playing some eye-catching golf. Julian Suri could bounce back after a challenging week in China and if Jordan Smith putts well this week he could feature, however I'm backing up Pavan with the ultra-experienced Padraig Harrington.
A tailed-off 66th at Valderrama isn't a concern in my view as the 47 year-old hadn't taken a break following his input into the Ryder Cup as vice-captain and with his patience wearing thin that course was unlikely to work. Instead, with a week off to recharge his batteries, he's much more likely to feature here in my view on a track that he's finished 31st and 4th on over the past 2 seasons. The resort nature of this layout is ideal for a player like Harrington who can build confidence in a heartbeat with an impressive escape from a wayward drive and with his underlying form prior to Valderrama reading 2nd (Czech Masters), 5th (KLM Open), MC (Portugal Masters), 7th (Dunhill Links) and 22nd (British Masters), there's no reason in my view to suggest he won't bounce back here.
I've noted it before in recent previews as I've supported Harrington a few times lately, however what's been eye-catching of late has been his performance with his irons. 87.5% GIR at the KLM Open was a career-best figure, 80.6% at the Dunhill Links was impressive and 79.6% at Valderrama with its tiny greens sticks out like a sore thumb. Naturally with these kinds of figures, the reason he hasn't won is down to the flat stick, however in his two attempts on the Bermuda greens here in Turkey he's ranked 5th and 10th for putting average and clearly gets on with the putting surfaces. On a course that's suited him in the past and with his long game in rude health, don't be surprised to see the Irishman leap into the Race To Dubai top-60 with a big performance here this week.
After producing a full each-way return for us on his last start at an identical price, I'm happy to give Ashley Chesters another go this week. GIR has proven to be king at the Regnum Carya from the two events that we've seen here so far and there are few who find the dancefloor with the same level of regularity as the Englishman. A stop-start event at Valderrama probably gave the 29 year-old too much time to think about his position having led after the first 18 holes and by the time he eventually headed out in the final round group with the event reduced to 54 holes, his nerves were likely jangling so much that the early capitulation we saw with doubles at the 3rd and 4th holes was almost inevitable. In truth it would have taken something incredible for the Shrewsbury man to overturn Sergio Garcia on his favourite track, however it was the way that Ashley fought back with 4 birdies on a tough track to grab solo 4th place that will likely set him in good stead the next time he finds himself in contention. Once again it was his long game that got him in the mix with over 74% of fairways and greens found at the claustrophobic confines of that iconic Spanish track, and the same green-finding skill-set should set him in good stead once again this week on albeit a different type of challenge.
Chesters will need to convert more birdies this week if he's going to contend, however recent rounds including 66s to open at both the KLM Open and Portugal Masters, plus a second round 64 at the Dunhill Links, all point to a player who's playing well and scoring well. For a relatively inexperienced player his record on Bermuda greens is difficult to assess, however putting performances in Qatar and Hong Kong in the past 12 months have seen better than average (for him) stats produced, and if he can find a few putts here this week then another big week isn't out of the question in my view.
Oliver Fisher 1pt EW 150/1 with £40 welcome bonus* for new customers, 18+, T&Cs apply (5 places, 1/4 odds)
Just a matter of weeks after producing the European Tour's first ever round of 59 at the Portugal Masters, Oliver Fisher has been cruelly discarded by the bookmakers and rates anything up to a 150/1 chance this week. Anyone who can find the kind of form to produce a 12-under bogey-free round of golf is clearly in a decent place game-wise and any suggestion that it was a total flash-in-the-pan can by dispelled by an 11th place finish on his last start at Valderrama, a personal best on that track, and his best GIR performance relative to the field for 12 months.
Although it's not been a vintage season overall for the 30 year-old, he does find himself at 62nd on the Race To Dubai and on the cusp of a start at the Earth Course for the first time since 2014. It was his swing that won him many a plaudit as a youngster, however it's been his putting of late that's caught the eye and clearly that all came together for 12 holes on the Algarve last month; further top-10 putting peformances at the European Open, Irish Open and most notably on the Bermudagrass greens of Qatar from this season suggest he's at ease with the flat stick right now. Interesting then that he did produce a relatively strong performance with his irons on his last start in Spain and with a week's rest under his belt he could well come back firing on all cylinders here. 47th here on his only attempt at the Regnum Carya doesn't overly excite, however he improved thoughout the 4 days with rounds of 73/70/70/68 in a season where he had very little chance of progressing to Dubai. It's a different story this week and I suspect he'll produce a big personal best here and threaten the each-way places.
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel
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