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With the final WGC event of the season in the record books and a close finish for our 22/1 shot Brooks Koepka who ultimately finished in a tie for 2nd place, the European Tour heads to Turkey for the final 3 Rolex Series events that will conclude in Dubai in just over a fortnight's time. Last year's unrest in the region significantly hampered the attendee list with a number of high-profile players opting to skip the event following missile attacks and explosions in Antalya, however 12 months down the line there's far less pre-event drama and the bulk of those players in the upper echelons of the Race To Dubai are here to fight for their position as the prize money and pressure ramps up week by week.
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford previews the Shriners Hospitals Open - you can read his preview for that event here.
Course Overview. After 3 years at the nearby Montgomerie Maxx for the 2013-15 events, last year's event 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 second 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. Melissa Reid won at 11-under on this track on the LET back in 2005 and Charlie Ford produced an identical winning score at the 2010 Challenge Tour event held here, however a score closer to 20-under is likely to be the order of the day as we saw last year from Thorbjorn Olesen.
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 last year so only the 2016 data is relevant from a course perspective: 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. 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 for the past 6 years based on the 2016 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the Antalya region is here. Largely dry and sunny conditions are expected for all 4 days of this year's tournament with temperatures peaking in the mid 70s Fahrenheit and a mainly light breeze of 5-10 mph for the most part. There's an outside chance of a few showers in the region on Saturday afternoon but nothing that should interrupt play.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Analysing the final stats of the top 5 last year gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
The consensus prior to last year's 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 does raise questions over that approach. Looking at the numbers suggests that there wasn't a massive amount of variance in the field in terms of the actual number of fairways and greens hit, which ultimately made the deciding factor how players performed on and around the greens. The top 8 finishers all ranked inside the top-15 for putting average on the week and when coupled with either a better than average GIR or scrambling performance, that proved enough to get the best on the week in that respect into contention.
The Regnum Carya is a resort course first and foremost and despite some thick-looking rough, those players who drifted from the straight and narrow tended to find it was relatively straightforward to play their ball unless they were blocked out by trees. The greens were firm and fast, however very smooth and true which meant that a lot of mid-range putts were being converted for birdie - in that respect it's logical that putting performance will have been the critical element.
Incoming Form: Looking at the recent form of the same top-5 finishers gives some clues as to why eventual winner Thorbjorn Olesen was a 125/1 shot pre-event. Despite finishing 2nd twice earlier in the season in Qatar and Germany, his recent form was dire with a tie for 50th place his best result in his previous 6 events. Horsey and Wiesberger, who finished 2nd and 4th respectively, had both been playing some good golf in the lead up to the event, however Li and Coetzee were less obvious given their recent efforts:
For me, I'm looking for players with some fairly recent form with the putter and the ability to make red numbers on this track. As a par-71 with just 3 par-5s for players to attack, making a birdie or better on those long holes at least two-thirds of the time is pretty important - indeed those holes, the 7th, 12th and 15th, played as the easiest on the course last year as you might expect. 11 of the 18 holes played under par for the week though, so birdies are there to be made for players who can get their approach shots into a scoreable range - given the quality of the greens anything inside 20 feet is a reasonable birdie opportunity.
Bookmaker Offers: Latest offers and extended each-way places are detailed below.
My selections are as follows:
The first of three big-money Rolex Series events will conclude the European Tour season in a little over a fortnight's time and the battle to become Europe's number 1 golfer with victory on the season-long Race to Dubai took an interesting turn last week with Justin Rose putting himself in the picture with a 2-shot victory in Sheshan. That win has catapulted the Englishman into 3rd place in the rankings behind Sergio Garcia and leader Tommy Fleetwood and the bookies are taking no chances that he continues his good form into this week, making him a skinny 8/1 favourite to take back-to-back titles. Rose has gone win-win before in his career, albeit not in consecutive weeks, and it's difficult to dispute his chance here although at 8/1 that's a win-only price for me if I was going to dabble.
Disputing favouritism with Rose is Henrik Stenson who finished in a tie for 2nd last week in China - the Swede's game looked in pretty decent shape and the Bermuda greens here will suit him down to the ground. Both could win this of course, as could 12/1 shot Tyrrell Hatton who's won 2 of his last 3 starts, however with little to differentiate the chances of the top 3, I'm going to go for an each-way option instead in the shape of Paul Dunne who should find the course here to his liking.
The Irishman secured his first European Tour title at the start of October by producing the round of his life to card a closing 61 at the British Masters and beating a fast-finishing Rory McIlroy by 3 strokes. The tree-lined but scoreable Close House track brought the best out of Dunne and another layout that will reward excellent putters who can find enough putting surfaces will be right up his alley provided he can find more than his fair share of greens in regulation. Twice in his career Paul has won Open Championship qualifying at the tight confines of Woburn and he was also unlucky not to have shed his maiden status on another track along the same lines in Morocco earlier this season when losing out in a play-off to Edoardo Molinari. What really sets Dunne apart from many of his peers though is his ability with the flat stick and on a track where mid-range putts can be made with regularity by the better putters, I suspect he'll find himself in his element here despite it being his course debut - although with only a year's worth of history, that shouldn't be too much of a hindrance.
At 80th in the OWGR, the Greystones golfer will also be acutely aware that a big effort over these final 3 weeks of the season could get him inside the top-50 by the end of the year given the quality of fields he's playing in and with Ryder Cup ambitions that's going to be an important factor if he's going to get access to the very best events that 2018 will offer. RESULT: T23
Whereas headline selection Paul Dunne tailed off from a promising early position at the HSBC Champions last week, Peter Uihlein did no such thing and a battling final round of 72 secured a top-5 finish for the American and his best effort at a WGC to boot. Like Dunne, Uihlein is looking for a top-50 OWGR berth for year end and after last week's effort he's up to a career-best 56th and full of momentum having gained his 2018 PGA Tour card following his Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship success in September on the web.com Tour.
10th at the CIMB Classic preceded last week's effort and if anything this will be a slight step down in terms of the quality of the overall competition, despite the likes of Rose and Stenson topping the bookmakers' lists this week. Make no mistake, the 28 year-old is an immensely talented player and although he's not hit the heights of his great friend Brooks Koepka yet, don't be surprised to see him grab some silverware on the PGA Tour next year. To the here and now though and Peter could well follow in his former room-mate's footsteps here and win this Turkish Airlines Open title while his game is in such good shape. Uihlein's power from off the tee will give him 12 very good chances of birdie or better on the par 5s here for starters, however it's his putting ability that's likely to ultimately put him in contention this week. 3rd for putting average when securing that aforementioned web.com victory and 2nd on the same count the week after at the Boise Open is impressive putting whatever the level; 14th and 13th on the same count in far better company on his last 2 starts encourages further still.
This marks Uihlein's course debut at the Regnum Carya, however progressive event form of 57/11/6 is also eye-catching and I suspect he'll put a strong challenge together here this week. RESULT: T14
A couple of longer-priced players complete the team this week. First up Lucas Bjerregaard who provided us with a tasty 66/1 winner at the Portugal Masters and having recharged his batteries both physically and mentally since then, he may well be ready to pick up the form he showed last month. That win on the Algarve was a strong vindication for a player who'd threatened to win on the European Tour before a change to Nike equipment seemed to derail his game at the start of the 2016 season. Success alongside this week's defending champion Thorbjorn Olesen at the Golf Sixes was a nice result as opposed to anything more tangible and it was great to see the big Dane finally win a recognised title in impressive fashion. When on his game, the 26 year-old is a powerful ball-striker who can find a lot of greens in regulation, however what's been noticeable of late has been that he's found top form with the putter and that of course makes him dangerous wherever he plays. 5th for putts per GIR at the Czech Open was the glimmer of hope that suggested to me that a win was imminent and he led the field for putting on his way to victory at that aforementioned success in Portugal. He was still fuelling off of the momentum when finishing 8th at Close House the week after, however missed cuts at the Dunhill Links and in Italy - when in reality he could have done with taking a well-earned break - have pushed his price out to an attractive level this week and I wouldn't be surprised to see him back in the groove here this week. Finishes of 3rd and 2nd at the Italian Open and Hong Kong Open respectively back at the end of 2015 suggests that a tree-lined course won't hold any fear for Lucas and despite finishing 31st here last year and a full 15 shots behind the winner, he clearly got to grips with the layout from off the tee as he ranked 2nd for Driving Accuracy on the week. RESULT: T48
Finally I'm taking a punt on Marcus Fraser who's shown enough in patches to warrant an investment on this relatively short layout here in Turkey. His win in Malaysia last February was on a short, tree-lined layout and although his form has been a little patchy since which means he's unlikely to feature near the top of many statistics for the season, at the price he's an interesting punt given that he clearly can still compete at this level when the track suits. Further tangible form at the Hong Kong Open, which is played on another tree-lined track with Bermuda greens, is interesting as he's finished inside the top-10 there on five of his nine starts and with the putter working very nicely at present - he's ranked first for total putts on two of his last four starts and top-10 for putting average on those weeks too - he's got a chance of making the frame here in my view. 5th on his last start in Italy contained the best round of his career, a sparkling second round 62, and was as a result of him going back to basics and applying the principles that he knows work - the results were clear. That effort catapulted him from 136th in the Race to Dubai to 79th which just about got him into this week's field and this has surely got to be a golden opportunity for him to attack this week and see if he can steal a late entry to Dubai in a fortnight's time having reflected on his latest effort at home for a couple of weeks. Event form of 29th and 47th doesn't overly excite, however that was on the previous Montgomerie Maxx course and this layout which is shorter and suits better putters should play far more to his strengths. RESULT: T66
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