The Final Series on the European Tour kicks off in Turkey on Thursday where our man fancies big-hitters will hold sway. Read Steve's in-depth preview of the Turkish Airlines Open here...
“Although it’s extremely difficult and possibly unwise to propose correlations between courses after we’ve had just two renewals here, I do think form at the Oceânico Victoria, home of the Portugal Masters, will be worth scrutinising. A number of players in the top-12 here in 2013 have played well in Portugal and three winners of the event figured last year.”
This is the third edition of the Turkish Airlines Open and for the third year in a row it's one of the four European Tour Final Series events. In 2013 and 2014, the Turkish Open Airlines was the third leg of the four-event series but this year it's the first.
The Montgomerie Maxx Royal, Antalya, Turkey
Par 72 7,132 yards
Stroke index in 2014 - 71.3
The Colin Montgomerie designed Maxx Royal opened in 2008 and this will be the third time it's been the host venue of the Turkish Islands Open.
The Maxx doesn't have the traditional par 72 layout of ten par fours, four par threes and four par fives, instead there are just eight par fours, five par threes and five par fives.
The course is tree-lined and coastal with average width fairways and fairly large undulating bentgrass greens that last year ran at around 11 on the stimpmeter. Water is in play on holes four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 14 and 18 and the holes on the back nine are, on average, shorter and tighter off the tee than those on the front nine. There's more on the course below in the In-Play section.
The course was softened by plenty of rain before the inaugural event so the scoring was very low and last year's 17-under-par total, in the fullness of time, will probably turn out to be an average winning total.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday.
Last Year's Top-Five and Ties
1 Brooks Koepka -17
2 Ian Poulter -16
3 Henrik Stenson -14
T4 Danny Willett -13
T4 Andy Sullivan -13
T4 Miguel Angel Jimenez -13
T4 Wade Ormsby -13
2013's Top-Five and Ties
1 Victor Dubuisson -24
2 Jamie Donaldson -22
T3 Tiger Woods -20
T3 Justin Rose -20
T5 Ian Poulter -19
T5 Raphael Jacquelin -19
What Will it Take to Win The Turkish Airlines Open?
With five par fives and a couple of drivable par fours, length off the tee is advantageous at Maxx Royal. Brooks Koepka ranked third for Driving Distance last year and the inaugural event winner, Victor Dubuisson, is also a renowned big hitter off the tee.
The key stats here so far have been Birdie Average and Par 5 Performance. Winner, Koepka, and Henrik Stenson, who finished third 12 months ago, made more birdies than anyone else and the first two home in 2013, Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson, both recorded the most - a staggering 28 birdies apiece! That pair also ranked second and first for Par 5 Scoring. Koepka only ranked seventh on the long holes last year but five of the first seven home ranked inside the top-seven.
This course suits aggressive, attacking golf and is a far cry from last week's fiddly test in Hong Kong.
Is There an Angle In?
Although it's extremely difficult and possibly unwise to propose correlations between courses after we've had just two renewals here, I do think form at the Oceânico Victoria, home of the Portugal Masters, will be worth scrutinising. A number of players in the top-12 here in 2013 have played well in Portugal and three winners of the event figured last year.
This year's Portugal Masters winner, Andy Sullivan, finished tied fourth, the 2009 winner, Lee Westwood, finished tied eighth and Alexander Levy, who won in Portugal in 2013, finished tied for 11th.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
We may only have had two renewals to date but both winners had very similar profiles. Dubuisson and Koepka were both winning on the European Tour for the first time and both can be described as top-class big hitters.
The start to the course is really straightforward with the two easiest holes being the first and the fourth but it toughens up significantly after that with the fifth and sixth holes ranking first and third hardest last year and the seventh, eighth and ninth all averaging over par and ranking tied fourth and sixth hardest.
Shane Lowry highlighted the disparity with his start in round four last year as he was four-under par for the first four holes and five-over for the next two and players were caught out all week by the sudden change from easy to hard 12 months ago.
Lowry was actually 14-under-par for the week on the first four holes but he struggled with the rest of the course playing the other 14 holes in seven-over-par and if you're betting in-running that's well worth bearing in mind - especially over the first two days when I assume there'll be a two-tee start in operation.
Low scoring courses tend to suit the front-runners and that's pretty much been the case here so far. Dubuisson trailed by three strokes after round one but was never headed after halfway and Koepka was second after 36 holes - although he did trail by six!
With rounds of 64 and 66, Ian Poulter had slipped the field after two rounds and he was six clear at halfway and was matched at just 1.68/13 in-running but after a disastrous 75 in round three he wasn't even leading with a round to go.
World number three, Rory McIlroy, is the clear favourite and for the first time in a while I'm almost tempted to play him. It's been a difficult four months for Rory since he injured his ankle playing football but sooner or later he's going to get back into top gear and win again and this looks his best opportunity in a while.
Although this is his first visit to the Maxx Royal, I'd be confident that the venue will suit him and we can expect an improvement on his tied 23rd in his last outing at the Frys.com Open. He was obliged to play in that event having promised to appear in one of the next three PGA Tour season openers when he played in the big-money Turkish Airlines Match Play event back in 2012.
It was hard to envisage him being on full throttle in California a fortnight ago and so it transpired but he finished the event nicely and if he can putt a bit better here he's sure to compete. I wouldn't want to put anyone off him this week and he looks a reasonable price at anything approaching 6.05/1 but he's just a fraction short for me.
As highlighted above, other than the first four holes, Shane Lowry struggled with the course last year and I couldn't dream of backing him at less than 20.019/1. He was my selection 12 months ago at 55.054/1 and I know he's tucked away a WGC event recently but he still looks too short to me this time around.
Bernd Wiesberger's short putting has been a bit of a problem of late and I'm happy to swerve him and the same can be said of Danny Willett. The Yorkshireman isn't in the best of form and he always appears too short to me anyway.
I couldn't have been any more impressed by the way Andy Sullivan pulverised the field in Portugal two weeks ago and after a week off he could just be refreshed enough to go in again on a course that he's already shown he likes.
I was hoping for a bit bigger than he's trading at in the early skirmishes so that's tempered my enthusiasm somewhat but he was so good in Portugal I felt I had to have him onside here given he was tied for fourth last year on debut.
Other than the perennially disappointing, Romain Wattel, there isn't really a classy big-hitting player looking to get off the mark on the European Tour in the mould of the event's first two winners present but Thomas Pieters is certainly long enough with bags of promise.
Already a two-time winner this season, with recent victories in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, the powerful Belgian was a disappointment over the weekend when I backed him in Portugal but at a similar price I'm happy to go in again. This will be his first start at Maxx Royal but he looks just the type to shine here.
He couldn't possibly be described as top class but Sweden's Pelle Edberg is a big-hitter looking to win for the first time and although there's a very good chance his purple patch has come to an end, on a course sure to fit, I was happy to throw a few more pounds his way at a monster price.
Pelle Edberg @ 400.0399/1
Andy Sullivan @ 25/1 (Sportsbook)
Thomas Pieters @ 35/1 (Sportsbook)
I'll be back later on with my CIMB Classic preview.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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