The European Tour heads to Turkey this week as the Race to Dubai hots up with just three weeks to go before the winner is crowned. Read our man's comprehensive preview ahead of Thursday's start here...
“Levy started slowly in this event 12 months ago, opening up with rounds of 72 and 74, but he flew home to make the top-25 with rounds of 67 and 65 over the weekend so he’s shown an aptitude for the venue and that isn’t surprising if I’m right about the link up with Lake Karrinyup. Levy finished second to Louis Oosthuizen in the Perth International in 2016.”
First staged four years ago, this will be the fifth edition of the Turkish Airlines Open. It used to be one of the European Tour's Final Series events but since that was abolished in favour of the new eight-tournament Rolex Series it kicks off the final three Rolex Series events.
The Race to Dubai moves on to South Africa next week for the Nedbank Challenge before it culminates with the season ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in a fortnight's time.
The Turkish Airlines Open is a limited field event for the top-70 players on the European Tour's Race to Dubai money list (plus a few invites) after the Andalucía Valderrama Masters. Disappointingly, the Spanish duo of Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, who rank second and fourth in the R2D standings, have decided not to play.
Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort, Antalya, Turkey.
Par 71, 7,159 yards
Stroke index in 2016 - 70.0
After three years at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal, the event moved to the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort 12 months ago.
Designed by Thomson, Perret & Lobb (the design practice founded by the Australian multiple Open Champion, Peter Thomson) Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort is described as Turkey's first heathland inspired golf course. Surrey's Walton Heath and Sunningdale are said to be the inspiration behind the venue.
Set on slightly undulating sand hills, the course runs through a pine forest and more than one million heather plants were added to the existing areas of indigenous heather to create the course's distinctive look.
The Bermuda fairways are tree-lined and narrower than average and water is in-play on eight holes - the fifth, sixth, 10th, 11th, 13th, 15th, 17th and 18th.
The greens are very large, easy to hit, undulating and fairly fast (set at 12 on the stimpmeter last year) and many feature multiple plateaus, creating 'greens within greens'.
The 10th is a par five for members but plays as a par four here and it was the hardest hole on the course last year, averaging 4.27. The 16th is a quirky hole, with the back tee positioned on the top of a villa!
In addition to last year's renewal, Carya was also used for the Turkish Airlines Challenge on the Challenge Tour in 2010 when Leicester's Charlie Ford got the better of Sweden's Oscar Floren in a playoff in what was only his second start of the Challenge Tour.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday.
First Four Winners
2013 - Victor Dubuisson -24 (Montgomerie Maxx Royal course)
2014 - Brooks Koepka -17 (Montgomerie Maxx Royal course)
2015 - Victor Dubuisson -22 (Montgomerie Maxx Royal course)
2016 - Thorbjørn Olesen -20
What Will it Take to Win the Turkish Airlines Open?
Prior to last year's renewal, with bountiful talk of narrow tree-lined fairways, Driving Accuracy looked like being the main stat to focus on but Thorbjørn Olesen took the title ranking only 63rd for DA and nothing really stood out statistically.
The winner ranked first on the par threes, eighth for Greens In Regulation and seventh for Putting Average and those last two stats proved the most important last year. Three of the first four home ranked inside the top-ten for GIR and the first three home ranked inside the top-ten for Putting Average.
If I had to concentrate on just one thing it would be putting - six of the first eight 12 months ago ranked inside the top-10 PA average stats for the week.
Is There an Angle In?
The course is said to be inspired by Surrey's heathland courses so prior to the off last year I thought it would make sense to look at form at Wentworth and one or two of the contenders did have Wentworth form but having seen the course now, I fancy Lake Karrinyup in Perth, Australia, might correlate better.
Although the fairways are framed by pines, on the vast amount of occasions anyone strayed from the fairway and ventured in to the trees they had no problem playing from them last year. Time and time again I saw players find the green from the trees having hit it wide off the tee and Olesen's ranking of 63rd for DA proved that hitting it straight wasn't as important as I'd suspected it would be.
Olesen won the 2014 Perth International at Lake Karrinyup and in the absence of too many other clues after just one edition at this venue that might just be a decent angle in. Lake Karrinyup is another course framed by trees where errant tee shots tend not to be punished too harshly.
Anyone that played in the event 12 months ago should have an advantage over those that are seeing the course for the first time as course experience counted for plenty last year. Very few in the field played in the Turkish Airlines Challenge on the Challenge Tour in 2010 but the winner, Olesen, did and so did Bernd Wiesberger who finished fourth.
As already mentioned, the par four 10th was the hardest hole on the course last year but after that the players have a nice run of five holes where they have a great chance to pick up some shots. The par four 11th was the ninth hardest on the course 12 months ago but it only averaged 3.94, the 12th and the 15th are par fives that ranked as the two easiest on the course and the par four 13th and par three 14th were simple enough too.
Overall, the five holes between 11 and 15 averaged more than a stroke under-par but after that it got tougher and holes 16, 17 and 18 are all par fours that averaged over-par 12 months ago.
We only have one European Tour event to consider so caution is advised but being up with the pace was key 12 months ago and after sitting second after round one, Olesen kicked clear in round two with a sensational 62. He was never headed after that but it's also worth noting that seven of the top-nine on the final leaderboard were inside the top-ten places after round one.
I'm not sure we can take those stats too seriously though - when Charlie Ford won here on the Challenge Tour in 2010 he sat tied from 93rd and seven off the lead after round one!
The market is struggling to split last week's winner, Justin Rose, and the joint-second, Henrik Stenson, but I'm not that keen on either at the prices.
Both are making their debuts at the venue and I fancy it will suit Rose more than it will Stenson. He has a fair Wentworth pedigree and he's a winner at Valderrama so he enjoys a tree-lined track but it's notoriously difficult to win back-to-back and that's a negative.
Stenson will have to raise himself after a disappointing finish on Sunday and I fancy he'll be a better bet in the next two tournaments when he plays on familiar courses where he's tasted success.
Tyrrell Hatton's excellent run of form continued with a decent 11th in Shanghai on Sunday and he was 10th in this event 12 months ago so he's very hard to dismiss and Matthew Fitzpatrick, who was ninth in the WGC HSBC last week should love the venue.
The Race to Dubai leader, Tommy Fleetwood, was 22nd last year and 20th last week and he's not so easy to fancy. He broke the course record at Carnoustie in the Alfred Dunhill Links last month and he finished sixth in the Italian Open after a slow start in his penultimate start but since his win at the Open de France, his forms been a bit bitty.
I fancy quite a few to go well this week and I've found it tough to whittle my shortlist down. I quite like Fitzpatrick and Hatton towards the head of the market and had Bernd Wiesberger touched 32.031/1 he'd have been a pick but in the end I'm playing just three - my each-way fancy, Peter Uihlein, Alex Levy and Lucas Bjerregaard.
Levy started slowly in this event 12 months ago, opening up with rounds of 72 and 74, but he flew home to make the top-25 with rounds of 67 and 65 over the weekend so he's shown an aptitude for the venue and that isn't surprising if I'm right about the link up with Lake Karrinyup. Levy finished second to Louis Oosthuizen in the Perth International in 2016.
He's been in decent form of late after an understandable dip following his bizarre defeat at the European Open in July when he missed a tiny putt for the win.
Bjerregaard has a decent record on tree-lined tracks. He's twice been placed around Fanling, home of the Hong Kong Open, he was third at the Golf Club Milano two years ago and he was fourth at the 2014 Perth International. He was a bit disappointing in this last year, finishing 31st after a nice opening round that saw him tied seventh and only three back but he wasn't in great form at the time.
The big negative is that he's missed his last two cuts but before that he recorded three straight top-tens, including his maiden European Tour win, and his price is generous enough to chance that two weeks break will have refreshed and firing again.
Peter Uihlein @ 36.035/1
Alex Levy @ 55.054/1
Lucas Bjerregaard @ 90.089/1
I'll be back later with my Shriners Children Hospitals for Children Open preview.
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