Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood are the marquee names in Turkey this week but our man's scanned further down the list for his five fancies. Read Steve's in-depth preview ahead of Thursday's start here...
"I don’t mind sounding like a scratched record given I’ve benefited twice this season already from backing Matt Wallace at a big price before the off but I’m definitely repeating myself. He’s just too big again at 42.041/1."
First staged five years ago, this will be the sixth edition of the Turkish Airlines Open. It was originally 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 leg of three Rolex Series events.
The Race to Dubai moves on to South Africa next week for the Nedbank Golf 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 available players on the European Tour's Race to Dubai money list (plus a few invites) after the Andalucía Valderrama Masters. Disappointingly, a lot of those towards the head of the standings are sitting the event out and a number of players in the field are ranked in the 90s on the standings.
Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort, Antalya, Turkey.
Par 71, 7,159 yards
Stroke index in 2017 - 70.13
After three years at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal, the event moved to the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort two years 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, which hosted the British Masters a few weeks ago, 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 again last year, averaging 4.4, but other than that, it's a really easy course and the next two hardest holes (the 18th and the second) averaged just 0.2 and 0.11 over-par for the week. The 16th is a quirky hole, with the back tee positioned on the top of a villa!
In addition to last two year's renewals, Carya was also used for the Turkish Airlines Challenge on the Challenge Tour in 2010 when 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, beginning at 9:00 on Thursday.
First Five 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
2017 - Justin Rose -18
What Will it Take to Win the Turkish Airlines Open?
It doesn't look like we can look to the driving stats for clues. Prior to the first renewal here, I thought Driving Accuracy might be key but Thorbjorn Olesen, who ranked 17th for Driving Distance, won ranking 63rd for DA and the joint runner-up, David Horsey, only ranked 65th for DD.
As highlighted in yesterday's De-brief, concentrating on power over accuracy from the tee is usually the better way to go but if forced to pick one over the other here I'd just favour accuracy. Despite Olesen's ranking, of the ten players to finish inside the top-five places in each of the last two renewals, 37th was the next highest ranking (after Olesen's 63rd) and seven of the ten ranked 22nd or better. Last year's winner, Justin Rose, ranked 24th for DD and second for DA.
Rose hit more greens in regulation than anyone else 12 months ago and Olesen ranked eighth for GIR in 2016. Rose only ranked 24th for Putting Average but the two ranked first and second for PA 12 months ago (Olesen and Nicolas Colsaerts) finished fifth and tied second and in 2016, the first five home had a PA ranking of seventh, second, ninth, 15th and fifth so you need to roll your potato well but I'd say Scrambling is probably the most important stat on the limited evidence we have to date.
Rose ranked third for Scrambling and six of the top-ten finishers ranked inside the top-seven for that stat. And looking back to the 2016 edition, five of the top ten scramblers finished inside the top-nine places.
Is There an Angle In?
Given the course was modelled on Walton Heath, form at the British Masters there three weeks ago must be worth looking at and judging by the first couple of results here there's already a bit of a correlation. The impressive British Masters winner, Eddie Pepperell, finished sixth here 12 months ago, last year's winner, Rose, knows Walton Heath intimately, he chose it to host the British Masters and he finished eighth there, despite feeling unwell for the first few rounds, and both Julian Suri and Hao-tong Li now have top-ten finishes at both tracks.
There might just be a correlation between here and Lake Karrinyup - home to World Super 6 Perth - the European Tour's stroke play - match play hybrid event Down Under. Olesen won the 2014 Perth International at Lake Karrinyup and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who was sixth here 12 months ago, won the Super 6 in February, so we do have a bit of form that ties the two together. Like this venue, Lake Karrinyup is a course framed by trees where errant tee shots tend not to be punished too harshly.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
We've only had five renewals so far and only four winners but all four have been straight out of the top drawer. All four have played Ryder Cups and two of them are major champions, currently ranked first and second in the world rankings. Both Victor Dubuisson, who won the event twice, and Brooks Koepka, won their first European Tour events in this tournament so maybe a classy emerging talent might be worth siding with, although both men won at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal.
The chances of a class-act winning are strengthened further when we consider the results of all the previous Rolex Series held to date, given Brandon Stone, who won the last Rolex event, the Scottish Open, is arguably the only winner one could argue wasn't absolutely top drawer.
Stone was matched at 1000.0 before the off but that was largely due to his atrocious form figures that read MC-60-65-MC-MC-69. He'd previously won on the European Tour and he too is an emerging talent who could even be a major winner of the future. He's just extremely inconsistent!
Here's a list of the 13 Rolex Series winners to date, highlighting just how much of an outlier Stone was.
BMW PGA Championship 2017 - Alex Noren 22.021/1
Open de France 2017 - Tommy Fleetwood 25.024/1
Irish Open 2017 - Jon Rahm 18.017/1
Scottish Open 2017 - Rafa Cabrera-Bello 65.064/1
Italian Open 2017 - Tyrrell Hatton 20.019/1
Turkish Airlines Open 2017 - Justin Rose 9.28/1
Nedbank Golf Challenge 2017 - Branden Grace 18.017/1
DP World Championship 2017 - Jon Rahm 14.013/1
BMW PGA Championship 2018 - Francesco Molinari 22.021/1
Italian Open 2018 - Thorbjorn Olesen 130.0129/1
Open de France 2018 - Alex Noren 19.5
Irish Open 2018 - Russell Knox 27.026/1
Scottish Open 2018 - Brandon Stone 1000.0
With such limited evidence to date, it's impossible to make any sort of judgements but for what it's worth, here's how the last two renewals have panned out.
Olesen sat second after the opening round two years ago, before he kicked clear in round two with a sensational 62 and he was never headed after that, and as many as seven of the top-nine on the final leaderboard were inside the top-ten places after round one - suggesting being up with the pace might be key.
Rose, however, started slower last year, sitting tied for 19th and five off the lead after round one and positioned in a tie for 13th, he trailed the clear halfway leader, Colsaerts, by nine strokes at halfway. A third round 73 by Colsaerts meant it was all change at the top and Rose sat alongside the Belgian with a round to go in a three-way tie for third, two behind joint leaders Shane Lowry and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, before going on to win by one.
The two easiest holes on the course are the 12th and the 15th (both par fives) but the finishing three holes ranked as the fifth, sixth and second hardest 12 months ago.
Justin Rose arrives in Turkey to defend the title, a week after narrowly failing to defend his WGC HSBC Champions title, and after narrowly failing to return to the top of the world rankings (a second-place finish would have been enough).
Logic would suggest the well-travelled and busy Englishman should be running on fumes by now after playing and (mostly) contenting on seven of the last ten weekends but I thought that last week and he traded at odds-on during round three so I won't be surprised if he finds yet more reserves here. With so many noticeable absentees, it's great to see Justin here to defend and he clearly has a fabulous chance on form but he's too short for me given how busy he's been.
The reigning Race to Dubai champion, Tommy Fleetwood, is another who's been on the go and he's played eight of the last ten weeks. He's been in contention more often than not too and I'm happy to swerve him also. He currently sits second in the standings and will be keen to win the R2D again so that's why he's still on the go but on his two visits here so far he's not cracked the top-20 and I'm happy to swerve him.
I would have backed Thorbjorn Olesen at around the 20/1 mark but I can't take the plunge at 16.015/1, although I respect his chances greatly. He ticks all the right boxes and he's already a course winner but he can't be described as value at his current price and as you'll see by his price when he won in Italy in June (above), Olesen often pops up when you're least expecting him to do so.
I don't mind sounding like a scratched record given I've benefited twice this season already from backing Matt Wallace at a big price before the off but I'm definitely repeating myself. He's just too big again at 42.041/1. He dropped away tamely at the British Masters when all was lost on the Sunday but he was the man pushing Eddie Pepperell the hardest for much of the event and he's clearly only interested in winning.
Paul Krishnamurty's each-way fancy, Lucas Herbert, looks generously priced given his obvious potential, ridiculously strong current form figures and his semi-final place at the Super 6 in February and I've made my case for Alexander Bjork in the each-way column here.
Sam Horsfield definitely shouldn't be a triple-figure price given he was fifth last time out at Walton Heath and that, like Herbert, he reached the last four in Perth and finally, I've thrown a few pounds at Austria's Matthias Schwab, who's in decent form and he's topped the Scrambling stats in two of his last three outings.
Matt Wallace @ 42.041/1
Lucas Herbert @ 46.045/1
Alexander Bjork @ 65.064/1
Sam Horsfield @ 110.0109/1
Matthias Schwab @ 200.0199/1
I'll be back shortly with my Shriners Hospitals for Children Open preview.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter