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Turkish Airlines Open preview


With another exciting event in the books, the European Tour makes it way to Turkey for the Turkish Airlines Open, which is one of just three events left in 2017.

Last week’s event in China looked all said and done with Dustin Johnson holding a commanding 6-shot lead going into the final round at the WGC-HSBC, but there was a fair amount of drama in the final round.

It was Justin Rose, who started the final round eight shots adrift of Johnson, who took home the coveted title as Johnson became just the second World No.1 to surrender a 54-hole lead of six shots or more on the PGA Tour, and the first since Greg Norman did the same at the 1996 Masters.

Rose’s comeback was the biggest of 2017 and even more startling was the fact that the Englishman was still six shots behind as he started his back-nine, but a 9-hole score of 31 was enough to secure the win.

The Turkish Airlines Open, a relatively new event on the European Tour has been running since 2013 and in that time we have seen two host courses. The first was Montgomerie Maxx Royal, which hosted the first three renewals, before Carya Golf Club took over in 2016 and returns to host again this year.

Victor Dubuisson won two of the first three Turkish Airlines Open’s with a Brooks Koepka win sandwiched in-between in 2014. Thorbjorn Olesen grabbed the first victory at the new course in 2016 and a decent field has assembled here for the second renewal at this course.

Much like last week, this is a reduced field with just 77 players in the field vying for the top prize.

Turkish Airlines have agreed a contract with the European Tour to host this event until at least 2018, so we are guaranteed to see another edition of this event next year as well, so it will be interesting to see if any players show a liking for this course again this year.

The Course and what it will take to win

Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort, 7,159 Yards, Par 71

Much like last week, a low score is required to win this week and also similar to last week, it is unlikely that any one key area will be the a place of focus.

With only one year of course form to focus on it is hard to gauge which statistic will stands out, however as ever to produce low scores, hitting greens and making putts will obviously be essential.

As a resort-style course, you are not going to be punished too heavily when straying into the rough as we saw last year when winner, Olesen ranked 64/71 in Driving Accuracy. He made up for this by ranking inside the top-9 for Greens in Regulation and both Putts per Round and Putts per GIR.

As well as Olesen performing highly in those areas in 2016, five of the eleven players that finished T10 or better ranked inside the top-11 for Greens in Regulation, six of the eleven ranked inside the top-11 for Putts per GIR and five of the eleven ranked 9th or better for Putts per Round.

Form in this event, even when at Montgomerie Maxx Royal should not be dismissed, as we often see players repeat performances in certain areas of the world, even when the venue changes.

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Without further ado, here are my selections for the 2017 Turkish Airlines Open

Bernd Wiesberger 28/1 (888Sport & UniBet) 1.5pts e/w:

Bernd Wiesberger has found some form again in recent weeks, finishing 9th in two of his last three events, including last week in China and I am expecting to go well again, on a course he has shown a liking for.

In this event last year, Wiesberger finished 4th here on what was his second look at the course. The Austrian had played the course in 2010, when he was a member of the Challenge Tour and he finished 8th, so has proved on more than one occasion that he is capable of golfing his ball around this venue.

Wiesberger is the sort of player you get on Tour who has a knack for playing well in the same part of the world, on the same courses and with the momentum gained from his effort last week, I think he is likely to play well at Carya Golf Club once again.

Last year he managed to finish in that tie for 4th, when ranking an average, 30th in Putts per Round and 17th in Putts per GIR, largely due to his impressive iron play which saw him rank 2nd in Greens in Regulation, hitting 87.5% of the putting surfaces.

2017 has been a year with multiple highlights, including his win at the Shezhan International, three top-4’s, two more top-10’s and also top-16 finishes at the Players Championship and U.S. Open when venturing over the other side of the pond.

Despite these good finishes, it has perhaps disappointing that Wiesberger has not quite been as consistent as he usually is, but he looks to be trending in the right direction as the season draws to a close. A win in this event would be arguably the biggest of his career and one that lives up to the talent he shows when on form.

At 28/1 many may look at Wiesberger as someone that should have won a whole lot more, bearing in mind how often he is in contention, but I think there is reason for optimism this week. His win earlier this season took him to four European Tour wins to date, so he clearly knows how to get over the line, even if he doesn’t do it as regularly as his talent suggests he should. This course looks like a good place for him to make it five wins on the European Tour, ensuring a multiple-win season for the second time in his career.

Peter Uihlein 33/1 (Bet365, Betfair, Coral) 1pt e/w:

After winning on the Web.com Tour in September and securing his PGA Tour Card for the 2017/2018 season, Uihlein would have been forgiven for either shutting it down for the rest of the European Tour season, or playing average golf, but that has not been the case.

Clearly Uihlein is intent on proving his talent and securing a second win on the European Tour before the season is out, and validating his position as one of the better players in this field. His sole win on this Tour came at the Madeira Islands Open, a fairly low-scale event, so a win here would look huge on his record.

After initially struggling, after that Web.com win, missing two cuts and finishing T29, Uihlein has returned to form in his last two events. The American finished T10 at the CIMB Classic on the PGA Tour before finishing T5 in last week’s WGC, two events littered with star names.

Although a decent field, it is weaker than each of his last two events, so I would expect him to perform well once again.

Uihlein ranked just 48th for Greens in Regulation last week in China and still finished 5th, so should he improve with his irons here, he could post a real threat to the rest of the field.

He is more than capable of shooting the low number required this week, proved most notably when he finished twenty-three-under-par to make his way into a play-off with David Howell at the 2013 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

I expect Uihlein will return to America full-time in 2018, now that he has his playing privileges on the PGA Tour, so it only seems fitting that he sees this year out with a win in Europe. Despite only winning once, he is up there talent-wise with some of the best players on this Tour in my opinion and once the consistency sets in, he can be a bigger factor stateside too.

At 33/1 it is worth chancing the in-form American in a field he should be more than capable of beating when in the kind of form he has been in, on his last two starts.

Pablo Larrazabal 100/1 (Betfair & Betfred) 1pt e/w:

It has been a pretty disappointing year for the highly talented Spaniard, but Pablo Larrazabal will be keen to end the year on a high, and made strides towards that with a T12 finish on home soil two weeks ago.

Larrazabal was left frustrated last week, as he was second reserve for the WGC-HSBC Champions event, but did not get a chance to play in the event and carry on momentum from the previous week.

Luckily, he will be playing this week and he returns to a course he enjoyed last year, when finishing 8th. Prior to his effort here in 2016, Larrazabal’s best finish in this event was T52, so it is clear he was a fan of the switch in venue.

Another big positive for Larrazabal is his suitability to low-scoring events. Whilst none of his four wins have seen him post the -20 mark, all four have seen him shoot -14 or better (up to -17) which suggests he is capable of making enough birdies when the opportunity arises.

Last year his putting is what steered him to his top-8 finish, ranking 13th in both Putts per GIR and Putts per GIR, so a better ball-striking week this time around could see an even better result. He ranked just 31st in Greens in Regulation and 47th in Driving Accuracy here in 2016, so there is plenty of room for improvement and I am hoping he delivers this week.

He ranked just 44th in Greens in Regulation when T26 at the British Masters last month, but improved at Valderrama, ranking 28th so unsurprisingly climbed the leaderboard. Should he continue to trend in this direction, there’s a good chance he cracks the top-10 again this year and finds himself in contention.

Given the similar climate, it is perhaps no surprise that the Spanish contingent in last year’s field, led by Larrazabal performed well here, so that again is a bonus. Whilst it may not seem all that significant, similar weather can make you feel right at home, and that can only improve Larrazabal’s chances.

At 100/1 I think it is worth a flyer on a player who knows how to win, showed a liking for this course last year and is rounding into some better form of late.

Adrian Otaegui 125/1 (BetVictor) 0.5pt e/w:

Adrian Otaegui got his first win on the European Tour at the Paul Lawrie Match Play earlier in the season and can add a stroke-play win to his collection this week.

Like Larrazabal he has the advantage of feeling at home and that proved the case last year when finishing 13th on his course and event debut.

Also like his compatriot, Larrazabal, Otaegui did not hit enough greens here in 2016, ranking just 57th in the field over the course of the week, which meant he had to rely on one low round to achieve his good score.

A second-round 63 was enough to improve his week significantly, whilst rounds of 70, 71,71 over the other three days would not have been enough to make an impact on this course.

With a new-found belief and confidence following his opening win, Otaegui can improve greatly on last year’s showing and hopefully look at four rounds in the 60’s this time around.

He struck the ball well at Valderrama two weeks ago, ranking 10th in Driving Accuracy and 19th in Greens in Regulation and if he can warm up with the short-stick here, I expect he will contend.

Putting was not a problem for him at this course a year ago, as he ranked 7th in Putts per Round and 12th in Putts per GIR, so signs suggest he could be in for another big week.

Whilst Otaegui’s first win came in a different format, I wouldn’t be too concerned about his mental state when it comes to stroke-play. In the last three years, the 24-year-old has finished 2nd at the Lyoness Open, T3 in Denmark and T5 at the Porsche European Open, whilst also posting top-7 finishes at the Open de France and the Tshwane Open.

In a short career so far, which has been already been filled with highs and lows, it is clear that Otaegui has the talent required to perform at a high level on the European Tour and a win in this event would be further evidence of that.

At 125/1 I am confident Otaegui can build on his recent showing at home and his Match Play win in Scotland, thus cementing his position as one of the bright young players on the European Tour.

Total points staked this week: 8

Profit/Loss for 2017: -8.5

Justin Rose’s victory last week went a long way to helping the profit/loss column, but sub-par performances from Paul Casey and Olesen meant there wasn’t quite enough profit made in China to get back into the black.

This looks like another event where some value can be had on some good players, despite a small field on offer. This is of course helped by two elite players in the shape of Rose and Henrik Stenson headlining the event, both of whom played well last week.

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