We have another good field on the European Tour this week, as is expected now that we are at the final stages of the season.
Only four people can mathematically win the Race to Dubai title, with Rory McIlroy owning what looks to be an insurmountable lead over Jamie Donaldson, Sergio Garcia and Marcel Siem.
All three players chasing McIlroy would have to win the next two events, and McIlroy himself would also have to finish outside of the top half a dozen places at the final event next week to slip up, so it looks as though he will be taking the bonus home.
So onto to this week, and what players will need to do in order to win here at the Turkish Airlines Open.
The Montgomerie Maxx Royal, this week’s host course is a par 72, measures 7,100 yards and unlike other courses, this layout has five par 5’s and five par 3’s. The front 9 is the longer half of the course, but the back 9 is tighter so players will face different tests on either side. The scoring was particularly low last year, and as a result they may well toughen up the course this year, but there will always be a chance to shoot a low round due to the five par 5’s, and players will want to take advantage of that here.
Last year, Victor Dubuisson won this event in what was his first on Tour, and he did it in some style. He finished the week on -24, two clear of runner-up, Jamie Donaldson and four ahead of two of the World’s best and most recognised players, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods.
This elevated Dubuisson’s reputation significantly, and he has continued to raise his profile ever since. Although the Frenchman has not won since this time last year, he did finish runner-up to Jason Day in the WGC World Match-Play, where he played some phenomenal recovery shots, and also won three matches at this year’s Ryder Cup.
As a result he will go into this week with a lot higher expectations and rather than being three-figure odds, he comes in at a more modest 22/1 this time around.
When previewing this event last year, I took to Twitter and asked European Tour winner, Chris Wood what he thought about the course and any comparison he could make and he said “it’s a bit Spanish” and also admitted that “Valderrama came up…! ” in discussion, and that gave me an angle. Thanks to Chris’ comments I looked into players form on Mediterranean courses, and the aforementioned Valderamma. This thought process contributed to me picking Ian Poulter and Raphael Jacquelin, the latter being a 300/1 outsider. Both players came 5th, and Bernd Wiesberger who I also picked came 7th, so I won’t disregard that formula this time around.
Here are my picks for the 2014 Turkish Airlines Open.
Ian Poulter 25/1 (General) 2pts e/w: Ian Poulter loves November. He may of had a disappointing season, and even a somewhat underwhelming Ryder Cup, but he still managed his second best finish of the season so far, finishing 6th in Shanghai last week.
Despite a recent equipment change (now using Titleist equipment), Ian Poulter looks ready to repeat last year’s final four heroics, where he posted finishes of 15th, 2nd, 5th and 2nd, as he chased down the Race to Dubai prize. Although he hasn’t got the same motivation this time around as he’s firmly out of the frame for the title, he will look to build on last week’s 6th and go well again at this course.
He finished 5th here last year, and although confidence never seems to be an issue of his, the top-10 last week in the HSBC Champions event will of done him wonders going forward.
Poulter fits the Mediterranean theme well, as he has won twice in Italy, once at Valderamma and also played well in France, and just like last year this is a factor in my decision to pick him. He was playing better last time around, finishing 15th and 2nd the two weeks prior to this event, but I am fully confident he can carry over his play from last week and post another great finish here.
Although 25/1 may seem slightly short for someone who hasn’t played at his best all season, I am still happy to have him on side, just as I was at 16/1 last year.
Joost Luiten 28/1 (BetFred, Boylesports) 1.5pts e/w: Joost Luiten ticks a lot of boxes for me this week, and again although 30/1 doesn’t seem particularly generous, I do rate his chances highly and therefore think there is some value in the price.
In his last ten events, Luiten has only missed one cut, and he has also won in that time and finished in the top-5 three times, so it’s fair to say he’s playing some top golf at the moment. He has finished 28th and 13th in his last two weeks, and he also finished 18th in this event last season so everything seems to bode well for him.
On the Mediterranean form theme, Luiten has it in abundance this season. He finished 4th at the Open De Espana and T4 at the Open D’Italia, and also posted a top-20 in France so it’s fair to say he’s been playing well in the right parts of the world, if like me you believe there is a legitimate link there.
The Dutchman is very capable of shooting low rounds, as he has demonstrated all season long, and whilst he’s on the run of form he’s been in over the last ten events, it would be silly to rule him out here.
He won twice last year, and also notched another win in Wales this year so after taking his tally to four wins on the European Tour he really does look a real contender in these big events, and if he can win one of these play-off events the next step will be conteding in WGC events and Majors which he will no doubt be keen to do.
Marc Warren 66/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Marc Warren has had a very solid year on the European Tour, as he won in Denmark and finished in the top 5 on a couple more occasions. He also missed one cut since March, so he’s been steady all year even when he hasn’t been in contention.
He has struggled in the last couple of weeks, but that is probably no small part down to the bad case of food poisoning he’s been dealing with.
He’s a very steady player, and after getting another win on Tour this year, he looks in good shape to contend in these events.
Last year, Warren finished 7th in this event and shot 66,65 over the weekend so he should be capable of firing low rounds on this course.
Although he wasn’t at his best last week, finishing T43 at the BMW Masters, I am hoping he is back to somewhat full fitness and can match, and hopefully improve on his showing here in 2013.