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Turkish Airlines Open Preview

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We are in the business end of the 2013 European Tour season, and this week we see the start of a brand new tournament to the Tour, the Turkish Airlines Open. With the big prize fund, and valuable Race to Dubai points up for grabs, the players will be raring to go, on a course they won’t be so familiar with.

One person who will be slightly more familiar with the course is 31-time European Tour winner and former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie, who has played a pivotal part in developing the course this week. The Montgomerie Maxx Royal, named after the Scotsman, is as given away in the tournament title, based in Turkey and has become the first course in Turkey to play host to a regular European Tour event. Montgomerie Maxx Royal, has been described as “a  par 72, 6 486 metre masterpiece that stems partly from Montgomerie’s unique understanding of the game and partly from the magnificence of the parkland forest and seaside terrain over which the Maxx Royal wends its way.” Normally when looking at courses, we go by yardage, so we are looking at a 7,100 yard, par 72 course. This week it looks open to scoring, as there are a total of five par 5s on the course, two on the front 9, and three on the back, so scoring will be be more than possible coming down the stretch.

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When I asked European Tour winner Chris Wood for similarities he could think of in terms of courses, he replied with “it’s a bit Spanish” and after Steve Rawlings (@SteveThePunter) put two and two together, and mentioned the tree-lined design and compared it to Valderrama golf course, Wood replied once again saying that “Valderamma came up..!” So read into that what you will, combine that information with current form, and it may be a good recipe en-route to finding a winner. The course features eight lakes, that factor in around the course, throwing up hazards to challenge the players. Scoring should be fairly low as previously mentioned, so look to a player that can keep it rolling when he gets hot.

It’s a big week for players at the head of the Race To Dubai rankings, as Henrik Stenson still leads the way, only just from Graeme Mcdowell, as he looks to become a double-champion. After winning the FedEx Cup, clinching the Race To Dubai as well would really mark a fairytale end, to what has been described regularly this year as a comeback season for Stenson. The Swede will be keen to keep up the good work, and avoid the pressure that both McDowell and Ian Poulter will be putting on him in the penultimate event this week.

With this being a new event, it’s difficult to tell what exactly is required to win this event, and the course has not been used either, so this time next year it should be slightly easier. We have got snippets on information to go by, and with it being in the Mediterranean area we can look at players who have performed well in other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, such as France, Italy, Morocco and Spain. This may be a longshot, but there could be some similarities and it’s worth small consideration. I say it’s a longshot because even though the countries all border the Mediterranean, the areas that host the golf tournaments don’t always directly border it, therefore the coastline conditions don’t necessarily come into play, it was just something that interest me when looking at the form of particular players.

To summarise I’m looking at players who are in decent current form, play well in big events and are also competent at playing in the countries mentioned. The market looks fairly top heavy, mainly because the players at the head of the market have all won big events, or played well in those situations. Between favourite Tiger Woods and Charl Schwartzel, the top six in the betting, there are four major champions, Woods, Rose, Kaymer and Schwartzel, and the other two in this group Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter both have WGC titles to their name, as well as both being involved in major hunts. Stenson has also won the FedEx Cup, the PGA equivalent of what everyone’s playing for in the next two weeks here on the European Tour. Yes with all those names at the top it’s hard to see one of them not winning, but it only inflates the prices on outsiders you may fancy, and there’s plenty of steely competitors in this field.

With two events left of the 2013 European Tour season things are really shaping up for a big finish, and there’s still so much to play for, and with a massive purse to play for, players at this stage will not need much more motivation and current form will give a massive indication of what to expect. Players who like big-time events excel in these situations and that’s another factor I’ve considered when making my selections this week.

Here are my picks for this week’s Turkish Airlines Open.

Ian Poulter 16/1 (General) 4pts win: Ian Poulter is not normally a player I’d take at this sort of price, but this week I just have a very, very good feeling that he’s going to perform well, and therefore put his name well and truly in the hat for the Race To Dubai title.

Not only is he in very good current form, but he’s also got a lot to play for, something I believe plays to Ian Poulter’s strengths. He came 2nd last week, only to Dustin Johnson’s brilliance, and looked really good value for his 2nd place finish. On many others occasions, the way both Poulter and McDowell played would of been enough, but Johnson was absolutely relentless, and it just sets up Poulter to keep it going, and go and get the win this week.

Yes Poulter hasn’t won this year, but it was only a year ago that he got his win at the WGC-HSBC, one week prior to this date, so maybe November will be lucky for him again. Due to him not winning this year, no one’s really talked about his season, but his consistency may surprise a few, especially those who may not of noticed his clear-cut chance of winning the Race To Dubai (Order of Merit) prize. He’s missed just one cut on European Tour and the only real disappointment has been his results in both the Masters and the PGA Championship, two of the majors and also the flagship event the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Other than that he’s looked good, with his final charge on the last day of  The Open a particular highlight.

He’s finished T15 and 2nd in his last two weeks and that in itself was nearly enough for me, but one further factor made me even more keen to back the Englishman. Poulter won the Volvo Masters Andalucia in 2004, which was held at Valderamma, a course that Chris Wood mentioned had similarities, when talking about the course this week (as mentioned above). He’s also won in Italy twice, and performed well in France if you’ve taken any interest in the link to those countries I mentioned earlier. All in all I just think, that when it really matters Ian Poulter plays his best, as proved at WGC events that he’s won, major’s he’s shone at, and most obviously his play at Ryder Cups. Although he’s failed to win a major so far in his career, I think he’s got the perfect attitude for one, and if he’s game’s in good shape, which it is right now, he’s a threat in these sort of events.

Bernd Wiesberger 35/1 (PaddyPower) 2pts e/w: Wiesberger is one of my favourite players on the European Tour, he looks involved in almost every tournament he plays, and with only two missed cuts on the year, one a major he’s certainly proved he’s consistent.

Like Poulter, Wiesberger has not won this year, but he’s looked like doing so on multiple occasions, and although ulitmately he’s failed to do so, there’s still positive signs. He is a player who, like any other who puts themselves in contention so often, gets frustrated when he makes that costly error, that ultimately costs him the chance of winning, but he is also dusts himself off well and gets back in the right mind to challenge again.

He has finished in the top-5, five times this season and after seeing him win twice on Tour in 2012 many would of expected him to back that up in 2013. Although he’s not proved himself yet in big-time events like Poulter has, I do think that when on form, he has the game to do so and if he can get a win this week, his belief will shoot up yet another notch. He hits his fair share of Greens In Regulation (over 70%) and ranks 23rd in that category, so if he can get his putter hot this week, he is definitely a player I can see at the top of the leader board come Sunday. He can certainly shoot low scores, something he’s proved on at least five occasions this year, finishing in double digits under par on the week, and I fancy him to do that again this week.

Since missing his 2nd cut of the year at the Wales Open, he has finished, T23, T12, T3 and T17 with the latter two being his most recent finishes, so he can certainly bounce back from disappointing weeks. When the fields aren’t as strong Wiesberger often looks a class above, and his price reflects, so to take the next step in his career he will need to start competing with the World’s best, something he has a chance to do this week. At 35/1 I thought he was an interesting selection and winning this sort of event will really boost his profile in World golf.

Matteo Manassero 66/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w: Manassero is another player that I’m a big fan of, and having watched him live during his win at Wentworth earlier this year only made me like his golf game that bit more.

Since that win though, the young Italian has been very quiet, and somewhat disappointing, so he’ll be looking to turn his game around this week when it really matters. The week after his win he came T4 at the Nordea Masters and one stage looked like going back-to-back, but it wasn’t to be, and since then he’s not managed to finish inside the top-20. There is however no doubt he is one of the most talented young golfers in the game, and with four European Tour wins to his name, by the age of 20, there’s no reason to think that he won’t come back at any time and win again.

He is a very accurate player tee-to-green, which he has to be to make up for his lack of distance, but this downside to his game has not plagued him so far and hopefully he can find a way to get his swing back to it’s best this week. If he simplifies things, and sticks to what he does best then he can compete at the highest level, something he does often for someone of his age.

He has also won in the Mediterranean area already in his career, when he grabbed his first European Tour title at the Castello Masters, so he knows how to play in the conditions. He looks very solid on the greens when in contention and all of his last three wins and have come at prestigious tournaments, so the occasion shouldn’t get the better of him.

Manassero is a player that has been dealing with extra attention all of his golfing career due to his accomplishments so early on, but now he needs to find consistency once again, and put himself back in contention more often to further his career for the better. There is no doubt he has the ability to win, and his only real weakness is his length which hasn’t proved much of a problem so far, so at 66/1 I’m happy to go with Manassero, and hope that he can put in the performance every one knows he’s capable of, including himself.

Raphael Jacquelin 300/1 (StanJames and Coral) 1pt e/w: Raphael Jacquelin does not fit the bill, when looking at current form, what he does do is play Mediterranean coastline golf well though, and that and one other factor is why I thought 300/1 was a bit big for the Frenchman.

First of all, we know Jacquelin can win, he’s won four times on the European Tour, and looks pretty calm when doing so, so I don’t think nerves are a thing to consider, even in this field. What is a negative on Jacquelin this week, is that he’s not someone who competes with the top names in the golfing world very often, and when he does he’s not always succeeded. However he has finished in the top 10 at The Open Championship, when coming 8th back in 2011 and also a T21 at the U.S Open so he has experienced pressured situations, and hopefully he can deal with it again this week.

The wins he has had in the Mediterranean area, are the Sicilian Open, back in 2011, and again this year at the Open De Espana, which is situated in Valencia, so both relevant to our link. He won the Sicilian Open by one stroke, and the Open De Espana in a 9-hole play-off, so he knows how to grind his way to victory, playing his own game and getting it done when in contention so if he’s going to up his game this week, it would good to see how he copes with the additional pressure, potentially from the likes of Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.

Another reason I like Jacquelin at such a big price is due to the link made to Valderamma golf course. He’s played there three times, once in 2004 when he didn’t impress, but then twice more in 2010 and 2011, finishing T7th and T15th respectively, both good efforts. Add this to the wins mentioned above and it looks the like the course should set up well for him, and hopefully this shows when he returns to form this week.

He is out of form, and you’d be forgiven for completely writing him off, but he had not finished any higher than T30 all season before getting his win, so therefore is not a player that particularly relies on good play in previous weeks, but rather puts it all together one week, and shows what he’s capable of. I’m hoping he can show something this week, but it’s mainly due to what I think is a big price, and I would not be surprised whichever way he goes this week, as he’s somewhat unpredictable at times.

Total Points Staked on the European Tour this week: 13

Profit/Loss for 2013: +59.25

Another disappointing week last week, with none of our selections putting up much of a fight against eventual winner Dustin Johnson, so I’m hoping that can change this week. It’s time to get back in contention this week, ahead of the season ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. If you have any comments or feedback, anything would be much appreciated and you can get in touch via my Twitter page @TomJacobs8.