The Turkish Airlines Open is the first of the three playoff events which will determine who wins the Race to Dubai and it would be appropriate if Francesco Molinari was the top dog in Europe this season. The Italian won the two most prestigious events played in Britain and won five points from five matches in the Ryder Cup. He leads the Race to Dubai by over 1.2 million points and the player in second place is his partner in crime, Tommy Fleetwood.
Molinari and Fleetwood form golf’s most famous bromance and it would be great for European golf if they went head-to-head in Dubai over the weekend with the title up for grabs. Fleetwood was the European number one last season and a win this week with Molinari not playing would make the Race to Dubai interesting with just two remaining qualifying events. The Turkish Airlines Open is being played at a golf resort in Antayla for the third successive year. Justin Rose and Thorbjorn Olesen are the course winners taking part.
The course is a par 71 and measures 7,159 yards. There is only one par 5 on the front nine and it measures over 600 yards. The two other long holes at 12 and 15 are reachable in two shots so there will be plenty of eagles and birdie opportunities. Seven of the par 4s measure less than 450 yards on a course that rewards accuracy over distance. The layout suits Rose more than Fleetwood but both players have had long and mentally demanding seasons and other players are preferred.
Rose birdied the 72nd hole to clinch the Turkish Airlines Open in 2017. It was his second win in two weeks and 10th European Tour title. In the tournament’s five year history no player has won back-to-back and Rose needs a good week to get into contention for the Race to Dubai. He is over 2 million points behind Molinari and would have to win at least twice during the playoffs to overhaul the race leader. Rory McIlroy is fifth in the standings but is not playing in Turkey.
The Turkish Airlines Open was added to the European Tour schedule in 2013 and every winner has been a past or future Ryder Cup player. Brooks Koepka won the tournament in 2014 and after winning two majors in 2018 is currently the world number one. The nature of the course and the prize money at stake means the cream rises to the top and one of the leading contenders prevails. The champion is of Ryder Cup calibre and Thorbjorn Olesen played for Europe in the match this year.
In winning last year Rose was fifth for driving accuracy and 2nd for greens in regulation. He also finished in the top 15 for driving distance and GIR putting so clearly a player must have a good all-round game to contend. Olesen was fifth last year when he was first for putts per round and fifth for putting when finding the green in the correct number of shots. His driving and second shot accuracy falls short of the standard required to win this week but his putting could compensate. However, another Ryder Cup player has the game to beat the field.
Ian Poulter has not played much golf in Europe this season because he has a PGA Tour card. He is based in the States and concentrates on the US tour. He had another good Ryder Cup in France last month and confidence restored he is not afraid to get in contention in the lucrative events. This week Poulter could become another Ryder Cup player to win the Turkish Airlines Open and start thinking about winning the Race to Dubai.