Rory heads stellar field in Turkey

The Turkish Airlines Open is the first event of the European Tour's Final Series

Rory McIlroy will start favourite in the Turkish Airlines Open
Rory McIlroy will start favourite in the Turkish Airlines Open
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The European Tour’s Final Series kicks off this week with the Turkish Airlines Open over the Montgomerie Maxx Royal course in Antalya. Rory McIlroy will start as favourite.

There’s a limited field for this event with just 78 players on the start sheet. The top-60 on the World Ranking are eligible, then there are four invites and three players nominated by the Turkish Golf Federation. After that the field is made up of the leading players on the Race to Dubai.

Rory McIlroy is the highest ranked player on the start sheet this week and he’ll be the star attraction in Antalya. Other big name players teeing it up include: Lee Westwood, Charl Schwartzel, Shane Lowry and Danny Willett.

This is only the third time this event has been held on the European Tour. Last year, Brooks Koepka of the USA was the champion and in 2013, Victor Dubuisson of France came out on top.

With a prize fund of $7 million, this is one of the richest events on the European Tour circuit and it provides the entrants with a fantastic chance to take a significant step up the Race to Dubai rankings.

Opened for play in 2008, the course at Montgomerie Maxx Royal is one of the very best in the Antalya region. Designed by the Ryder Cup legend, together with European Golf Design, it’s set across 257 acres of undulating terrain, with fairways carpeted in sandy turf meandering through mature pine forests and past a total of eight lakes.

It may stretch to over 7,100 yards, but this is a layout where strategy is key. There are some good “risk-reward” drives and the rolling fairways mean a shot travelling too far can roll into one of the cleverly placed bunkers or tricky waste areas that bound a number of fairways.

But, it’s also a course that can produce low scoring – Brooks Koepka was 17-under last year and Victor Dubuisson won in 2013 with a total of 24-under-par.

The weather forecast looks set fair with dry, consistent conditions likely. It should be perfect for scoring.

Venue: The Montgomerie Maxx Royal, Antalya, Turkey Date: Oct 29 – Nov 1 Course stats: par 72, 7,133 yards Purse: $7,000,000 Defending Champion: Brooks Koepka (-17)

TV Coverage: Thursday 29 – Sky Sports 4 from 9am Friday 30 – Sky Sports 4 from 9am Saturday 31 – Sky Sports 4 from 9am Sunday 1 – Sky Sports 4 from 8.30am

Player watch: English players have won the last three tournaments on the European Tour and the country will be well represented again this week. Three Englishmen to look out for are:

Ian Poulter – He’s trying to make sure he plays in the requisite 13 tournaments in order to be eligible for selection for the 2016 Ryder Cup. The mission seems to have stirred his competitive juices and he looked pumped in Hong Kong last week. Although he faded on the weekend, he showed good form. He was second in this event last year.

Danny Willett – Currently second in the Race to Dubai, Willett has had a superb season. He’s 26th on the Official World Ranking and will be looking to end the year on a high. He was tied fourth in this event last year.

Danny Willett on iron play:

Matthew Fitzpatrick – The youngster is on fabulous form right now with three third place finishes and a victory in his last six starts on the European Tour. He’s making the game look easy and there’s no reason to think his good run will stop this week.

Key hole: 18th. A par-5 of over 550 yards it will be reachable in two for the longer hitters. The fairway is separated into sections by waste areas so distance control is key. Water lurks left of the green and bunkers wait short of the putting surface. There’s definitely potential for the odd eagle here and that could be crucial as the event reaches its climax.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?