Turkish Airlines Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
IT IS fair to say that Justin Rose likes the Turkish Airlines Open. He has won it twice in a row and will return for the latest version at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal, where he will attempt to become the first player in almost 20 years to win the same event three times in a row. It is the sixth Rolex Series event on the Race to Dubai and, with just one more event after this until the Dubai World Championship, it holds special significance for those who still have aspirations to finish the year as Europe’s number one.
Rose won the tournament in Antalya in 2017 and 2018 with a cumulative total of 35 under par. He also won the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final in an elite field that included Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy – in 2012. His third place at the inaugural Turkish Airlines Open in 2013 is his worst finish in four visits to Turkey. Such has been his impact that in 2017 he was presented with Turkey’s Distinguished Service Award for his charity work by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavasoglu. It is easy to forget that most of the world’s highly-paid golfers pit a great deal of time and effort into charity work, and Rose is no exception.
Now in its seventh edition, the tournament returns to the Montgomerie Maxx Royal, which hosted the first three Turkish Airlines Opens, and Rose will attempt to become just the fourth player – and the first since Colin Montgomerie in 2000 – to win three successive European Tour tournaments.
He said: “I’ve enjoyed a great run at the Turkish Airlines Open and have a lot of happy memories of Antalya, on and off the course. Myself and my family love it there and the welcome is always so warm. I had never won two consecutive times at the same tournament before, let alone three, so that would be incredible but you can’t take anything for granted in golf. It will be a strong field as always and I’ll just prepare as well as I can and try to be in the mix on Sunday. We’re back at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal this year and I remember it being a great course and venue and I’m sure it will be another superb tournament.”
Ahmet Olmutur, the chief marketing officer of Turkish Airlines said: “Turkish Airlines is delighted that Justin Rose will be back in Antalya to defend his Turkish Airlines Open title. He has set new standards here and it will take an impressive performance from anyone to take the trophy away from him. We are now in our seventh year as one of Europe’s biggest tournaments and excitement is building for another great week at the Mongomerie Maxx Royal.”
The President of the Turkish Golf Federation, said: “Justin is central to the Turkish Airlines Open story and it is an honour to be welcoming him back to Turkey once again. He has been one of the best players in the world for so long and is a great ambassador for the sport. I am certain that once again he will be a key figure in a brilliant tournament.”
Last year Rose defeated Li Haotong in a playoff after starting the day trailing Li by three shots. By the time he came to the 15th tee, Rose had turned things around and led by two until Li eagled the hole. They both dropped a shot and finished the tournament on 17 under par. Li then three-putted on the first trip back up the par-four last to hand victory to Rose, a win that took him back to the top of the world rankings at the time.
Belgian Thomas Detry and Spaniard Adrian Otaegui both signed for rounds of 65 to sit two shots out of the play-off at 15 under. Dane Lucas Bjerregaard and German Martin Kaymer were at 14 under, a shot clear English pair Tommy Fleetwood and Danny Willett, and another Dane in Thorbjørn Olesen.
It was the first time in his career that he had successfully defended a title, and he was thrilled. “It's taken me 20 years to achieve this, so that's great,” he said. “I've had some pressure-packed Sundays of late, dare I say, coming away with consolation prizes in a way. World Number One after losing in a playoff, finishing fourth but winning the FedExCup. I was keenly aware I wanted to get back in the winner's circle and it was good to get it done today.
“The fun thing is I still feel like there's improvement to be had and that's what I'm looking for. I'm really looking forward to the off-season to still work at a few things and still get better. I think that's the exciting part, at 38, I still feel like there is improvement to be achieved. More Majors, that's what I'm interested in, trying to chase down as many as I can.”
Li needed to get up and down to save par on the first but he could not repeat the feat on the second and his lead was cut to two shots. Rose hit the green in two at the par-five seventh for a birdie and had a share of the lead when he put his approach to six feet on the tenth. Li had been fighting hard to make eight pars in a row but he missed the green on the 11th and when a short missed putt followed, he was one behind.
Rose and Li both got up and down from the side of the green - with Rose getting some good fortune when he hit the pin - on the 12th for birdie, and the whole event had a different complexion when he put his tee-shot on the 14th to eight feet for a two-shot lead. Li then struck a wondrous shot to two feet at the par-five 15th and with Rose three-putting, they were tied at the top.
A Li approach to six feet on the next heaped the pressure on Rose but the Englishman’s second was even closer and it was Rose who walked off the green with a birdie and a one-shot lead. A three-putt on the 17th levelled things up again and both men missed putts from inside six feet on the last for a pair of closing bogeys.
“It was a tough day for me, honestly,” said Li. “The playoff, I saw that ball definitely go in. I played well the whole week but didn't hole a few putts on the last and that was it. It's a pretty good round, especially against Rosey who's such a nice guy. Hopefully next time I can play better.”
The field comprises 78 players - in theory, the top 70 in the Race to Dubai, three Turkish golfers and five invitees. Sadly, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey have all decided to give the tournament a miss, but there will still be a star-studded field, including Race to Dubai leader Bernd Wiesberger, Open champion Shane Lowry, Matt Wallace, 2018 Open champion Francesco Molinari, American star Patrick Reed and a resurgent Danny Willett.
Willett is still riding the crest of a wave after his sensational victory at the BMW PGA Championship in what was one of the most heartwarming stories of what has been an eventful European Tour season. Wiesberger has won three times, Lowry has two wins to his credit, while Wallace has produced a string of consistent performances. But the real surprise package of 2019, and a shoo-in for rookie of the year honours, is Robert MacIntyre. The Scottish left-hander seems to contend almost every time he tees the ball up. All that he needs now is a win, and this would be a good time to break his duck.
But if you are looking for a good each-way bet then you should be backing Martin Kaymer, whose form continues to improve. It has been far too long since he last won and he has worked tirelessly to get his game back on track. This just might be week he finally breaks through once again.
The tournament was won in 2013 and 2015 by Victor Dubuisson, in 2014 by Brooks Koepka, in 2016 by Thorbjorn Olesen, and in 2017 and 2018 by Justin Rose.
Martin Kaymer. Ready to win again
Justin Rose. Just loves Turkey
Matt Wallace. Desperate for a big win
Martin Kaymer. Close to his best again
Justin Rose. Going for third successive win
Matt Wallace. Brilliant ball striker
Danny Willett. Great to see him back
Patrick Reed. Terrific competitor
Francesco Molinari. Probably best iron player in the field
Robert MacIntyre. Victory would be perfect end to a brilliant season
Shane Lowry. Now a world-class performer
Kurt Kitayama. MacIntyre’s only rival for rookie of the year honours
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