As the first leg of the European Tour’s final series approaches, the question still beckons: is there anyone still playing the Turkish Airlines Open?
The Race to Dubai’s number one and three, Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy, will not be at the event in Turkey with only three tournaments left to play this season.
Initially it appeared that Stenson had withdrawn from playing until he took to Twitter to say:
Regarding @TurkishAirlinesOpen, I have not w/d, I was never entered in the first place due to scheduling. Good luck to those who are playing
— Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) November 1, 2016
McIlroy, however, did elect to withdraw on ‘obvious’ safety grounds due to recent missile strikes in the hosting city of Antalya.
The Northern-Irishman has been followed by the likes of Patrick Reed, Russell Knox and Charl Schwartzel in withdrawing.
No-one was killed or injured as a result of the missile strikes, but the US State Department has advised Americans to ‘avoid travel to Southeast Turkey and carefully consider the risks of travel [to Turkey]’.
The answer to the opening question, however, is yes. A 78-strong field will compete at the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort for the fourth title of the tournament.
One of which is the Race to Dubai’s second placed, and world number 10, Danny Willett who has a huge opportunity to take the helm of the European Tour’s money list with a solid placing in Turkey in the absence of Stenson and McIlory.
Willett will be joined by two-time Turkish Airlines Open winner, and defending champion, Victor Dubuisson. The Frenchman won this event in both 2015 and 2013 and has a combined score of 55-under-par across three appearances in Turkey.
Dubuisson and Willett make up two thirds of perhaps the marquee opening round pairing with Ryder Cup man Andy Sullivan, who heads to Turkey on the back of a second place finish at the Portugal Masters.
The man who beat Sullivan to the Portugal Masters title, Padraig Harrington, will also be in Antalya along with Englishmen Lee Westwood and Tyrrell Hatton.
The Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort hosts the Turkish Airlines Open for the first time; the tournament has been hosted at Montgomerie Maxx Royal since its 2013 inception. The resort may come under scrutiny as it’s the first time it has hosted a European Tour event.
The course measures a modest 7127 yards at par 72, but the test may come with the putter. Large undulating greens, many of which include plateaus, means there are almost two greens per hole at times, and hitting the right ones can be crucial to making a good score.
On the 16th hole the most unique aspect of this event can be found; the hole’s tee box is set up 20 foot high – atop one of the course’s villas.
A prize fund of $7,000,000 will be shared between the field, that includes 73 of the top 100 ranked in the Race to Dubai, with the winner taking a hefty $1,250,000.
Willett currently trails Stenson by less than 300,000 points. Accounting for the distrubution of money amongst the tournament’s highest finishers, Willett will require a finish in the top nine in order to leapfrog Stenson in the Race to Dubai heading into the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.