The conclusion of the Race to Dubai and European Tour season looms as the first of the Final Series’ events tees off with the Turkish Airlines Open at Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort.
The remaining tournaments are all Rolex Series events offering boosted prize money and, therefore, Race to Dubai points meaning there’s plenty still that could change at the top.
World-number-19 Tommy Fleetwood tops the standings by over 800,000 points ahead of Sergio Garcia and will look to extend that as the Spaniard sits out despite winning in his last start at Valderrama.Embed from Getty Images
After overturning an eight-shot deficit, Justin Rose won the WGC-HSBC Champions last week and has risen to third; he does enter in Turkey and could build on that win and catch the top two up or further the gap between him and fourth placed Jon Rahm, who also sits out.
Tyrrell Hatton has two wins in his last three starts that have rocketed him up to fifth in the Race to Dubai and he is the third of the top five to enter. Other Race to Dubai high-flyers entering include Bernd Wiesberger (12th), Matthew Fitzpatrick (13th), Paul Dunne (14th) and Thomas Pieters (15th). With a collective prize-fund of $22.5million for the Final Series events, it’s not too late for any of the aforementioned to make a charge.
Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington and Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn add further calibre to an already impressive 78-man field made up of the top 70 available Race to Dubai players, five invitees and three Turkish players.
A three-shot victory for Thorbjørn Olesen last year was not as easy as it might appear; David Horsey closed to within one of the leader having started seven shots back before falling to tied second with Li Haotong and leaving the Dane to claim his fourth European Tour victory.Embed from Getty Images
Olesen enters, currently 27th in the Race to Dubai, to defend his title and is joined by Victor Dubuisson (2013 and 2015) as a returning champion. The event is only four years old so US Open winner Brooks Koepka (2014) is the only other past champion and he sits out this year.
Given the events immaturity, it’s difficult to make predictions. But it can be assumed that the scoring will be low; 20-under-par has been broken as the winning score in three of the four outings with 17-under the worst winning total.
Regnum Carya made its debut hosting this event last year and measures a fairly standard 7,186 yards as a par 71. Inspired by heathland, the course combines over one million heather plants, pine forestry and intricate hazards to create an exquisite and challenging track for the players.
Plateaus divide greens on this course and can almost create two separate putting surfaces. Hitting the correct ‘green’ on each hole could prove the difference between a good or bad score.
The course will again include the famous 16th tee box atop the roof of a villa.Embed from Getty Images
Players often play down the attention they pay to rankings or standings, but it’s hard to believe those in contention this week won’t have the Race to Dubai significance in the back of their mind.