The sixth Rolex Series event of the season has arrived, and as the Race to Dubai heats up on the final stretch, these are the facts before the big-money tournament in Antalya kicks off on Thursday.
Brandon Stone continues his push towards the bonus purse shared by the top 10 at the end of the Race to Dubai by starting this week in 16th place. With only two of the top 10 in action, a big week could help the Scottish Open into a healthy end of year pay cheque. European Tour rookie Erik van Rooyen, who crossed the one million euros mark last week in Shanghai, also starts with Dean Burmester and George Coetzee ready to end the season on a high.
Trevor Immelman, Thomas Aiken and Richard Sterne round out the Saffa contingent this week.
The golden Fox
The Turkish Airlines Open is the 14th Rolex Series tournament to be played since the inception of the premium category of events on the Race to Dubai in 2017. Since the inaugural event, the 2017 BMW PGA Championship, no player has earned more top ten finishes in the Rolex Series than New Zealand’s Ryan Fox. The 31-year-old Challenge Tour graduate has shone on the big stage, tallying six top tens against the strongest fields on the European Tour. After losing in a dramatic play-off to Russell Knox, narrowly missing out on his first European Tour win at this year’s Irish Open , the Kiwi will be hungrier than ever when he tees it up at Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort.
Tommy, Tommy, Tommy
With only three tournaments remaining in the 2018 Race to Dubai, the man who topped last year’s season-long points race, Tommy Fleetwood, still has a chance to defend his European Number One crown. This may just cause a rift in the ‘bromance’ he shares with Ryder Cup teammate and current Race to Dubai leader Francesco Molinari, though. Fleetwood currently trails Molinari by 1,207,383 points and will surely need a win, or at the very least a string of high finishes, to better the other half of the now famed ‘Moliwood’.
Rose and crown
When Justin Rose birdied the 72nd hole to win last year’s Turkish Airlines Open, he claimed his first Rolex Series victory, his second trophy in the space of two weeks and his tenth European Tour title. If history is any indicator, the Englishman, who is one of five Major Champions in the field this week, will have his work cut out for him in his title defence. In the tournament’s five-year history, no player has ever successfully defended his crown the following year. Interestingly though, Victor Dubuisson’s only two European Tour wins have both come at the Turkish Airlines Open in 2013 and 2015.
Ryder Cup calibre
Since being added to the European Tour’s International Schedule, every winner of the Turkish Airlines Open has gone on to play in The Ryder Cup. Frenchman Dubuisson won the inaugural tournament in 2013 and then went undefeated at The 2014 Ryder Cup, helping Team Europe to a decisive victory at Gleneagles. Current World Number One Brooks Koepka was crowned Turkish Airlines Open Champion in 2014 and has competed in the last two Ryder Cups during his climb to the summit of the Official World Golf Ranking. Thorbjorn Olesen, the 2016 champion, competed in the biennial event for the first time a little over a month ago and was joined by last year’s Turkish Airlines Open Champion Justin Rose who won his fourth career Ryder Cup this September in Paris.
England vs Spain
Winners of the 14 previous Rolex Series events are represented by seven different countries, but tied at the top of the list with three victories apiece are England and Spain. Englishmen Fleetwood, Rose and Tyrrell Hatton have all claimed Rolex Series wins, while Jon Rahm, who has two of the prestigious titles, and Rafa Cabrera Bello have secured a golden trifecta for Spain. In the battle to become the most successful Rolex Series nation, keep an eye on players from both England and Spain, but do not lose sight of the Swedes. Alex Noren has two Rolex Series trophies — the only man to win a premium category tournament in consecutive seasons — and a win from any of his fellow countrymen would see the Nordic nation match England and Spain on top.