The penultimate tournament of the European Tour season takes the tour to it’s newest host venue, the picturesque Montgomerie Maxx Royal course in Anatalya, Turkey. As the name suggests, Colin Montgomerie played a major part in designing the course, in conjunction with European Tour Design. With five Par-3’s & five Par-5’s, the course sets up nicely for match play golf and it would be no surprise to see it utilised for such means in the future. That’s not say it won’t set up nicely for stroke play golf this week and at 7100 yards, it is long enough to provide a stiff driving test without unduly favouring the longer hitters. Montgomerie has described Maxx Royal as one of his finest course creations so it will be very interesting to see how the players fare around it.
Much of the publicity and build up to the tournament this week will doubtless be focused on Tiger Woods as he seeks his seven win of 2013, Tiger is never one to write off lightly but the fact is that his record on courses he’s never played before is not exceptional so I don’t feel he is a winner this week. The bigger story for golf fans is the battle to make the final 60 in the Race To Dubai and with it a place in the season ending event in Dubai next week. Luke Donald has opted not to compete this week and has he is placed 55th in the standings, he will be keeping a close eye on those players in the field who are outside the top 60 currently. Inevitably, the fortunes of those looking to move into the top 60 and those looking retain their top 60 position will fluctuate as the tournament progresses.
With no course form or experiences, finding the right type of player to look out for this week is a more difficult ask than in other weeks. There is possibly an emphasis on strong approach play to greens but looking at other Montgomerie designed courses that have been used in tournament play may well provide clues, Those being Carton House, which hosted this year’s Irish Open as well as the 2006 & 2005 Irish Opens and Riffa Views in Bahrain, host of 2011’s Volvo Champions event. Paul Casey would be an obvious pick this week having won on both courses and his current form does little to deter me but his putting is holding him back at present so he is swerved. Padraig Harrington also has decent form at Carton House but his current mindset is a worry so is best left alone in favour of these three picks
Ross Fisher is the first of my selections and having had a week off while Dustin Johnson led the field at Sheshan, he should be fresh and ready to go this week. His form is very encouraging, arguably not at his best in Shanghai two weeks ago but he has posted three top fives and a top ten in last six starts. He has good form at Carton House where he has finished 22nd and 5th in his two appearances there and at 46th in the Race To Dubai, he will be focused on those ahead of him not behind this week. Similar to Casey, it is his putter that holds him back at times, he’s ranked 6th in GIR and 3rd in Stroke Average but 136th in putts per round. I am happy to take a chance on him this week on the basis that his putter worked well enough in Perth two starts back when losing in a playoff to Jeong and his overall form looks solid.
In contrast to Fisher, my second pick is a very solid on the greens. Thomas Bjorn has shown in the past four years that age is no boundary for him with five wins in that period, the most recent coming in Crans just six weeks ago. Like Fisher (and my third pick) he knows he is safely on his way to Dubai next week but will want to make sure of his place in the worlds top 50 for the end of the year to guarantee his place at Augusta in April. Sheshan was always going to be too long for Bjorn, but his scores got better as the week progressed, he finished tied fifth in Shanghai the previous week where he progressed in similar fashion with each round. Bjorn won at Carton House in 2006 and performed well there this year despite a poor final round, so Montgomerie designs must suit his eye.
Finally, Stephen Gallagher makes appeal this week despite his two performances in China in the Final Series. He will be very eager to return to Dubai on the back of decent week having won there in February, albeit on a different course to next week’s tournament. Interestingly though he has on a strange run of form where he is producing good finishes like his third place in Portugal or second place at Gleneagles amongst on the whole average looking performances hence a form line of 63-53-3-156-9-WD-2. His length off the tee will be an advantage on the five par-5 holes around Maxx Royal and the small matter of a home Ryder Cup will provide extra incentive for him not to spurn the chance to take advantage of a big prize fund for a third week. He came fourth at Riffa Views in 2011 so is worth a chance.
- GTC: What We Learned: Future of golf looks athletic (golfchannel.com)
- GTC: There’s still a feast of golf left in 2013 (golfchannel.com)