THERE'S a touch of retro-TV nostalgia about the final three weeks of the European Tour’s season. After last week’s venture to China for a World Golf Championship the Race to Dubai concludes with a 3-2-1 of Rolex Series events.
This week’s Turkish Airlines Open and next week’s Nedbank Challenge will hone the rankings to a neat top 50 who then progress to the DP World Tour Championship. Justin Rose is eyeing a hat-trick of wins in this week’s tournament, whilst Bernd Wiesberger and Shane Lowry continue their tussle at the top of the rankings. The value, however, is elsewhere.
This week’s edition of the tournament returns to the original venue, the Montgomerie Maxx Royal, which hosted in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In the first of those renewals Englishman Willett initially struggled, three times failing to break 70, and whilst his last round of 67 only boosted him to T63rd, it was a sign of better things to come. A year later he landed fourth and 12 months after that T11th. Add to the good vibes about the golf resort of Belek is the fact that last year he finished seventh at Carya Golf Club.
That effort this time last year prompted him to believe that another win was around the corner and he proved it soon after, claiming the DP World Tour Championship. He pushed on in 2019, claiming top 15 finishes in the U.S. Open and Open ahead of winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. His form last week in China was not great, but, with the odd exception, he’s always had his problems on that course and he remains chipper enough about his general form and the direction his career is taking now he is injury-free.
— Turkish Airlines Golf (@T_A_Golf) November 5, 2019
This has been a frustrating year for the Swede who burst into the European Ryder Cup, performed with enough credit there, but hasn’t been able to kick on. In fact, incredibly, he is yet to land even one top ten anywhere in the world through 2019. A key reason for that is his commitment to the PGA Tour, but there are good reasons to think he has it in him to rediscover the joy of contending in the near future. The first is that he is simply getting closer. In his first 20 starts of the year he found the top 20 just three times and he has doubled that tally in his last four appearances.
Some may baulk at his course record which shows a withdrawal in 2013 and T66th in 2015. But he was injured in the first instance and returning from a (different) five month injury break in the second. Prefer to recall that ahead of this season Noren had a three year spell of 17 top tens in 54 European Tour starts which included six wins. He’s a quality performer, he knows how to win and he’s hungry for success sooner rather than later.
It’s been quite the end-of-season for the Dane who entered the final weeks with his card for 2020 very far from being safe after a year when he made plenty of cuts, but failed to push on and secure big cheques. That all changed at the Open de Espana, with a fourth place that wrapped up his playing rights and he promptly got himself into contention at the Italian Open before accepting T25th, and then repeated the trick at the Open de France. In Paris, however, there was no slow reverse on Saturday. Instead he made a nine on the par-4 13th, not so much unlucky as downright disastrous. Except for the fact that he responded with four straight birdies to eventually play the back nine in a quite bizarre level-par and on Sunday he came mighty close to claiming the win.
Winners often need first to experience the hurt of a near-miss. They also often like to feel comfortable and Hansen should be in that state this week in Turkey. Not only can he play with freedom because his card is safe, but he can recall that that only time he played the tournament (and the course) he closed with laps of 69-66. Moreover, the last time he was in Belek, last April, he was a winner on the Challenge Tour.