Three straight in Turkey for Rose?

November 6, 2019
Justin Ray

 This week at the Turkish Airlines Open, Justin Rose can do something no player has achieved in more than a decade: win the same European Tour event three consecutive years.

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Rose has played in this event three times, finishing tied for third (2013) and winning twice (2017 and 2018). While the last two years this event has been held at Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort, the event returns this week to the site of Justin’s 2013 T-3 finish, Montgomerie Maxx Royal.

Regardless of venue, no player can touch Rose’s resume in the young history of this tournament. Among players with 12 or more rounds recorded, Rose’s average of 3.13 strokes gained per round is nearly a full shot ahead of any other player (Ian Poulter is second, at 2.22). As one might expect, Justin has relied on elite ball-striking in his two Turkish victories: in 2018, he gained a staggering 16.5 strokes on the field from tee-to-green, 6.5 more than any other player.

The only Englishman to win a European Tour event in three consecutive years is Nick Faldo, who took the Irish Open title in 1991, 1992 and 1993. Earlier this year in San Diego, Rose passed Sir Nick for most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman in the modern era. The two will be mentioned again together in the history books should Rose pull off the Turkish “three-peat” this weekend.

KEY COURSE CHARACTERISTICS

Driving the ball in the fairway early in the round will be key for players this week in Turkey. Four of the first nine holes at Montgomerie Maxx Royal have a penalty of 0.44 strokes or more for missing the fairway – 4, 6, 7 and 9. The fourth hole is especially critical: players on average record a score 0.88 strokes worse there when missing the fairway.

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Players will need to rack up birdies if they want to contend, too. In the three previous instances this event has been held at Montgomerie Maxx Royal, the average winning score has been 21-under-par. In 2013, the last time this course hosted more than one-third of the field finished at 13-under or better for the week.

NOTES ON PLAYERS IN THE FIELD

– Nobody would blame Champion Golfer of the Year Shane Lowry if he enjoyed a year-long golf honeymoon following his victory this summer at Royal Portrush. However, Lowry still has a realistic opportunity to win the Race to Dubai, sitting in third place entering this week in Turkey.

In seven worldwide starts since his Open victory, Lowry has not finished better than tied for eleventh. A quicker start on Thursday would help his chances – in his last six tournaments, Shane has an opening round scoring average of 72.0.

– It’s been a breakthrough year for 26-year-old American Kurt Kitiyama: his success has vaulted him into the top-100 in the world for the first time in his young career. Kitiyama – who has two wins this season on the European Tour – has an opportunity to put himself in rare company with a win in the next three weeks.

Since the formation of the Tour in 1972, only two Americans have been credited with three or more wins in a single European Tour season – Mark O’Meara in 1998, and Tiger Woods, who did it EIGHT different times. However, Kitiyama would be the first to do it without any of the wins being major championships or World Golf Championship events. Kurt has finished in the top-five in two of his previous three starts.

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– Grouped with Kitiyama in round one this week is fellow American Patrick Reed, who is coming off four consecutive top-20 finishes worldwide. Reed ranked second in the field in China in greens in regulation, hitting more than 80 percent of them for the week. It was the most greens Reed has hit in regulation in any PGA Tour event in nearly three full years.

– Only one player in the field this week finished in the top-five the last time the Turkish Airlines Open was held at Montgomerie Maxx back in 2015: Kiradech Aphibarnrat. It’s been a down year for Kiradech, but he is coming off a tie for eighth in his previous start, the CJ Cup.

TIGER WOODS STAT OF THE WEEK

Tiger Woods is credited with 41 European Tour victories since 1997, 16 more than any other player in that span (Ernie Els has 25 wins in that span). Tiger has never played full-time on the European Tour.