The Race to Dubai, the European Tour’s season-long competition that comprises 47 tournaments in 31 countries, is approaching the finish line.
Which is why the Turkish Airlines Open is important. It provides the professionals their second-to-last chance to collect points heading into Dubai. Their final opportunity will come this month at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.
The event in Turkey will return to the Montgomerie Maxx Royal course, where it was held from 2013 to 2015.
Here are some players to watch.
Willett, who rallied from five shots down to capture the 2016 Masters, fell to No. 462 in the world rankings two years later. There is no guarantee that players who go through a slump of such magnitude come close to regaining their old form.
Yet Willett, 32, of England, has done just that, climbing to No. 30. In September, he captured the BMW PGA Championship to record his second European Tour victory in 10 months and his seventh over all.
He took a few big steps back recently at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in South Korea, finishing in a tie for 46th, and at the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China, where he was unable to break 76 in his last three rounds. Still, it would not be a big surprise if Willett were to rebound in Turkey. He tied for fourth on this course in 2014, and tied for 11th in 2015.
“I’m back to, not where we want to get to, but we’re now back to a place where we feel we should be a little bit more comfortable,” Willett said.
Speaking of comebacks, another remarkable one has been Wiesberger’s.
Consider that Wiesberger, 34, of Austria was out of action the last seven months of 2018 because of a wrist injury. As recently as May, he had dropped to No. 378 in the rankings.
Those days seem long ago. With his win at the Italian Open last month, his third title this season, he has made an early statement in his bid to qualify for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, which would be his first appearance in that event. He is currently No. 1 in the Race to Dubai.
He has achieved his success without compiling the most impressive statistics in a couple of crucial categories. In putting, Wiesberger ranks 93rd in strokes gained; off the tee, he is averaging less than 300 yards. He does rank ninth in greens in regulation.
Wiesberger, No. 24 in the world, has not emerged out of nowhere. He has won seven times on the European Tour since 2012.
For one thing, though it was on a different golf course, Rose has won this tournament for two straight years — by one stroke in 2017, and in a playoff last year after Li Haotong of China three-putted from 12 feet. For another, he is the No. 8 player in the world and one of the favorites every time he tees it up.
This past season, in 17 starts on the PGA Tour, Rose, 39, of England, recorded seven top 10s, including a victory at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and a tie for third in the United States Open.
While Rose has not won on the European Tour since he prevailed in Turkey last year, the 2016 Olympic champion is trying to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2007 to capture the same European Tour event (the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational) three years in a row.
After collecting three victories in 2018, Wallace has failed to reach the winner’s circle this year. Yet given his play on the big stage — a tie for third in the PGA Championship, a tie for 12th in the U.S. Open — he has shown he can still compete.
Wallace, 29, of England will certainly not lack for motivation. He is sixth in the Race to Dubai, and has posted four top 15s in his last six appearances, including a third at the KLM Open and a tie for seventh at the Italian Open in Rome, and a tie for eighth at the Portugal Masters.
Yes, he fired an 84 on Day 2 in China, but, on the other three days, he shot a 69, 70 and 69.
He has been solid on the greens — Wallace ranks 14th in strokes gained — and from the tee, where he averages a little over 304 yards.
MacIntyre, 23, of Scotland sure doesn’t seem like a rookie — not the way he has played in 2019. The only thing he has not done is win.
The left-hander, who spent more than a year at McNeese State University in Louisiana, has finished second three times, as well as tying for fourth in the Italian Open and tying for sixth in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush. He shot a 68 on Sunday, tied for the third-lowest score of the day.
MacIntyre is clearly full of confidence.
In Italy, he hit a drive off the fairway on the 623-yard par-5 ninth hole. He made a double bogey on the hole before that. His bold move paid off as he reached the green in two, although he had to settle for a birdie.
Erik van Rooyen
Van Rooyen, 29, also had a strong showing in Italy, finishing in a tie for 10th. The South African native has put together a solid year, his second on the European Tour.
He won the Scandinavian Invitation in August, and followed up with three top 15s in his next four starts. Earlier this season, he tied for eighth in the P.G.A. Championship.
“The work that I’ve done over the last year and a half or so is definitely paying off now,” said van Rooyen, who is 10th in the Race to Dubai.
It’s safe to say that some of his success results from his short game. In putting, he ranks seventh in strokes gained. The victory in Scandinavia helped his confidence.
“I know how to clean things up when I’m in that position,” he said. “It’s such a satisfying feeling.”
Reed, 29, the 2018 Masters champion who is ranked 15th in the world, has been playing very well over the last three months.
In August on the PGA Tour, Reed captured the Northern Trust, the first event in the FedEx Cup playoffs, and tied for 19th at the BMW Championship and tied for ninth at the Tour Championship. On the European Tour, he tied for 15th in the KLM Open, and tied for fourth in the BMW PGA Championship.
Last week, in China, after an opening 72, Reed, shot 69, 69 and 66 to tie for eighth.