While Syria has horribly been much in the news lately due to the recurring atrocities being committed in the city of Aleppo, one of its neighbours, Turkey, last week hosted the Turkish Airlines Open golf tournament at the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort just outside Antalya, about 360 miles from Aleppo as the jet bomber flies. The golfers could have been living in a different world. Actually, they were living in a different world. Well, certainly in a different country.
Not Tiger Woods, however. He had withdrawn a few weeks ago, figuring he couldn’t yet play competitive golf. Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Patrick Reed did so late on because of security fears. The Open champion, Henrik Stenson, was never entered, thus leaving Danny Willett free to make a move on him to go back to the top of the Race to Dubai standings with just two weeks remaining. Danny frittered away that chance and finished in a tie for 68th, a very distant 22 shots behind the winner, Denmark’s Thorbjorn Oleson, who won by three from David Horsey of England and Li Haotong of China.
Oleson will celebrate his 27th birthday four days before Christmas and in Antalya he celebrated his fourth European Tour victory – and the most prestigious of them – 49 days before it thanks to a closing round of 69, two under par. He had led by seven going into Sunday but at one point Horsey closed to within a stroke. Three birdies in four holes from the 12th were critical in getting the Dane home ahead and in receipt of a cheque for close to £1 million.
“It means a lot,” said Olesen. “It’s been a bad spell for me the last three or four months. I played well at the start of the season and felt like I had a good chance to actually make the Ryder Cup team, but in the summer I just got into a bad spell and played bad in the big events. ”
Victory elevated Olesen from 38th to ninth in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, putting him in with a strong shout of being involved in the share-out of the $5million bonus pool on offer for the top-10 in the standings at the end of the season, which concludes with the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on Sunday week. With Willett out of sorts and McIlroy also skipping the Netbank Challenge in South Africa, which starts on Thursday, it seems highly likely that Stenson will take the biggest bonus prize on offer in the Tour’s finale. But Olesen will be happy enough with how his year has ended.
“Coming here and then winning such a big tournament is huge,” said Olesen, “especially because I haven’t been in contention for around four months, so to get over the line and win this one is great.”
All in all, then, it was quite a coup for the Dane. Oops, sorry. One should never say coup in Turkey…
Robert Green’s ‘Seve: Golf’s Flawed Genius’ is available on Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter @robrtgreen