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Published on : Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Masters champion Danny Willett is among the 78-man field playing for an incredible $7 million prize fund and crucial points in the Race to Dubai.
Englishman Willett, 29, is currently second in The Race to Dubai standings, ahead of the first of three European Tour ‘Final Series’ tournaments. Also in the field at this week’s Turkish Airlines Open are Ryder Cup contestants, Lee Westwood and Andy Sullivan.
Willett said; “The Final Series is starting with a great event here in Turkey. I’ve had a couple of nice results down here at the Turkish Airlines Open before and it’s lovely to be here. The hotel is great, Turkish Airlines is a brilliant sponsor and this is a beautiful place to play golf. We’re set for a really good week.”
Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, was in Antalya as well to attend and honour the tournament launch.
Having started their sponsorship of top-level golf at the World Golf Final in 2012, Turkish Airlines has embraced the sport across the board and hope to extend their agreement to host the European Tour tournament, which will run for another two years.
A host of key players flew into the resort on a Turkish Airlines flight from Shanghai and Turkish Airlines charter flight from Gatwick and they are settling in to the Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort, which is playing host to the tournament for the very first time.
Westwood is playing in Turkey for the fifth time, having also played at the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final in 2012, and is truly impressed with the set-up at the Regnum. He said; “It is great to be back in Turkey and we’re all looking forward to the week ahead. The course looks in fantastic condition and I’ve heard so many good things about it. I’ve always really enjoyed my time in Belek and it’s going to be another brilliant week.
Asked about his level of comfort in Turkey, Westwood added; “I played with (European Tour chief executive) Keith Pelley in the pro-am in China last week. He asked me my opinion also and I had no fears about coming to Turkey. The world we live in, anything can happen anywhere and Turkey is no different to anywhere else. I had no security worries. People are very welcoming and there are many international media members here so you haven’t got fears. I’m just here looking forward to playing golf in a big tournament and we’ll be focusing on that. Nothing else is fazing me. I’m really looking forward to the tournament. I always look forward to Turkey. It’s my fifth trip here and everyone fantastic. Istanbul is great and Antalya is fantastic. The weather is always beautiful and courses are great. TA is a great sponsor, it’s a great tournament down here and all players enjoy getting down here and playing.”
Westwood joked that he has also been eating plenty of ice cream at the Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort. “I’m on a diet at the moment but if I wasn’t I would recommend the chocolate with the choc chip!” he said.
On Monday, German star Marcel Siem secured a hole in one on the eighth hole during practice – but was three days too early to win one million Turkish Airlines miles. Said Siem; “It was a good start to the week. I hit a six iron and it was a bit of a lucky bounce back and went in. I hope that this luck repeats itself and I can do it again on Thursday or Friday!”
The 2014 Turkish Airlines Open was won by American star Brooks Koepka, just after the French star Victor Dubuisson’ win in the 2013 Turkish Airlines Open. Dubuisson was winner of the tournament in both 2013 and 2015, and will compete on the field once again, in Antalya this year.
The airline is also behind the largest amateur tournament in the world, The Turkish Airlines World Golf Cup, which will come to a conclusion in Belek this week. With around 100 players, reduced from an initial 7,500 across the globe, competing in the Grand Final for the title. Turkish Airlines also supports the ‘Challenge Tour’ golf event and is a keen supporter of women’s golf, with all golfers able to take their golf clubs for free. The airline was also chosen as ‘Europe’s Best Airline’ for the sixth year in-a-row by Skytrax and flies to more countries and also international destinations than any other airline.
Senior Vice President Corporate Communications of Turkish Airlines, Ms. Seda Kalyoncu said; “Golf is a premium, global sport and Turkish Airlines is proud to be a part of such a prestigious tournament. We are a perfect fit with golf and look forward to our relationship with the sport, at every level, continuing to flourish. The excitement around this tournament has been building across Turkey and we cannot wait for the first players to tee off for what is sure to be another incredible week of golf. We wish the best of luck to all of the players competing at the Turkish Airlines Open.”
Turkish Golf Federation president Ahmet Ağaoğlu said; “It is going to be a thrilling week in Antalya. We have been looking forward to this for a whole year and I’m sure this will be our most exciting Turkish Airlines Open yet.”
Following this week’s tournament in Antalya, the tour will head to the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa ahead of the season finale DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.