The Turkish Airlines Open at Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort sees the return of the hugely successful Rolex Series this week. The premium category of events, launched in 2017, has seen a host of iconic winners, including Justin Rose who was triumphant in Turkey 12 months ago.
The Turkish Airlines Open is one of three consecutive Rolex Series events, including the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player and the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, which will bring the European Tour’s 2018 season to a close. We take a look back at the five Rolex Series events which haver given us several memorable moments this year.
BMW PGA Championship: Francesco Molinari
A star-studded field arrived at Wentworth Club in May, with the first Rolex Series event of the summer bringing a host of the world’s top players to the famous West Course looking to add their name to the illustrious list of past champions.
After the opening two rounds, four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy led the way by three strokes, before Francesco Molinari joined him at the top of the leaderboard after the conclusion of the third round.
Following rounds of 70-67-66 the Italian signed for a four under par final round of 68, going 44 holes without dropping a stroke to seal his maiden Rolex Series victory by two shots over McIlroy and his first win in a memorable season that saw the 35 year old go on to win The 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie and star in Europe’s stunning Ryder Cup victory.
Italian Open: Thorbjørn Olesen
The second Rolex Series event of the year saw the European Tour visit the stunning surroundings of Lake Garda, with Molinari looking for back-to-back Rolex Series success after his victory a week earlier.
The Italian was in contention at the halfway stage as an eye-catching group of Ryder Cup stars and Major Championship winners sat one behind two-time Major champion Martin Kaymer. Lee Slattery shot to the top of the leaderboard with 18 holes remaining at Gardagolf following a nine under par round of 62, while Molinari sat one stroke back alongside Thorbjørn Olesen, who had surged into contention.
Molinari and Olesen went head-to-head on the final day and it was the Dane who clinched the title with a final round of 64, as he went 13 under par over the final 36 holes to win his first Rolex Series event and fifth European Tour title.
Open de France: Alex Noren
After four weeks away, the Rolex Series returned in the form of the Open de France held at Le Golf National, the impressive European Tour Properties venue that would soon play host The 2018 Ryder Cup.
Justin Thomas, the then World Number Two, took aim at the venue for the biennial event as the only Team USA star to tee it up at the Open de France – finishing tied eighth amongst the world class field that included defending champion Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, and Sergio Garcia. However, it was a European Challenge Tour graduate who shone after three rounds.
Marcus Kinhult, who graduated to the European Tour at the end of 2017, carded rounds of 71-65-67 to lead by two strokes heading into the final round.
With Kinhult falling away on Sunday and others unable to take advantage down the tough finishing stretch, it was a fellow Swede and former Rolex Series winner Alex Noren, who posted an early clubhouse target of seven under par - birdieing two of the final three holes - to claim his second Rolex Series victory.
Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation: Russell Knox
Spectators and Europe’s leading players flocked to Ballyliffin Golf Club for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation for the season’s fourth Rolex Series event.
With Rory McIlroy host for the week and defending champion Jon Rahm returning to Ireland, fans were eager to grab a glimpse of the quality golf on show, and they were not disappointed.
South African Erik van Rooyen held a four-shot lead heading into the final day, but it was two magical putts from Russell Knox which helped him become a Rolex Series champion.
The Scot posted the clubhouse lead on 14 under par after stunning 40-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole before Ryan Fox joined him in a play-off. It was back down the 18th hole and with an identical outcome from Knox as he sent another 40-foot putt crashing into the hole for birdie with Fox unable to respond. A phenomenal way to clinch your first Rolex Series title and second European Tour victory.
Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open: Brandon Stone
The most recent Rolex Series event took place on the picturesque East Lothian coast at Gullane Golf Club, where stars from the USA crossed the Atlantic to join the high-profile field at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
The third consecutive Rolex Series event continued the excitement from the previous two, as Robert Rock set the early pace after two rounds with Rickie Fowler and Tyrrell Hatton hunting down the Englishman.
The eyes of the packed crowd focussed on 2017’s Challenge Tour graduate Jens Dantorp, who shot to the top of the leaderboard with 18 holes to play. However, the event was treated to a stunning finale as Brandon Stone carded a stunning round of 60, just one shot shy of the European Tour’s first round of 59, on his way to his first Rolex Series title.
The South African needed to birdie the 18th from seven feet to become the first player on the European Tour to reach iconic figure, but his effort narrowly missed, as he carded the lowest round in Rolex Series history to become a European Tour winner once again.