Golfing heaven in the Turkish Riviera
BELEK TURKEY - I was feeling slightly delicate yesterday morning after having a few drinks the previous night in the popular Jay Lounge Bar with fellow golf writers from Scotland, but I still went for an early swim in the beautiful, warm Med.
It is just a seven-iron away from the luxurious Royal Maxx Hotel where we are staying for the duration of the Turkish Airlines Open starting today.
The Scots, who we all know are not partial to the English, not by a long shot, tell me that a huge roar could be heard right across Scotland when our wonderful Springboks beat cocky England to win the World Cup.
The Royal Maxx is one of - wait for it - nearly 60 five-star hotels (yes, all five-star and really quite stunning) and 15 top-class golf courses squeezed together within a 20km stretch of exquisite Mediterranean coast known as the Turkish Riviera.
Twenty-five years ago there wasn’t a single golf course here and just five or six hotels.
So the transformation has been astonishing. It’s all to do with Turkey’s drive to promote tourism. It’s golfing heaven.
And these hotels are apparently 95% full for most of the year as the Brits, in particular, and the Germans and the Swedes flock here in their droves to tee it up and soak up the sun.
You get these package deals. So much up front then play and eat and drink as much as you want. We journos are on the same deal, courtesy of Turkish Airlines.
It’s really cool.
The Justin Rose pre-tournament press was attended by a hoard of Turkish government types in suits, and what seemed like masses of media and TV people. Flashing cameras everywhere.
Rose, who has won the last two Turkish Airlines Opens, is bidding to join Ian Woosnam, Sir Nick Faldo and the late, great Seve as the only players to have won a European Tour event for three straight years.
“I think,” Rose says, “the chance of a three-peat, so to speak, is something that sneaks up on you. It’s one of those little asterisk moments in your career.”
Rose was born in Johannesburg but went to live in England at age five with his family and now supports England when it comes to rugby. Sorry for you Justin.
But he is a genuinely nice guy and so articulate.
He has won once this year, which he says is slightly disappointing and why the former world No 1 and current Olympic champion is looking for his second in 2019 on the immaculate Royal Maxx Montgomerie course next to the hotel.
He is eagerly looking ahead to 2020 as it’s a particularly big year in golf for him - the Majors, the Ryder Cup, the FedEx Cup and what he’s most looking forward to - trying to win the golfing gold again at the Olympics in Japan which comes just a few days after the Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
“When you wear the crest or the logo of your national team it inspires you to be the best version of yourself. The emotion and the connection of being part of Team GB in the opening ceremony was part of the reason I had the energy to play some of my best golf in Rio.”
Well, that’s Justin Rose for you. I’m off to watch Christiaan Bezuidenhout, whose bag man this week is Zack Rasego, in the pro-am. Great young player, great, experienced caddie. Watch a combo! Watch these two over the next four days.