THE same score – a five-under-par 67 to sit four shots behind the leader, that evergreen Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez – wasn’t the only thing Marc Warren and Stephen Gallacher had in common as they opened their title bids in the £4.4 million Turkish Airlines Open.
Both admitted to being baffled by a new overloaded points system in place for the European Tour’s Final Series this season, one the Scottish pair believe is threatening to distort the standings come the end of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on Sunday week.
For each of this year’s four season-ending events, the Tour introduced a method whereby a total of ten million points are on offer, with 1,666,660 going to the winner. In one fell swoop, German Marcel Siem, jumped from 53rd to fourth in the Race to Dubai when he won the BMW Masters in China at the start of the series.
“It’s ridiculous as far as I’m concerned because it nullifies a lot of what people have done in big events through the whole year,” said Warren, who is concerned the shine could be taken off his own campaign.
Having won in Denmark after finishing third and fourth in the Scottish and Wales Opens respectively, he’s sitting 23rd in the Race to Dubai, so is on course to improve on his best season so far, having been 33rd last season. Due to the new points system, though, he might not finish in the top 30 to secure an exemption for next year’s Open.
“They are giving out double the points than Wentworth for these events, which I don’t think is right,” added the 33-year-old after getting to seven-under-par before dropping shots at his final two holes. “I think they are big enough in their own right without getting falsified by a ridiculous amount of points being up for grabs. For someone to go from 50 up to fourth in the Race to Dubai is nonsense.”
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If either Siem, Welshman Jamie Donaldson or Spaniard Sergio Garcia win both here and next week, they’ll have a chance of leapfrogging long-time Race to Dubai leader Rory McIlroy. Despite winning two majors, a WGC and the Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, the world No 1 might not end the year as Europe’s No 1.
“Where you finish should be relative to how you’ve performed during the year but by having ten million points for each event far outweighs most of the other events we play in,” continued Warren of a system he only found out about once the series had started.
“There’s a chance, a slim one I know, that Rory might not finish the season as the European No 1, which is ridiculous to even think about when you look at his year.”
In Gallacher’s case, his efforts in becoming the first player to defend the Dubai Desert Classic, as well as finishing runner-up in the Nordea Masters, third in the Italian Open, fourth in the Scottish Open and fifth in the PGA Championship, might not now see him go on to enjoy a career-best season. He’s 14th in the standings and is trying to improve on finishing 15th a decade ago.
“It is a bit strange,” said the 40-year-old of the new system. “It was designed to get the top guys to play and that has not materialised, so it kind of defeats the purpose.
“The four tournaments are big enough standing on their own without having to make them a bit contrived. But I’m sure Marcel Siem is very happy.”
The highlight of Gallacher’s promising start in Belek was an eagle-3 at the first – his tenth. It followed a 330-yard drive then rescue club from 240 yards to a foot. “I only missed one fairway all day and two greens, so overall it was pretty good,” he reported.
In perfect scoring conditions, Jimenez started with an eagle, holing a 52-degree lob wedge at the 362-yard tenth, as he opened with a nine-under 63 to lead by one from Englishman Ian Poulter. “That doesn’t happen every day,” admitted Jimenez, puffing a gigantic cigar, of the way he’d burst out of the blocks.
Chris Doak recovered from a sluggish start to card a 69, one better than Scott Jamieson, but, on a low-scoring day, course designer Colin Montgomerie, playing in his 600th Tour event, and Richie Ramsay could only manage 76s.
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