Russian Open 2014: A preview and best bets for this week's European Tour event
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 22/07/14 8:16pm
After the high of Hoylake, The European Tour heads to Moscow this week for the eighth running of the Russian Open.
Situated in heavy woodland around 30 miles from the Russian capital, Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club is a Jack Nicklaus design opened in 2008.
It has plenty of water, is covered in trees and is reasonably hilly in places.
The course staged the event for the first time in 2013 when Michael Hoey took victory but the Northern Irishman won't be here to defend having pulled out of The Open in round two with an injured foot.
Prior to that, Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club had hosted three Challenge Tour events whose winners were Spain's Carlos Del Moral, France's Alex Kaleka and England's Sam Little.
Del Moral and Kaleka are back in the field again but Little doesn't take part.
Ex-Russian tennis player Yevgeny Kafelnikov tees it up again having played in last year's event and also the three Challenge Tour tournaments. He missed the cut in all four, shooting a best round of 79 (twice) and a worst of 86.
Sky Sports have live coverage of all four day, starting on Thursday at 14:30 (SS4).
Kaleka not only won a Challenge Tour event here, he also finished second to Hoey last year. Here's what the 27-year-old told europeantour.com about the 7,491-yard, par 72 layout: "It’s a great course - very fair and quite long with small greens. It probably suits me because it’s long and wide. I’m pretty long off the tee but not always the straightest hitter, so it fits my eye."
Last year's top 5
-16 Michael Hoey (70-67-65-70
-12 Alexandre Kaleka (70-67-71-68)
-12 Matthew Nixon (69-70--68-69)
-11 JB Hansen (72-70-67-68)
-10 Mark Foster (69-69-72-68)
-10 Gregory Havret (72-70-70-66)
-10 Wen-chong Liang (67-70-75-66)
-10 James Morrison (68-71-70-69)
Players with two top 20s or better across the four events played at Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club (2010-2012 Challenge Tour and 2013 European Tour):
JB Hansen (4th, 4th), Sam Walker (3rd, 6th), Alexandre Kaleka (2nd, 1st), Mikko Korhonen (10th, 10th), Jamie McLeary (18th, 5th), Andreas Harto (13th, 8th), Daniel Vancsik (17th, 16th)
Of the first four players home last year, two had impressive Driving Accuary stats while two were in the top 10 for Driving Distance. However, what united the quartet was strong Greens In Regulation stats (Hoey 6th, Nixon 3rd, Kaleka 3rd and Hansen 9th).
Those with the best Greens in Regulation stats in the last five weeks include Mikko Korhonen so when that's combined with his course form he looks worth a punt at 33/1.
The Finn was 26th in the French Open on his last start and has enough decent form on the European Tour this year to suggest he can get in the mix in what is a seriously weak field.
The first Olympic golf rankings were published this week (they dovetail the offical world rankings) and on that 60-man list is young Belgian Thomas Pieters.
The prospect of making it to Rio and being part of golf's return to the Olympics is an exciting one and hopefully the news has filtered thruogh to Pieters and will give him an extra boost.
Back in May the 22-year-old, who came through Q-school last November, took a two-shot lead into the final round of the Spanish Open before finishing runner-up while he was also eighth in April's Malaysian Open.
Like most youngsters, he doesn't have week-in, week-out consistency but he's a big talent and could just shine again here on a course which will really suit his big hitting.
Scotland's Jamie McLeary did well to make the cut in The Open last week and shot a heartening two-under 70 on the final day.
That means he'll head to Russia in good spirits and keen to flourish again on a course where he's performed well.
McLeary has played in two Challenge Tour events here, finishing 5th in 2010 and 18th in 2011, so after ending a run of missed cuts with a good display at Hoylake he may be able to thrive again.
Take him at a three-figure price.
1pt e.w. Mikko Korhonen (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Thomas Pieters (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Jamie McLearly (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)