The Russian Open returns to the Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club this week, as some of the European Tour’s lesser-known stars battle it out for glory.
With the Open Championship’s competitors taking a week off to recharge their respective batteries, one golfer out of a field of 113 strong in Moscow has the chance to make his mark on the European Tour, as Northern Irishman Michael Hoey did last year.
However, Hoey won’t be in Russia to defend his title this year after pulling out with a foot injury, which makes for an even more open, exciting tournament. Here's a breakdown of the day-by-day action, accompanied by daily leaderboards and round highlights.
Round 4 Recap
The final round of the Russian Open appeared poised to feature a duel between David Horsey and Peter Whiteford, as a low round from either golfer would have created plenty of separation from the pack. However, that wasn't how it played out at all.
Whiteford struggled tremendously, while Horsey clung to his lead just enough to force a playoff with the surging Damien McGrane after a brilliant round of six-under 66. Horsey emerged victorious after one hole, and Golf Digest tweeted his remarkable trophy:
So, how did Horsey's six-stroke lead over McGrane vanish over the final 18 holes at Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club?
Take a look at the final leaderboard:
|Russian Open Day 4 Leaderboard|
|Position||Player||To Par||Sunday's Round|
|T10||Carlos Del Moral||-7||67|
|*Denotes playoff victory|
Horsey entered the day with a share of the lead and just barely did enough to maintain it through his round.
Despite shooting even par on the day, he had quite a roller-coaster ride over his final 18 holes. After starting with four straight pars, Horsey bogeyed holes five and six only to turn around and birdie seven and eight to make the turn at even.
Disaster struck on the par-four 12th as he took a double-bogey six. After a bogey at No. 14 and birdie at No. 15, Horsey remarkably eagled the par-five 17th to get back to even for the day.
Meanwhile, McGrane was on fire.
The Irishman was solid on the front nine, recording three birdies for a blemish-free 33. He continued that pace on the back side, birdieing Nos. 10, 15, 16 and 17 to get to seven under for the day.
Unfortunately, his lone bogey of the day would come at No. 18. That would prove to be one stroke too many to gain the outright victory.
The European Tour tweeted the dramatic finish between the two players:
A playoff ensued, and it didn't take long to crown a winner.
McGrane continued to stumble, as his approach found a green-side bunker, giving Horsey the advantage. The European Tour tweeted the action as it happened:
McGrane failed to get up and down, recording another bogey, and Horsey's tap-in par was good enough to earn the title.
Horsey spoke of his day and achievement during an interview with The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
It's a big relief to win and very much like my last win in Morocco when I also made a mess of a couple of holes on the back nine. But standing on 17 I really didn't know where I was in the tournament so after hitting my ball through to the back of the green I realized I was three behind and needed to do something drastic and quite quickly.
So chipping-in for eagle was a great help and then thought I needed to make birdie at the last but not realizing Damien had dropped one there at the last.
To win is very special as it's been a while since I won in Morocco, and also it's been bumpy road along the way since then.
Horsey's victory marks his first in three years and could go a long way to ending his recent struggles this season—he only managed one top-10 finish in his previous 11 starts. While it was an unfortunate ending for McGrane, his Sunday surge should provide him with plenty of confidence going forward as well.
The tour's best players will be back in action with the impending WGC-Bridgestone and PGA Championship forthcoming, and these players will need every bit of momentum to keep up with such talented fields.
Round 3 Recap
David Horsey maintained his lead at the top of the Russian Open leaderboard on Saturday but found himself with company after Peter Whiteford put together a quite remarkable round in Moscow—as Golf Channel revealed:
The Scotsman carded a six-under 66 in Round 3 to reach the 13-under total with Horsey, after a front nine to remember at Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club.
Whiteford put together five birdies and an eagle on his opening nine, with a bogey on the seventh the only blemish on the way to an outward 30.
Though he failed to improve on his six-under score after nine, the damage was already done, as we see below:
|Russian Open Day 3 Leaderboard|
|Position||Player||To Par||Saturday's Round|
Full leaderboard can be viewed via EuropeanTour.com.
The common theme of this year’s tour, in both the major and normal events, has been wire-to-wire champions.
With Horsey sitting at the top of the tree once again after Day 3, the European Tour is one day away from another start-to-finish winner.
It was a tough day at the office for the 29-year-old, though, who failed to show the kind of consistency that put him on top in the first place.
With five birdies and three bogies on his card, Horsey produced a two-under 70 on Day 3, despite finding birdies on two of his first three holes.
However, the day was rather summed up by his exploits on the 15th, with a short-game error letting him down.
Three blows took Horsey greenside with a relatively simple chip in front of him, but he had to settle for a bogey after chunking his approach to no man's land on the green.
A birdie on 17 put Horsey back into the lead, but he’ll need to find a much-improved performance if he’s to take his third European Tour trophy on Sunday.
Following his round, the Englishman reflected on tough day saying that Whiteford's sensational exploits made it tough to stay focused, via European Tour:
Pete started like a train and I was just trying to tell myself to concentrate on my own game. It wasn’t that easy out there today and I certainly didn’t see a five or six under through nine holes. I just kept reminding myself to stay patient and concentrate on my own game, not what Pete was doing. I was disappointed not to birdie the eighth and then bogey the ninth—three under at the turn would have been nice. But then I birdied the tenth and 11th and tried to get back to the thought process that I’ve had the first two days. I didn’t quite maintain it that well on the back nine, but I kept myself in there and hopefully it’ll be a little better tomorrow.
Elsewhere, the round of the day went to Italian Andrea Pavan, who carded a superb, eight-under 64 to put him in a tie for third place at nine under par.
With four-under on both his front and back nines, Pavan moved 27 places up the leaderboard into contention for the title.
The best of the Italian came on the back nine, with four consecutive birdies on holes 13 to 16.
Sitting four shots off the lead alongside Scott Jamieson and Thomas Pieters, Pavan has every chance of victory in Moscow if he once again produces the goods.
Based on Saturday’s evidence, though, it seems that Whiteford will be hard to catch at the top of the leaderboard.
Round 2 Recap
After setting the early pace in the opening round, David Horsey was again a cut above his closest competition at the Russian Open. The Englishman finished the second day of play with a two-shot advantage at the top of the leaderboard.
The distance had been four shots after a forgettable day for Peter Whiteford. However, his struggles only opened the door for Belgian Thomas Pieters to close the gap at the top.
Horsey made quick work of the course in Round 2, as EuropeanTour.com noted:
Birdies at the 14th, 17th and 18th steadied the ship as Horsey turned in 35, only for the two-time European Tour winner to drop a shot at the first.
But four gains over the last six holes saw Horsey, whose last victory came in Morocco three years ago, post a 68 and 11 under par halfway total.
Horsey's late flourish couldn't match the exhilarating golf he produced when he struck his way to 65 on the competition's first day. However, the current leader made certain he didn't loosen his grip on the top spot.
While Horsey made brisk and relatively serene progress, things went nowhere near as smoothly for the Scotsman Whiteford. His day featured three bogeys at the 10th, 12th and 16th holes.
Worst still, Whiteford somehow managed to hit a double bogey in the middle of that drab run. He struck a seven on par five at the 15th hole.
That left Whiteford five over from his Round 1 tally of 66. Such a drop was enough to condemn him to a slight slide from second to third on the leaderboard.
Pieters was the chief beneficiary of Whiteford's tough outing. His round would bring a tear to Whiteford's eye.
It featured six birdies, coming at the second, fourth, seventh, eighth, 13th, 14th and 17th holes. That was enough to put Pieters on 68 and vault him into second, just two shots shy of Horsey.
Here's how the leaderboard looks after Round 2:
|2014 Russian Open Day 2 Leaderboard|
|Position||Player||To Par||Today||Friday's Round||Total|
|T9||Fredrik Andersson Hed||-5||-3||69||139|
Full leaderboard can be viewed via EuropeanTour.com.
Among those who boosted their chances in Round 2 were England's Gary Boyd and Spaniard Nacho Elvira. The latter enjoyed an erratic but mostly impressive day.
Elvira hit six birdies to cancel out four bogeys on Friday. Meanwhile, Boyd made steady progress around the course, as well as up the board, by reaching par eight times.
Ultimately though, Round 2 belonged to Horsey, just as the opening round had. Even though he couldn't match the heights of Day 1, Horsey has a respectable lead at the halfway point.
Given the mistakes being made further down the card, particularly by golfers such as Whiteford, Horsey can consider his advantage a comfortable one.
Round 1 Recap
Englishman David Horsey set the early pace at the Russian Open on Thursday, carding a seven-under 65 to go top of the leaderboard.
The 29-year-old didn’t card a single bogey on Day 1 in ideal conditions at the Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club, but he’s in good company at the top of the tree, as we see below:
|Russian Open Day 1 Leaderboard|
|Position||Player||To Par||Thursday's Round|
|T4||Louis De Jager||-5||67|
Full leaderboard can be viewed via EuropeanTour.com
Scottish duo Scott Jamieson and Peter Whiteford share second place behind Horsey after notching up a pair of six-under 66s, while eight players are currently tied for fourth after rounds of 67.
Among them is German Maximilian Kieffer, who put together seven birdies and two bogies on Thursday to move into contention.
Four of those birdies came on the front nine after starting on the 10th, and it’s safe to say that he looked in complete control throughout his round. EuropeanTour.com has the Day 1 highlights.
The 24-year-old spoke to the European Tour's official website following his impressive day’s work, saying that the soft conditions in Russia were ideal for low scoring:
It’s a really fun course so I enjoyed the round a lot. It’s playing quite long because it’s soft, but that also means you can go at pins a bit more, and I had a lot of opportunities today. It’s not often you have rounds where you feel like every part of your game is working well, but that’s how it was today. There’s still a long way to go, but this is a good start. It’s not such a strong field so my expectations are higher than normal this week, but I’ve still got to play well and take it shot by shot.
The highlight of Kieffer’s day came at the tricky par-four ninth hole. He was one of just two players to post birdies there on Day 1.
Though a daunting hole, the German had no problem finding the green in regulation after a stunning drive and approach, before his putter got the rest of the job done from just inside 15 feet.
Other players were clearly in the mood for shooting low in Moscow, too, as ETPI revealed that the majority of the field was unloading on the very first tee:
Though a little windy at times on Thursday, the conditions were absolutely ideal, and the players were keen to take advantage of it, with 55 of them at par or better after Day 1, per the European Tour's leaderboard.
Elsewhere, it was a bad day at the office for the home favourites on Thursday, with six of the bottom seven of the leaderboard being from Russia.
The best score of those six came from amateur Samuel Pereltsveyg and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, both of whom put together a pair of 83s.
The leading Russian is amateur Pavel Goryainov, who carded a four-over 76 to move into a tie for 82nd and has work to do to make the cut on Friday.
Back to the impressive golf, though, with Horsey, who is chasing his first European Tour victory since 2011 this week.
Four birdies in his last six holes outlined the Englishman’s ambitions to be a champion once again, and if he keeps his form up heading into the last three days of play, then he’ll have every chance of being crowned in Russia.
Confidence and consistency will now be the key for Horsey, but with an ambitious pack all in touching distance at the top of the leaderboard, it’s not going to be an easy ride.