Sweden's Henrik Stenson heads the Race to Dubai 2016 rankings as the European Tour arrives for the Turkish Airlines Open, the first stop of three events that make up the European Tour's Final Series.
This year's British Open champion Stenson leads the standings by 261,387 points, with Masters champion Danny Willett in second and Rory McIlroy in third.
However, the Turkish Open has been beset by a host of high-profile withdrawals, including McIlroy. Stenson will also not compete, so both will lose ground in the battle for the end-of-season prize of being named Europe's top golfer.
McIlroy, who would have been bidding for his third R2D prize, is missing the event due to security concerns in the country.
The world No. 2 told Agence France-Presse (h/t BBC Sport): "It was weighing on my mind and I slept a lot better knowing that I'd made a decision. I gave it a lot of thought, basically all week. The fact that I have won the FedEx Cup this year and that I have won the Race to Dubai before made the decision a little bit easier."
Meanwhile, as Ewan Murray noted for the Guardian, Stenson was never entered in the event.
The Swede said he would focus on further fine-tuning his game, per Will Gray of the Golf Channel: "Back home to Orlando, do a bit of work with (swing instructor) Pete (Cowen) and then hopefully I can just carry on for the final two weeks."
Just three of the current top 10 in the Race to Dubai standings—Willett, Tyrrell Hatton and Lee Westwood—will be in action in the 78-man field at the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort in Belek-Antalya from Nov. 3-6.
The list of absentees should make good reading for Willett, and he'll have a big chance to make inroads into Stenson's lead.
With McIlroy also missing the second part of the Series in South Africa, a strong display from Willett would set him up perfectly for a final run-in against Stenson across the next fortnight.
|Race to Dubai: Current Standings|
|1||Henrik Stenson||3,843, 284|
|6||Rafael Cabrera Bello||1,969,107|
As noted by ESPN, Willett at least will be present in Turkey, adding: "It's a fantastic tournament which has gone from strength-to-strength over the last few years."
Willett will be buoyed by his solid past performances at the event. While last year the Englishman finished just outside the top 10, in 2014 he hit a closing 69 to finish tied for fourth, four shots off winner Brooks Koepka.
However, his form going into the week has been poor, and he was well off the pace when placing 78th at the World Golf Championships in Shanghai with a total of 14 over par.
Willett has struggled since his Masters triumph at Augusta National in April, and the consistency that led him to that success has been lacking in recent events.
In fact, he has looked a shadow of the player who began the year in such impressive fashion. The slump has not been lost on the player himself, who summed it up in September, as per Jerry Weisenberger of The National: "It’s been a pretty epic 12 months and the golf hasn’t been fantastic over the last two or three months, but I’m just trying to get everything back on track now."
But things haven't yet turned around for Willett, who also endured a nightmare Ryder Cup debut where he failed to register a single point as the U.S. beat Europe 17-11 at Hazeltine, Minnesota. He will be desperate to take advantage of missing players and stamp his authority over the rest of the field.
The Turkish Airlines is followed by the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa from Nov 10-13. The top 60 in the race standings then move on to fight it out at the DP Tour World Championship in Dubai from Nov 17-20.