After the Czech Masters, the European Tour continues eastward this week for the M2M Russian Open at Skolkovo Golf Club in Moscow. This event marks the start of qualifying for the 2016 European Ryder Cup team.
It’s the ninth running of the Russian Open on the European Tour, although it was also a Challenge Tour event between 1996 and 2002. Since the first instalment on the main circuit in 2003, Marcus Fraser of Australia, England’s Gary Emerson, Mikael Lundberg and Per-Ulrik Johansson of Sweden and Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey have been winners.
In last year’s tournament England’s David Horsey came out on top. He saw of Damien McGrane of Ireland at the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.
There’s a prize fund of €1 million for this tournament, with the winner set to walk away with a cheque for €166,660.
Four things to watch for at the M2M Russian Open:
1. The 2016 Ryder Cup becomes a reality for Europe’s top golfers this week as they begin the race to earn a place in Darren Clarke’s team for Hazeltine. With many of the top European golfers taking a week off, or competing in the Deutsche Bank Championship, this tournament provides a great opportunity for lesser-known players to gain an early head start on their rivals in the qualification process. Former Ryder Cup players Edoardo Molinari and Soren Hansen are in the field this week.
2. The course being used this year is a new venue for the European Tour. The layout at Skolkovo Golf Club is a Jack Nicklaus signature design located close to the centre of Moscow. It’s a parkland style layout featuring six large lakes and 113 well-placed bunkers. It should be a good test for the players.
3. David Horsey is the defending champion and he’s also one of the form players on the European Tour at the moment. He won the Made in Denmark tournament two weeks ago. He’s a solid performer with four European Tour victories to his name. He will start this week as the favourite. He has the ability to play himself into a Ryder Cup team and is one to watch.
4. Former tennis star Yevgeny Kafelnikov is on the start sheet this week. The Russian was a two-time Grand Slam winner with a racket in his hand – he took victory in the 1996 French Open and the 1999 Australian Open. He hasn’t enjoyed so much success since turning his hand to golf. He played in the Russian Open back in 2005 and finished dead last after rounds of 88 and 96. He’s played a number of European and Challenge Tour events but is yet to come anywhere near making a cut. Maybe this could be the tournament he does it? Or perhaps not.