The European Tour returns to Russia for the first time since 2008 with this week’s M2M Russian Open at Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club near Moscow.

Five years since the Russian Open was last contested at Le Meridien Moscow CC on the European Tour, the tournament makes a welcome return to the main circuit.

Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club has played host to the Challenge Tour for the last three seasons with Carlos Del Moral, Sam Little and Alex Kaleka taking those titles. All three are in the field this week.

A week after the Open Championship at Muirfield, a number of the Tour’s top players are enjoying a well-earned break. But there are some star names on the start sheet. Jeev Milkha Singh will tee it up along with Simon Dyson, Tom Lewis and 2005 U.S. Open winner Michael Campbell.

Also in the field is former Grand Slam tennis champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov. The Russian is hoping to make his first cut on either the European or European Challenge Tour.

Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg is looking forward to playing in an event he has won twice in the past, albeit at a different venue.

“There is definitely something special about Russia that brings out the best in me. Well, it certainly has done in the past and I have to say that this week I feel good and feel confident so I don’t think it is a co-incidence,” he said. “We are playing a different course this week to the one that I had so much success on but there are similar feeling for me around this place and I have to say that Tseleevo is just a magnificent golf course.”

The course at Tseleevo is a Jack Nicklaus design with holes lined by mature trees and protected by natural water hazards. It’s rated as one of Russia’s finest tracks and has received high praise from the professionals.

It’s been wet in the lead up to the tournament and more rain is forecast through the week. That could favour the big hitters. This is a long course at the best of times, but with no run on the fairways, it could be a real slog.

Venue: Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club, Moscow Region, Russia
Date: Jul 25-28
Course stats: par 72, 7,491 yards
Purse: €1,000,000 Winner: €166,660
Defending Champion: Mikael Lundberg (-21) – back in 2008.

Player Watch:
Robert Rock – The Englishman was having a poor season until he finished tied for second in the Irish Open. That performance should have given him a boost and, although he’s missed a couple of cuts since then, he didn’t play badly in either France or Scotland.

Romain Wattel – The Frenchman is enjoying a solid season on the European Tour with three top-10 finishes, including a fourth and a tied third. He’s a powerful player and a decent putter – currently 36th on Tour in putts per green found in regulation.

JB Hansen – He played some great golf to finish tied third in the Scottish Open two weeks ago. He was also tied fourth in the Russian Challenge Cup over this course last year.

Key hole: 18th. A classic tournament finishing hole, this par-4 measures 448 yards. The tee shot is relatively straightforward, favouring a drive moving left to right. The real challenge is the second shot as water lurks short and left of the green. An approach turning too much from right to left could end up wet.

Where next?
PGA Tour –
RBC Canadian Open preview