Dave Tindall

Across the Pond

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Valderrama Masters Preview

Monday, October 16, 2017


We’re heading back to one of the European’s Tour’s iconic courses this week for the Andalucia Valderrama Masters.

 

It’s hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation and, as well as the man himself taking part, Jon Rahm is in town to make it two Spanish big guns fighting it out for their home event.

 

Best known for hosting the 1997 Ryder Cup, Valderrama really showed its teeth the last time it was used on the European Tour. That was April, 2016 when Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston won the 2016 Open de Espana with a score of 1-over.

 

There’s a solid supporting cast this week although the relatively modest purse is probably a contributory factor to some of the bigger names sitting this one out.

 

 

Valderrama

 

Since ‘Beef’ won at Valderrama 18 months ago, the course has undergone some major renovations. The surfaces on the greens and surrounding areas on the front nine have all been redone although we’ll have to wait until next year for similar changes to the back nine. Always presented in excellent condition, Valderrama is a ball-striker’s course with narrow, tree-lined fairways and very small greens. “It doesn’t really help the long hitters like myself,” says local man Alvaro Quiros of the classic par 71 which measures just 6,991 yards. Before last year’s Open de Espana, the Robert Trent Jones design had last been used to host the 2010 and 2011 Andalucia Masters.


Past champions, winning scores and stats at Valderrama

 

2016 +1 Andrew Johnston (DD: 35, DA: 1, GIR: 1, Scr: 20, PA: 25, AA: 4)

2011 -6 Sergio Garcia (DD: 24, DA: 10, GIR: 10, Scr: 4, PA: 8, AA: 2)

2010 -3 Graeme McDowell (DD: 47, DA: 6, GIR: 1, Scr: 18, PA: 4, AA: 1)

 

Notes: No quirks here, the stats are exactly what you’d imagine them to be. Success at Valderrama comes from hitting the ball straight off the tee and finding lots of the much smaller than usual greens. If that can be backed up with solid putting, the trophy beckons. Winning scores show that a birdie-fest it is not.

 

 

The Weather

 

Rain and breezy conditions will add to the test on Thursday before we get the best temperatures (70 degrees) on Friday although it could still be gusty in the afternoon. Some showers could return on the weekend when the mercury drops again. At the time of writing, a late-early start may be preferable.

 

 

The Leading Contenders

 

Sergio Garcia

While Jon Rahm is playing here for the first time, Sergio is a Valderrama veteran and has a fantastic record since T7 when it staged the American Express Championship in 1999. Check these numbers: 11 starts, 10 top 10s, three second places, a third, a fourth and, finally, a win in 2011. It’s a perfect fit and, note, he won that 2011 edition when hosting the event so he can juggle both balls. Garcia had to settle for T30 in Italy last week but he did top the GIR stats there and the home comforts of Valderrama will suit him much better than the birdie-fest at Golf Club Milano.

 

Jon Rahm

He came here as a boy to watch the pros in action and now returns as the World No. 5. Rahm didn’t quite have his best stuff in Italy last week but a closing 65 gave him T15 and he’ll hope that’ll be a springboard to success in front of his home fans. He’s only hit exactly 50% of fairways in his last two starts (Tour Championship, Italian Open) but he’s topped the greens in regulation charts in two of his last three events. If he can stay patient, not always a strength, Rahm can plot his way to a title challenge and he does have some course experience having represented Spain in the Sotogrande Cup at Valderrama five years ago.

 

Shane Lowry

The Irishman definitely enjoys Valderrama and finished T18 (2010) and T4 (2011) in the two Andalucia Masters it staged. Both were in October and he tends to play well in late season. That wasn’t the case in Italy last week when he shot 69-71 to miss the cut but T25 and T7 before that suggest if he finds the right course he can thrive again. Valderrama could be that venue.

 

Soren Kjeldsen

Kjeldsen would probably design a course like Valderrama in his dreams. Brain over brawn is always great for the Dane and he’s made a wonderful job of plotting his way around the par 71. It’s led to the fantastic form figures of 4-49-2-1-2 in his last five visits, the top four coming in last year’s Open de Espana and the win at the 2008 Volvo Masters when it was the European Tour’s season-ender in November. We've not seen him in action since August when he followed T16 in the Wyndham with T23 at his home Made In Denmark.

 

Martin Kaymer

“If there is one course I can play for the rest of my life it would be Valderrama,” says Kaymer and he loves the strategic test. His results bare it out. In five starts from 2007 to 2016 his finishes read: 6-2-21-23-6. It’s course form that will get gamers’ interest as his current play is far from great with MC-36-20-MC his last four starts. Expect that to jump a notch here though as his tee-to-green play looks solid.

 

Joost Luiten

Luiten has played the last three European Tour events at Valderrama and mixed two excellent showings with a dud. He finished T5 in the 2010 Andalucia, missed the cut in the 2011 edition after carding 76-78 and then battled his way to second place there in last year’s Open de Espana. This hasn’t been a great season for him though and T32 (Italy) and T36 (Alfred Dunhill) the last two weeks paint the picture. No top 10 since June’s Lyoness Open.

 

Andrew Johnston

The scene of his finest hour and proof that he’s not just a cult figure and fan favourite; Beef can play some superb golf too. The Englishman won here with +1 last year after starting with a 67 and toughing it out until Sunday. It added to a pair of top fives in Challenge Tour events in Spain so it’s a part of the world he loves. After some good play on the links (T19 Scottish Open, T27 The Open), he was hampered by a shoulder injury and last week’s comeback in Italy after a two-month break lasted just 36 holes although 70-69 shook some rust off.

 

Richie Ramsay

After overcoming a shoulder injury which led to a WD in his home Alfred Dunhill, Ramsay had to settle for T40 in Italy. “Most frustrating week of the year. Pace great just couldn't hole anything,” was his summation but the Scot admitted his shoulder was much better. T8 in the British Masters at the start of October, his DA and GIR stats of late look impressive and are a great recipe for Valderrama. Indeed, it’s no surprise that he’s finished T3 (2011) and T29 (2016) there in his two visits.

 

Thorbjorn Olesen

Perhaps his tee-to-green figures don’t look ideal but Olesen knows how to score and closed with a 69 to crack the top 20 at Valderrama in the 2016 Open de Espana. He carded three 69s and a closing 66 for T32 in Italy last week and has sprinkled four top 10s in his last 15 starts on the European Tour, including T10 at the PGA Championship.

 

Alejandro Canizares

The straight-hitting Spaniard loves tree-lined tracks so put everything together and it’s no surprise to see his has course form of 11-7-21. Fourth at the Paul Lawrie Match Play in the summer and, after a quiet campaign, last week’s T15 in the Italian Open was his best strokeplay finish this season so he’ll head home in good spirits.


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Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.
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