Overview and market
The European Tour celebrates a European Masters victory for the first time since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999. Coincidentally we're back on Spanish soil this week for the Open De Espana in the wake of Danny Willett's success at Augusta National. A number of the players have made the trip across the pond, most notably Sergio Garcia - 7.00 - who will be hosting the event - and the Valderrama course specialist is an overwhelming favourite in the betting. This is the first tournament on mainland European soil in 2016.
Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello - 15.00 - brings some of his best form back to his home country while Andy Sullivan - 23.00 - will be looking to get a poor Masters debut out of his system. Two time major Champion Martin Kaymer trades at 21.00.
The course - Valderrama par 71, 6991 yards
Valderrama, "the best golf course in Spain", returns to the rotation to host the Open de Espana. Valderrama has held WGC events and the Ryder cup as well as being the regular host venue for the Volvo Masters up until 2008. It also played host to the Andalucia Masters in 2010 and 2011.
It's a pristine gem: tight, contoured and treelined, with fast undulating surfaces surrounded by white sandy bunkers. Rough resides in close proximity on a number of holes. Some greens though contain run offs and Richard Boxall made reference to Valderrama similarities last week when commentating around the surfaces at Augusta National. The winning score around here is usually single digits under par, with the cream rising to the top. Previous tournament stats suggest that driving accuracy combined with a good short game is the concoction for success. Coastal winds are usually a factor.
He said: “Valderrama is the kind of course that tests your whole game. You need to master all the shots and all the clubs in the bag. It always produces quality winners," - Rafa Cabrera Bello.
"Only the best in the world have won there, great ball strikers. I must keep working hard to be a good ball striker.” - Pablo Larrazabal - 67.00
Top Open De Espana Tips
Soren Kjeldsen - 17.00 or 4.50 - is another with a fabulous record at Valderrama. A number of top 25s at the Volvo Masters culminated in a playoff loss here back in 2007, followed by a win at the 2008 edition of the event. He narrowly missed out to Graeme McDowell at the Andalucia Masters in 2010 to record another runner up finish. Kjeldsen is a wind specialist with a low penetrating ball flight and comes here off the back of a T7 at the Masters where he was excellent on the speedy greens from short range. Driving accuracy and short game ability are the key components of Kjeldsen's game.
Joost Luiten - 26.00 or 6.00 - is another top ball striker who has hit 75% of greens in regulation this season. He already has a top 5 at Valderrama to his name at the 2010 Andalucia Masters - one of only 6 players that avoided being over par for that tournament. Luiten owns 6 from 7 top 15 finishes in 2016. His average finishing position was 8.66 prior to a missed cut in India which I'm prepared to overlook given the extremities of the Dehli GC track and the fact he bounced back with a 2nd round 68 after a poor opener.
Alejandro Canizares - 36.00 or 8.00 - has declared he's excited to be playing on his home track with his family around. He said it's also one of his favourite courses and he owns competitive 21-7 finishes there at the Andulacia Masters. Canizares comes here off 35-15 finishes and is another that excels in both driving accuracy and with the flatstick. He hit over 70% of fairways in 2015 and has a PPR average of 28.13 this season. Course knowledge will be a big advantage: "Valderrama is very tricky. You’ve got to keep it, not even on the fairway but on the right spot of the fairway. The greens are going to be fast and it’s going to be tough".
I'm going to take a shot on Paul Dunne - 126.00 or 26.00 - this week. Paul is a potential star who you all remember led the Open Championship after 54 holes last season. He finished 13th on his PGA Tour debut at the notoriously difficult Torrey Pines before a quiet period. His attention now turns back to the European Tour which he earned his card for at QSchool. Basically I think Valderrama is a perfect fit for Dunne who is a no thrills fairways and short game skills player and if he brings his game, he could contend at a big price.