New venue looks a real treat
Will the cream rise to the top at Sotogrande
After Matthieu Pavon's extremely impressive victory at the Open de España last week, the DP World Tour remains in Spain for the ninth edition of the Andalucía Masters.
The tournament made a welcome return to the DP World Tour schedule six years ago, seven years after the first two editions won by Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia.
Valderrama has been the venue for the tournament since its inception, but it signed a five-year deal with LIV Golf after last year's renewal of this event, so the tournament moves to Real Club de Golf Sotogrande this time around.
Real Club de Golf Sotogrande, San Roque, Andalucia, Spain.
Par 72, 7099 yards
Real Club de Golf Sotogrande was the first course in Europe to be designed by legendry course designer Robert Trent Jones and it first opened in 1964.
It hosted the Open de España just two years later, with Argentinian Roberto De Vicenzo trotting up by seven strokes, a year before he won the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
A complete restoration of Real Club de Golf Sotogrande was agreed in 2011 and with the help of architects Roger Rulewich, who worked for 35 years as Jones' right-hand man, and his partner David Fleury, the course was restored to its originally design.
Bunkers were modernised, nearly 37 hectares were turfed with Certified 419 Bermuda, which was laid on fairways and rough, the fairways were reshaped, and the greens were reshaped and reduced back to their original size.
According to the course's website, the putting surfaces had increased by almost 45% over the years.
The course re-opened in 2016.
The fairways are described as wide and the greens delicately moulded and very fast. They're also very well protected by 69 of the 100 odd bunkers at the course.
Although losing Valderrama is a big blow to the Tour, Real Club de Golf Sotogrande appears to be a fabulous layout, so it looks like we're in for treat this week despite the venue change.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 13:00 on Thursday.
First Eight Tournament Winners with Prices
- 2010 - Graeme McDowell -2 16.5
- 2011 - Sergio Garcia -6 7.413/2
- 2012-2016 - No Event
- 2017 - Sergio Garcia -12 7.06/1
- 2018 - Sergio Garcia -12 (54 holes) 5.59/2
- 2019 - Christiaan Bezuidenhout -10 120.0119/1
- 2020 - John Catlin +2 240.0239/1
- 2021 - Matt Fitzpatrick -6 20.019/1
- 2022 - Adrian Otaegui -19 65.064/1
Was Madrid the Perfect Warmup?
It's never easy when we go to a new venue and doubly so when we have no course form to look back on so angles in are thin on the ground this week, but it would be logical to assume that a good week at Club de Campo in Madrid last week would be beneficial.
A warmup around an intricate Spanish track with well-bunkered greens should be the ideal preparation but the last two editions at Valderrama were preceded by the Open de España at Club de Campo and neither winner had played the week before.
Having finished third behind Jon Rahm in Madrid, Min Woo Lee was tied for the lead through rounds one and two at Valderrama last year, but he finished a well beaten third in the end and he's the only one in the last two years to contend in both events.
Last year's winner, Adrian Otaegui, didn't play in his national open after missing the cut at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the 2021 winner, Matt Fitzpatrick, was playing for the first time in five weeks having finished 20th at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in his penultimate start.
I can't stress enough that we don't have much to go and that I'm merely providing food for thought but the limited evidence we have suggests that there could be an argument for swerving anyone that contended seriously in Madrid last week.
Will we Witness a Top-Drawer Winner?
There may not have been any DP World Tour events but there have been various amateur and invitational tournaments played at Real Club de Golf Sotogrande and the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Jose María Olazabal, Sergio García, Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy have all won there.
The US Open winner, Wyndham Clark, is one of a number of top-class players in the field this week so could the cream rise to the top here once more?
Having the US Open winner Wyndham Clark in the field in Andalucia is as surprising as it is pleasing.
The 29-year-old has only ever played on the DP World Tour four times - twice in the Scottish Open and twice in the Open Championship - and he's yet to finish inside the top-20.
It's hard to work out quite how he'll fare this week on a layout unfamiliar to everyone. He's no doubt received a pretty penny to line-up and quite how seriously he'll take the tournament is anyone's guess. But it is perhaps worth highlighting that the cream has risen to the top in this event previously.
The bang-in-for Kiwi Ryan Fox makes slightly more appeal and he'd be my idea of the most likely winner.
Fox has current form figures reading 3-1-MC-2 but we can forgive the missed cut at the Open de France, given it came just days after his biggest win to date at the BMW PGA Championship.
He rallied to shoot 68 in round two but after a 75 on Thursday, that wasn't enough to see him through. It was impossible, however, to fault his next appearance when he finished second at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship as defending champion.
Adrian Meronk has a point to prove still, having not been a part of Luke Donald's plans in Rome, and it would be no surprise to see him bounce back to form. But he hasn't played well since the disappointment of being left out of the team.
The Pole failed to crack the top-20 in either the Irish Open or the BMW PGA and he failed to break 70 at the Alfred Dunhill last time out.
Jordan Smith is another player who is attempting to put disappointment behind him and this event may come a bit too soon for him too.
Like Meronk, Smith performed poorly in Scotland last time out, finishing down the field after rounds of 71, 74 and 68. But that was hardly surprising given his devastating defeat in Paris on his penultimate start when he was matched at 1.111/9 when he led by six early in round four.
Eventually caught and passed by Ryo Hisatsune, Smith will have been devastated to have let that title escape and he'll have his work cut out to improve on last year's sixth behind Otaegui.
MacIntyre ready to win again
In contrast to Meronk and Smith, fresh off his first Ryder Cup appearance, Scotland's Robert MacIntyre should be feeling on top of the world.
I backed MacIntyre two weeks ago in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, but he took two days to get going before his 65 in round three on the Monday, saw him finally play golf somewhere close to his best.
With the benefit of hindsight, that event probably came a bit too soon after his first Ryder Cup. But as the winner Matt Fitzpatrick demonstrated perfectly, winning Ryder Cuppers playing well is nothing new and a much-improved performance in Spain this week could be on the cards for the highly talented 27-year-old.
MacIntyre finished ninth in this event 12 months ago so we know he likes this part of the world and I thought he was fractionally over-priced at 42.041/1.
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