The final full field regular season European Tour event is this week at the Andalucía Valderrama Masters
This year marks the third edition of the Andalucía Valderrama Masters, picking up after going dormant since 2011.
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While the tournament is relatively new, the host site in San Roque, Cádiz, is a Spanish classic. Real Club Valderrama’s claim to fame is the 1997 Ryder Cup won by Europe and captained by Spanish legend, Seve Ballesteros. Valderrama also hosted the Volvo Masters for two six-year stints, most recently in 2008, and the WGC-American Express Championship (now WGC-México Championship) from 1999-2000. Most recently it was the venue for last year’s 2016 Open de España.
I could try to describe the test in store for the field this week at the 6,991-yard par-71 Robert Trent Jones design, but I’ll let a two-time major champion do the job instead. Here’s what Martin Kaymer told the European Tour before last year’s Open de España:
"“It is very challenging from the tee. You need to hit all kinds of tee shots: fades, draws, low, high and even when you hit the fairway you can be blocked by trees. So you need to have a good strategy for the golf course. The greens are very small so it is all about ball striking – it is never going to be a putting competition. Any day, if you shoot something around par it is a very good score, but shooting a round of 68 or 75 can be very close together, so that is the exciting part about Valderrama.”"
The course is not as treelined as it once was, but proper placement off the tee will still be of value this week. When the winds pick up, Valderrama can be lethal. The winning score here at the 2016 Open de España was one-over-par, the first time on the European Tour in 20 years a winning score was over par. Only 18 players bested 10-over on the week.
This year’s field isn’t particularly strong due to an untimely position on the schedule. The Andalucía Masters falls between last week’s Italian Open, a Rolex Series event with an inflated purse, and next week’s WGC-HSBC Champions, a guaranteed money event a continent away in China.
Nonetheless, a couple Spanish stalwarts are here this week to give the fledgling event some juice.
This is the last full field European Tour event of the season before the Race to Dubai Final Series begins in two weeks. That means it’s do or die time for guys seeking to crack the top 70 in the RtD standings to automatically qualify for the first Final Series event, the Turkish Airlines Open.
Here’s a look at 10 players who could fare well in Spain this week.