Andalucía Masters 2018: 5 Early Talking Points
This week the European Tour arrives in Sotogrande, Spain for the 2018 edition of the Andalucía Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation.
It's the 'beginning of the end' in this season's Race to Dubai competition with many golfers jostling for position to make sure they can extend into the final four tournaments of the 2017/18 season.
By way of a pre-tournament preview, here's five early talking points to help get you ready for four days of world-class golf in sunny Southern Spain.
Garcia Goes For The Hat-Trick
After a win for Garcia at the 2011 edition of the Andalucía Valderrama Masters the local government decided not to fund the tournament between 2012 and 2016, so taking last year's title was, technically, a back-to-back event win.
After such an impressive showing at Le Golf National just a few weeks ago where Garcia would break the all-time European Ryder Cup points record, it wouldn't be a massive surprise if he secured the hat-trick.
Key to the 2016 Masters champ's success over the years has been his impressive iron play. Check out an interesting swing tip below...
'Captain Fantastic' Bjorn Tees It Up
European golf fans will be focused not only on Sergio Garcia this week, but also his 2018 Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. The glittering spoils of victory will also be on display as the Ryder Cup trophy sits front and centre throughout the four days of play.
It probably won't be the most pleasant reminder for the four Americans in the field this week...
Spaniards Raring To Go
It's not only the host Sergio Garcia who will be looking for a win on home soil this week at Valderrama Golf Club; there are also quite a few of his compatriots who will fancy their chances as play gets underway this Thursday.
A trio of Spanish winners on the European Tour this season are in this week's field. Adrián Otaegui outlasted the field in the Belgian Knockout back in May, while Pedro Oriol and Scott Fernández flew the flag for Spain splendidly at the European Team Golf Championship in August.
Valderrama Steeped In Ryder Cup History
In a victorious Ryder Cup year for the Europeans, it seems quite fitting that Valderrama Golf Club would make a welcome appearance on the European Tour rota.
The only other Central European venue to have hosted the biggest tournament in global team golf is held dearly in the hearts of many players in the field this week - not least captain Thomas Bjorn who played in Seve Ballesteros' triumphant side back in 1997.
The 17th hole, in particular, has seen its fair share of drama throughout the years. The stunning penultimate hole is a par five with a natural amphitheatre style setting as around 7000 spectators can stand greenside and produce a booming atmosphere.
Good morning from Valderrama! We've seen some of the best shots in European Tour history here over the years. ⬇️🕳https://t.co/w7nFDGM2tR— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) 13 April 2016
Our 'Players To Watch'
It's pretty obvious to state that all eyes will be on Garcia this week as he carries out his hosting duties and attempts to challenge for a first win in 2018. With that said, expectations will be relatively low because of his sketchy form this season and that very fact could release some pressure from Europe's Ryder Cup history-maker.
Joost Luiten has form at Valderrama after finishing runner-up at last year's tournament as well as in the 2016 Open de Espana (also played at Valderrama). He is returning from a wrist injury that has kept him out of action since May but we're hoping that the Dutchman will be able to hit the ground running.
A bit more of a long shot, Englishman Aaron Rai may perform well this week. He is pretty reliable off the tee and, with a premium on finding fairways around this golf course, that can only be good news.
Who do you think could perform well this week in Southern Spain? Let us know below...
Ready to level-up your golf game? Download the Hole19 golf app for FREE today. Just click on your app store button below.