The rise to stardom of several young, highly talented players has done wonders for golf in recent years. Attracting new fans to the game and casting off the idea of golf as a stuffy sport is vital but the traditions of the game also have a part to play in its future success. Take this week’s Andalucía Masters for example. The tournament returns to the European Tour schedules after six years and will see some of golf’s up and coming stars face one of the most historic and respected courses in Europe, Valderrama.
The biggest names in European golf’s history have all played at Valderrama and the Sotogrande course even hosted the Ryder Cup in 1997. While many newer courses put a premium on power and distance off the tee, Valderrama challenges players’ accuracy, shot making and strategy. The par 71 layout measures under 7,000 yards from the back tees but it remains one of the toughest tests in golf thanks to its incredibly tight fairways and small, fast, greens.
Andrew Johnston is one of the most popular current crop of players amongst the younger demographic of golf fans but he showed his class and versatility at this historic venue by winning the Open de España at Valderrama last year. He did so by hitting more greens in regulation and fairways than anybody else and will look to repeat the trick this week.
Garcia the Man to Beat in His Event
Sergio Garcia is the man responsible for the Andalucía Masters’ return. He is hosting this week’s tournament for the benefit of his foundation and would be the most popular winner in a field that contains the biggest names in Spanish golf.
It’s been a wonderful year for Garcia which has seen him win the Masters and get married but it’s not over yet by a long way. He has designs on winning the Race to Dubai and could pick up an important win to boost those ambitions this week. Nobody in the field has a record at Valderrama that even comes close to Sergio’s and there is no reason to suggest that he’ll have lost his knack of scoring here. At 5/1 with Coral, Garcia is very much the player all the others have to worry about.
Harrington Can Make a Triumphant Return to Valderrama
Padraig Harrington is one of the players competing this week who played in the Andalucía Masters before it vanished from the schedule. In fact, the Irishman has very good memories of the tournament as Valderrama is a course that the he’s always played well at.
Harrington has been criticised for tinkering too much with his game but his constant search for improvement has helped him remain competitive as he approaches the latter stages of his career. He still hits the ball plenty far enough for the long holes at Valderrama and his ball striking should ensure he hits more greens than most. If he can get to grips with the changes to the Valderrama and hole his fair share of putts, Harrington could well challenge the leaders come Sunday. So, make sure to take the 70/1 that Bet365 are quoting about his chances.