Golf in Spain is largely based around the tourism industry. Golfers from around Europe head to the many golfing resorts dotted around the whole of the Iberian Peninsula. Valderrama is perhaps the most famous venue of all in Spain but tourists are given fair warning that this is no run of the mill resort course. It has played host to several top level professional events over the years including the 1997 Ryder Cup, the WGC-American Express Championship and the Andalucía Masters. As such, Valderrama is a notoriously difficult course for all levels of golfer.
The fairways are famously narrow and lined with overhanging cork trees while the green complexes are incredibly tricky. It takes a certain style of golf to win at Valderrama. The host course is the main draw for the Andalucía Masters but this tournament, which was first held in 2010 and went on a hiatus between 2012 and 2016, always attracts a strong field of European Tour stars.
2022: Adrian Otaegui
Valderrama is an iconic venue on the European Tour but the 2022 Andalucia Masters may be the last time that it is used by the tour. The club’s members have a vote on whether or not to allow a LIV Golf tournament at Valderrama next year so it was perhaps fitting that a golfer who has featured on LIV, Adrian Otaegui would win this year’s event.
For Otaegui, the most important piece of symbolism was that he won for the first time in his home country. This was the 29-year-old's fourth win on tour in total but there is always something special about winning at home. Speaking afterwards, Otaegui said: “I feel so happy to have my first win in Spain, in front of these crowds, on my favourite golf course in Spain. It’s just unbelievable, the week went perfect.”
Nobody truly plays perfect golf but Otaegui got as close as it is possible to get to that at Valderrama. This course is usually a real grind but he took it apart, amassing a six-stroke lead heading into the final round. Another commanding performance on Sunday saw out the win in style for an emotional and delighted Otaegui.
2021: Matthew Fitzpatrick
At most golf courses used by the European Tour, a run of 15 straight pars in the final round would be highly frustrating for a golfer in contention. Matt Fitzpatrick knew that it was a different story at Valderrama. Alongside his experienced caddie, Billy Foster, Fitzpatrick knew that patience was the key to winning at this much venerated and incredibly demanding venue.
Fitzpatrick also knew that he had to take advantage when opportunity knocked. That’s what he did on both the 16th and 17th holes of his final round, making consecutive birdies to overtake Sebastian Soderberg. The Swede took a more aggressive approach to his final round which looked as though it would pay off as he went through his first four holes in -4. However, his charge was eventually derailed by a bad mistake off the tee on 17 which opened the door for Fitzpatrick to walk through.
“Winning around Valderrama is something you want to tick off on the bucket list,” said Fitzpatrick afterwards. “I felt if I could hang in there, hand around and pick up a couple of birdies if possible, pars were never a bad thing, and that’s what I did.” The win will do Fitzpatrick the world of good coming in his first tournament after another poor showing in the Ryder Cup.
2020: John Catlin
For the second year in a row, the Andalucía Masters was the scene of a first time winner on the European Tour. In most of his previous events on tour, a final score of +2 would have seen Catlin miss the cut but such were the difficulty of the playing conditions at Valderrama that score was the culmination of a wire to wire victory.
Unlike recent winners of this event, Catlin wasn’t sure of his victory at any stage on Sunday. Despite stating two shots clear at the top of the leaderboard, the American relinquished the lead which then changed hands several times over the final day. Conditions and the course set up were so difficult that Catlin secured the win despite failing to make a single birdie on the Sunday. What he did do was scramble tremendously well. His short game and putting allowed him to save par from some horrible positions and ultimately outlast the competition.
Martin Kaymer was the man who came closest to stopping Catlin. The German’s chip on the final hole came inches from dropping into the cup to set up a playoff. Justin Harding, Will Besseling and Antoine Rozner were the other players in contention on the Sunday of the tournament but they had no trophy to show for a bruising four days of golf.
2019: Christiaan Bezuidenhout
The Andalucía Masters was finally wrestled away from the grip of Sergio Garcia in 2019. Christiaan Bezuidenhout did his best Garcia impression in winning though. The South African dominated at Valderrama in the style of the three-time defending champion to win the title, his first on the European Tour, by a six-shot margin.
This victory was a hugely important milestone in what has been a remarkable journey for Bezuidenhout. Long before his golfing career commenced, at the age of just two, Bezuidenhout drank rat poison. That incident has had a lasting impact on his health including the development of a stutter and in trying to treat that with beta blockers he broke doping rules ahead of the 2014 British Amateur Championship and was ultimately banned for nine months.
Fighting back from adversity is the norm for Bezuidenhout but he didn’t have much of that to do at Valderrama. He started the week with a round of 66, just one shot off the lead, and followed up with rounds of 68, 69 and 71 which took him forwards as the competition steadily went backwards.
2018: Sergio Garcia
Even Sergio Garcia’s nearest and dearest could have been forgiven for feeling a little bit tired of seeing his face. Not only was Garcia the defending champion of the Andalucía Masters, he was the tournament host and the home favourite. As if that wasn’t enough reason to plaster his face all over billboards, posters and the television coverage, he only went and completed a hat-trick of tournament wins.
Just like the year before, a score of -12 was good enough for Garcia to win. This time around though he finished a comfortable four shots better off than the runner-up who was Shane Lowry. It was not entirely straightforward for Garcia though. Some awful weather meant that the Andalucía Masters was forced to a Monday finish despite being cut to 54 holes. That makes that winning score all the more impressive and it owes a great deal to his second round of 64 which was absolute vintage Garcia. His driving, approach play and short game were all in excellent order. He also utilised his experience, choosing the right holes to push and playing conservatively at other times while the competition made mistakes behind him.
It was fortunate that Garcia had a lot of people to celebrate with as he had a lot to celebrate. Not least becoming the first player since Colin Montgomerie to win the same European Tour event three times in a row (even if though those wins were separated by six years).
2017: Sergio Garcia
Can you successfully defend a golf tournament over the space of five years? That was the question Sergio Garcia was hoping to answer ahead of the 2017 Andalucía Masters. The Spanish hero won this event when it was last held back in 2012 and, backed by the home fans, he claimed another win at Valderrama.
Valderrama is a tricky, unique course that many players just can’t get a handle on. Garcia, however, finds that his world class game from tee to green is perfectly suited for the narrow holes, the overhanging trees and the funky greens. He arrived on top of the world having won his first major championship at the Masters in the previous April and needed his best game as the return of the Andalucía Masters secured a good field. Of the challengers it was Joost Luiten who pushed Garcia furthest, finishing just one shot behind Garcia in the final reckoning.
The performance of the top two was all the more impressive when you consider that third placed Daniel Brooks finished on a score of -7. Indeed, everybody below 18th place finished over par which puts Garcia’s performance in context. This was a fully deserved win for Garcia who was winning for the sixth time on the European Tour on Spanish soil.