LIV Tour Event to be Held at Valderrama in Summer 2023
There had been intense speculation since this year’s decaffeinated Andalucía Masters, and now the rumours have been confirmed officially. LIV Golf has announced that Royal Valderrama Club will host one of the renegade tour’s 14 events in 2023, from 30 June to 2 July.
The announcement follows reports in recent months that Valderrama had become increasingly irritated with the DP World Tour (formerly European Tour) at the diminishing status of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, which attracted a second-tier field for the 2022 edition in October.
Now, that annoyance has culminated in Valderrama agreeing to host a LIV Tour event for the next five years.
Announcing that El Camaleón (Mexico) and Sentosa (Singapore) would also be hosting tournaments in 2023, as well as the previously confirmed The Grange in Australia, LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman said, “LIV Golf is truly a global league dedicated to expanding the sport throughout the world, and these destinations for the league’s 2023 launch showcase our commitment to tournament play at the highest level. These venues have played host to signature moments in golf, and we’re excited to build new traditions for the sport while delivering a first-class fan experience at some of the world’s best courses.”
Valderrama chief executive Javier Reviriego said, “Royal Valderrama Club has a rich history of hosting extraordinary golf tournaments, and we are excited to initiate this new partnership with LIV Golf. The quality of players that will compete at Valderrama will no doubt attract many European fans that are eager to see some of the best golfers in the world. We will ensure that the golf course is presented in top condition and that it represents a true challenge, where precision and strategy will play a key role. There is no doubt that the five LIV Golf events that we will be hosting in the coming years will further position Andalucía as one of the top golf destinations in the world.”
Reigning US Open Champion Matt Fitzpatrick To Defend Title at Valderrama
Winning at Royal Valderrama last year meant Matt Fitzpatrick could tick off another achievement on his career bucket list. He had always wanted to win at the renowned Sotogrande course, and he was delighted when victory last year in the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters gave him his seventh European Tour title.
This year, he made it eight – the most important of all, his first major – in the US Open. Continue reading
Spectacular New Opening Grandstand Hole for 2023 Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesín
Finca Cortesín has officially unveiled a new opening hole at the Casares course as the 365-day countdown to next year’s Solheim Cup begins. Announcing the change to the course – part of a general revamp and upgrade overseen by original designer Cabell B. Robinson – the tournament organisers said, “The ambience on the first hole of the Solheim Cup is unlike any other golf tournament. The atmosphere and the decibels created by the European and American fans with their chants, music and colours mean that at that moment, the spectacle is turned from the golfers to the stands.” Continue reading
Countdown to 2023: Solheim Cup Another Historic First for Costa del Golf
The 2023 Solheim Cup will be the final link of a cycle that began with the designation of the “Costa del Golf” in 1997. The name was coined in the lead up to that year’s historic Ryder Cup at Valderrama, with signs appearing along the coast declaring, “Costa del Sol-Costa del Golf”.
Twenty-five years later, the Costa is home to 70 golf courses, the most of any similar-sized region in Europe, extending for 120 kilometres from the Axarquía area east of Málaga city to Sotogrande – actually in Cádiz province but customarily grouped under the Costa del Sol moniker by local tourism authorities. Continue reading
Two Catalunya Events Added to 2022 DP World Tour Schedule
The Catalan region will be hosting two new events on this year’s DP World Tour. The Spanish double-header begins with the ISPS Handa Championship at Infinitum (Tarragona) from April 21 to 24, followed by the Catalunya Championship at PGA Catalunya Golf and Wellness (Girona) from April 28 to May 1. Each tournament will have a prize fund of US$2 million.
Previously known as Lumine, Infinitum Golf was a second stage Qualifying School venue from 2012 until it succeeded PGA Catalunya as host venue for the Qualifying School final from 2017 to 2019.
A European Tour Destination, PGA Catalunya Golf and Wellness was the Qualifying School final venue for nine consecutive years from 2008 to 2016, and it has also hosted four full Tour events: the 1999 Sarazen World Open won by Thomas Bjørn, and three Open de España events, in 2000, 2009 and 2014. In winning the latter, Miguel Ángel Jiménez extended his own record as the Tour’s oldest winner – to 50 years and 133 days.
Two other events on the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour) are scheduled for Spain this year: the Acciona Open de España Presented by Madrid from 6 to 9 October at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid; and the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters from 13-16 October at Royal Valderrama Club. The week of 20-23 October is currently open for a yet-to-be-confirmed European event which may also be held in Spain.
Official Presentation of EDAM at Royal Valderrama Club
The traditional press conference to present the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters was held today at Royal Valderrama Club. The official presentation was presided over by Valderrama general manager Javier Reviriego, the deputy minister for tourism with the Junta de Andalucía (regional government), Manuel Alejandro Cardenete, a representative of San Roque Town Hall and Pablo Mansilla, president of the Royal Andalucian Golf Federation.
Confirming the previously announced news that Jon Rahm would be teeing up in the tournament, Javier Reviriego thanked the world number one for his support. He also referred to measures adopted by the club as part of its ongoing commitment to sustainability, replacing some lateral grass areas with pine bark, commonly known as “munch”, and noted that the plan was to maintain the course’s high level of difficulty for this year’s tournament. Reviriego once again emphasised, without going into details, that Valderrama’s objective was to ensure that the tournament continued to grow in the future, indicating that he “hopes to have news soon” and adding that , if rumours of a joint circuit between the European Tour and U.S. PGA Tour materialised, he envisaged Valderrama being one of the venues.
Meanwhile, deputy minister for tourism Manuel Alejandro Cardenete highlighted data on tourism’s solid recovery in recent months, surpassing Cataluña for the first time as the premier national destination, and forecast a total of five million visitors during the autumn period.
Jon Rahm Returns to Valderrama
World number one and reigning U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm confirmed back in August that he would return to Royal Valderrama Club this year.
In his last appearance at Valderrama in 2019, Rahm finished runner-up to Christiaan Bezuidenhout in that year’s edition of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters.
“I have some unfinished business at Valderrama, that’s for sure,” said Rahm. “As a Spaniard, it’s a golf course where we all want to win. As soon as you arrive you get a real sense of the history of the venue and the great moments that have taken place there over the last 30 years. To be a part of that would really be an honour.
“I’ve had nothing but great experiences of playing in front of home crowds. Spanish golf fans are truly special, and I can’t wait to see them lining the fairways again.”
Marbella Hosts Presentation of 2023 Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesín
Yesterday we attended the formal presentation of the Solheim Cup, which will be held for the first time in Spain from 18 to 24 September 2023. The venue, Finca Cortesín, had been revealed previously, and yesterday the dates were also confirmed officially – one week before the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome.
This is excellent news for Spanish golf, which once again has the opportunity of hosting an event at the highest international level. The coup follows three years of hard work and effort by the main person behind the initiative, Íñigo Aramburu, managing director of Deporte & Business, a company which has been organising Ladies European Tour events since 2002.
Costa del Sol Tourism joins PING and Rolex as the main sponsors, while Andalucía Tourism, Acosol, Marbella Town Hall and Benahavís Town Hall are the official partners. A key union of forces without which it would not have been possible to host the event…
The initial project proposed hosting the event in Marbella, but in the end it was decided to opt for the Casares course – once again highlighting Finca Cortesín’s great vision in always aiming to maintain its status as a top-level competition course.
The European Tour and the Real Club Valderrama celebrate their silver anniversary
35 years since its foundation and 25 individual events of the European Tour held on its pristine course. But numbers fall short when trying to convey the meaning of the Real Club Valderrama for Andalusian, Spanish and European golf.
Valderrama was founded in 1985 thanks to the efforts and vision of Jaime Ortiz Patiño, who hired top designer Robert Trent Jones Sr to renovate the old Las Aves course and the surrounding land with the intention of creating the best golf course in continental Europe. Valderrama debuted as a European Tour venue soon after that, since in 1988 it held the Volvo Masters, an elite field event that brought the curtain down on the European Tour season.
Taking a quick look at its winner list (from Sir Nick Faldo, its first champion, to world-class golfers such as Sandy Lyle, Colin Montgomerie, Bernhard Langer, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, among others) it’s easy to understand its importance. On the fairways and greens of Valderrama, unforgettable moments such as Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie’s draw in 2002, Miguel Ángel Jiménez’s albatross in 1994 or the exciting playoffs between Ian Poulter and Sergio García in 2004 or Fredrik Jacobson with Carlos Rodiles the previous year. In total, 16 Volvo Masters in which the Real Club Valderrama acted as a fair but demanding judge.
After being elevated to a well-deserved glory and gaining international prominence thanks to the 1997 Ryder Cup in which Seve Ballesteros captained the European team to victory, the Sotogrande club hosted another key event on the international schedule, the WGC American Express Championship. The field, again, was outstanding. In 1999, the number one in the world, Tiger Woods, needed a playoff to beat a tough rival carried by the cheering locals, Miguel Ángel Jiménez, while in 2000 Mike Weir, a Masters winner, conquered the title.
The Andalucía Masters, currently sponsored by Estrella Damm and the Junta de Andalucía, followed up with the great tradition of elite tournaments at Valderrama and Graeme McDowell, who had won the 2010 US Open winner, beat the field that year. Golf fans had to wait until 2011 for the first Spanish victory at Real Club Valderrama when Sergio García managed to overcome the resistance of Miguel Ángel Jiménez.
In 2016 the Open de España took over and the field faced a course that, as always, made no concessions. This time, fan-favourite Andrew Johnston won the title but could not beat Valderrama because he finished over par, something that had not happened since Sandy Lyle won with +3 in the 1992 Volvo Masters.
In the following two years, Sergio García continued his love affair with Real Club Valderrama by winning two consecutive Andalucía Masters titles, becoming the first player to obtain three individual victories at Valderrama. The Borriol golfer accumulates 14 top ten in 15 appearances at Valderrama (2 in the WGC American Express Championship, 7 in the Volvo Masters and 5 in the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters), an impressive record.
In 2019 the South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout broke Sergio García’s streak and managed to hold off the assault of the many Spanish players fighting for the title since five Spaniards finished in the top 7 of the event.
The 2020 winner, therefore, will have the honor of being crowned in the 25th European Tour event played at Valderrama. Without a question, he will be a worthy heir to the tradition that so many illustrious international champions have written with their talent in one of the best courses in the world.
Star Billing for World’s Top Three… Including Jon Rahm
Spanish star Jon Rahm will be in the marquee group on Thursday when the US PGA Tour resumes officially for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak halted golf around the world three months ago.
The three leading players in the world ranking (which was frozen when the main global tours went into hibernation) will be the main featured group in the first tournament back, the Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial in Fort Worth, starting on Thursday (11 June) – albeit without fans allowed on the course.
Rory McIlroy (1), Jon Rahn (2) and Brooks Koepka (3) also played together in the first round of the 2020 Players Championship, after which the event was cancelled and the subsequent Tour schedule put on hold.
The omens are good for 25-year-old Rahm, if he can recapture that day’s form: he carded 69, while Koepka had a 70 and McIlroy a 72.
Apart from McIlroy, Rahm and Koepka, other star groups will be Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose, and Phil Mickelson, Gary Woodland and defending champion Kevin Na.
The overall strength of the field is highlighted by the fact that, in total, 101 of the 148 players have won on Tour.
In all, 15 of the world’s top 20 ranked golfers will be teeing up in Texas. Among those missing are Adam Scott (6), Tommy Fleetwood (10) and Tiger Woods (11). Scott has expressed his concerns with the tour’s COVID-19 testing protocol, and is not expected to return to competition for two months, in the lead-up to the newly-scheduled majors. UK-based Fleetwood explained in May that the quarantine times for international visitors would also most likely keep him away from the US for an extended period.
“It isn’t impossible for me to play,” Fleetwood told Golf Digest. “Far from it. But two weeks of quarantine at both ends of a trip across the Atlantic is a huge issue. That factor really made my decision for me. To go over and play in the three events scheduled for June would eat up seven weeks of my life. That’s more than double what a trip like that would normally take. I wouldn’t want to be away from my wife and kids for that long.”
Woods, meanwhile, has only played once professionally at the Colonial, finishing joint fourth in the 1997 event.
The US PGA Championship, at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, has been moved from May to 6-9 August; the US Open until after the official 2019-2020 season concludes, from June to September 17 to 20 at Winged Foot in New York; and the US Masters at Augusta, normally in April, to an unprecedented late-autumn date, 12-15 November.
The Tokyo Olympics (now including a golf competition, re-introduced in 2016) have been postponed until 2021; and a decision is still pending on the Ryder Cup, due to be held at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin from 25 to 27 September.
European Tour Update
The European Tour plans to resume its 2020 season with the launch of a new six-week “UK Swing”. Suspended on 8 March due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Tour is scheduled to return to action in July and continue to December.
All tournaments will initially be played behind closed doors, and all will be “subject to stringent safety and testing protocols set out in the Tour’s comprehensive Health Strategy, which will continue to evolve, aligned with international government guidance and health guidelines”.
The “UK Swing” begins with the Betfred British Masters hosted by Lee Westwood, at Close House, near Newcastle, from Wednesday 22 July to Saturday 25 July, followed by the English Open (Marriott Forest of Arden), English Championship (Marriott Hanbury Manor), Celtic Classic and Wales Open (both at The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport) and finally the UK Championship (The Belfry).
The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation, due to be held from 29 April to 3 May at Royal Valderrama, has not been rescheduled in 2020.
Resumption of Women’s Tours
Both the US LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour were also forced to cancel tournaments from March to June.
The LPGA is scheduled to resume on 23 July with the Marathon Classic in Ohio; while the LET is due to return to action with the Ladies Scottish Open from 13 to 16 August. This follows the announcement this week that the Evian Championship – one of five women’s majors, and due to be played from 6 August at the Evian Resort Golf Club in France – has been postponed until next year.
In Spain, the La Reserva de Sotogrande Invitational (scheduled to be played in May) and the Mediterranean Ladies Open (Terramar Golf Club in July) have been “postponed”, but the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open (at a club to be confirmed) is still scheduled for 6 to 9 November.
García Continues Love Affair with Valderrama
When the event returned to the Tour calendar in 2017, he won again – and he successfully defended his title in 2018. In addition, he has 10 other top-10 finishes from 14 appearances at a course he says is his favourite in the world. After his first round this week in the newly named and upgraded Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, García said, “I love this place, there is no doubt about that. It kind of has something that helps me.”
For 2019, he was back in familiar territory, second one stroke behind Frenchman Victor Perez after a first round five-under 66. He found things more difficult on the second day, but a one-over 72 still left him with a share of second place, albeit four strokes adrift of the halfway leader, South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Keeping him company, and the home country fans even happier, on 138 were local (Guadiaro) star Álvaro Quirós and Adri Arnous.
The highest world-ranked player in the field (11th), Jon Rahm was joint 23rd after opening 69-72 – a significant improvement on his debut in the 2017 edition, when he missed the cut in his first start as a professional on home Spanish soil.
Of the rest of the field, 2016 Spanish Open winner (also at Valderrama) Andrew “Beef” Johnston (70-73) had a share of 42nd place, while the only Spaniard to win (so far) on the European Tour this season, Jorge Campillo (73-71), was 55th with another local-based Spaniard, Alejandro Cañizares (71-73), right on the weekend cut-off mark (two-over 144).
Notables missing the cut included Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño (74-71), 2008 European Tour number one Robert Karlsson (73-72) and José María Olazábal (71-77) – as well as last week’s winner in Germany, Andrea Pavan (73-73).
After his second round, García said, “Obviously it was very difficult this afternoon; the greens were very firm and it got quite windy, more than yesterday afternoon. I just didn’t make any putts, but I felt like I played really well under the conditions and the difficulty of the course. The way the course is playing you have to pick your spots, there are some good spots where you can be aggressive, but you also have to be a little bit careful. It’s always great to play in Spain. Playing in front of Spanish people is amazing; I always enjoy it, it’s one of my favourite things, and thanks to that I’ve been very successful in Spain.”