The Las Aves (“Sotogrande New”) new course – designed by Robert Trent Jones – is opened. Owned by former US Army man Joe McMicking, it was run more as a golfing facility than a club, with its Andalucian-style clubhouse also used as a cinema for local residents. During the Portugal revolution, three-times British Open champion Henry Cotton acted as golf director to help with the promotion of real estate (he was to be succeeded by Tony Jacklin).
Retired banker Paul Jeanty suggests to Bolivian tin millionaire Jaime Ortiz-Patiño, who had retired to live in Sotogrande and play golf, that he should buy the then Las Aves course and run it as an exclusive club for himself and friends. Concerned that the locals might be less than keen on a foreigner owning prime real estate, Sr Ortiz-Patiño recommends that a consortium of eight high-powered businessmen – either living on the estate or frequent visitors – should buy the course.
The new club is incorporated. Trent-Jones is commissioned to redesign the course, which is renamed Valderrama, after the finca (small country estate) originally purchased by McMicking.
Nick Faldo wins the inaugural Volvo Masters – season grand-finale of the European Tour – at Valderrama (subsequent winners, in order until 1996, were: Ronan Rafferty, Mike Harwood, Rodger Davis, Sandy Lyle, Colin Montgomerie, Bernhard Langer, Alexander Cejka, Mark McNulty).
Sr Ortiz-Patiño assumes complete control, buying out the other shareholders.
Valderrama founder-president Jaime Ortiz-Patiño attends the Ryder Cup match at Kiawah Island, where he becomes convinced his club would be able to host the 1997 competition just as well, if not better.
A surprise press conference is called at Valderrama, where it is announced that the club is officially applying to host the 1997 Ryder Cup. The application is reinforced by an exhaustive and elaborate presentation book outlining the advantages of holding the event at Valderrama. A press conference is also held the next day in London. Several other Spanish courses also subsequently announce their candidature. Severiano Ballesteros favours Novo Sancti Petri (Cádiz), which he designed. The Spanish Golf Federation, based in Madrid, plumps for the Real Club de Madrid. The arguments become somewhat heated.
The European Tour announces Valderrama as the 1997 Ryder Cup venue. Executive director Ken Schofield says: “The five main criteria that went into choosing Valderrama were the preparation of the course, the quality of the course, the locality, the accessibility and the accommodation. We had a year-long review of nine venues. They are all excellent venues but only one could be chosen. The Ryder Cup Committee felt strongly that Valderrama fitted the bill in every way.”
The other eight were: Real Club de Campo de Madrid, La Moraleja II and RACE (Madrid), El Saler (Valencia), La Manga (Murcia), Montecastillo (Jerez), Novo Sancti Petri and Real Golf de Sevilla. The final decision was taken from a short-list of El Saler, La Manga, La Moraleja II, Novo Sancti Petri and Valderrama.
Ballesteros offers a truce to Valderrama, noting: “I think it is great that Spain will be the hosts of the 1997 Ryder Cup. It will take golf in my homeland to a new level of excitement and appreciation for all golfers, rich or poor. I know that all the other clubs who were hoping to be selected are greatly disappointed. I wanted Novo Sancti Petri but life sometimes is not sweet. We do not always get what we want. Everyone must forget hard feelings and work together in assisting Mr Patiño, Valderrama and the Ryder Cup Committee to show the world that Spain is worthy of hosting this magnificent golf event.” Ballesteros is commissioned by Sr Ortiz-Patiño to re-design the contentious 17th.
After losses in 1991 and 1993, captain Bernard Gallacher leads Europe to victory over the US at Oak Hill and announces his retirement. Ballesteros is subsequently named as the first “Continental” captain in the history of the event.
Speaking during the Spanish Open, José María Olazábal says he does not believe Tiger Woods will have as much impact as many people are predicting. “The Ryder Cup is a special tournament, it’s a team of 12 players, not just one player; it’s not played medal, but matchplay; it’s not Augusta, but Valderrama. These are a series of combined factors that could mean the beast is not such a beast. You have to adapt to the team; you’re not playing alone.”
Ballesteros says he is pleased Tiger Woods will be in the team because he wants to see the best 12 American players. “I wouldn’t want to beat a team that wasn’t strong.”
Tiger Woods tries to deflect the attention centred on his Cup debut. Referring to his resounding Masters victory the month before, he says: “I don’t feel I have sent any type of message at all. It is difficult for one guy to send a message to a whole team. The Ryder Cup is totally different from the majors. When I play in a major I am just there for myself and representing the United States is a totally different experience. When the national anthems are played and the flags raised, a whole new situation develops; you are playing for others and not just yourself.”
US captain Tom Kite also enters the Tiger debate, observing: “I know Tiger is very excited about playing in the match. He said last November that his number one goal was to make the team. Matchplay against professionals, rather than amateurs, will be somewhat different but he has already proved he can handle just about any situation.”
Accompanied by two bodyguards, Tiger Woods makes his much-awaited first appearance on the Coast for a practice session, pre British Open, with US captain Tom Kite and five other players. Before returning promptly to his private jet in Gibraltar, and the trip to Troon, Woods says he does not believe his long-hitting will be much of an advantage “because positional play is important. The greens are small and fast, and I will be hitting mainly two irons and three woods off the tee”.
Tiger Woods fails to deliver, winning just one and a half points out of a possible five (including defeat against Costantino Rocca in the final-day singles), as the Europeans win by the barest of margins, 14 and a half to 13 and a half.
In this inaugural year of the World Golf Championships – a series of lucrative tournaments aimed at establishing a global circuit – Valderrama reached a two-year agreement to host the final event, the American Express Championship.Several leading Americans, including David Duval and Mark O’Meara, decide to miss the WGC, but the press is still able to savour a duel between Woods and Sergio Garcia, winner and runner-up, respectively, of the year’s final major, the US PGA. Woods opens with an even-par 71 and Garcia a 74, as 1998 US PGA champion Vijay Singh leads with a 67. Unheralded Americans Chris Perry and Tim Herron lead at the halfway point on 137 (Woods 140; Garcia 143). Miguel Angel Jimenez, fresh from becoming the first Spanish winner of the Volvo Masters the week before at Montecastillo (Jerez), moves into a share of the third-round lead (on 209) with Perry (Woods 210; Garcia 212).
Woods seems to be heading for victory until an unfortunate triple bogey on the precarious 17th. He finishes on 278, as Jimenez prepares to tee off on the 18th needing just a par-four for victory.
The Spaniard narrowly misses a long putt for par, and joins Woods on the 10th tee for the first extra hole. Woods birdies the hole and is proclaimed champion. Garcia finishes seventh (285), and the other Spaniard in the field, Jose Maria Olazabal, 11th (286). Jimenez’s consolation is a cheque for 341,276 euros (approximately 57 million pesetas) and fourth place in the final order of merit for the second consecutive year.
Valderrama is once again included in the schedule as the venue for the American Express Championship (November 9-12).One of the few left-handers on any of the major tours, Mike Weir dropped a shot on the last but still had a two-stroke cushion over Lee Westwood, who nevertheless had the ample consolation of overtaking Darren Clarke and finishing number one on the 2000 Volvo Order of Merit. Weir, the winner of just one previous tournament on the US Tour, the 1999 Air Canada Championship, collected a cheque for $1 million, while Westwood won one pound from a bet with Clarke in August (“after a few too many drinks”). The Englishman closed with a five-under-par 68 to finish on 279, nine clear of his Irish friend. Reigning US Masters champion Vijay Singh closed with a 68 to take a share of third with Duffy Waldorf on 280; and Sergio García, Padraig Harrington, Nick Price and Tiger Woods were fifth on 281.
After one year of “rest” for the course, The Volvo Masters returns to Valderrama and gives the tournament an even more challenging flavour.
Colin Montgomerie said it was an “appropriate” result – and it was hard to disagree with him. When darkness descended on Valderrama, two holes into a play-off for the 2002 Volvo Masters Andalucía title, Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer shook hands and agreed to share the trophy (a new one was made, so they actually have one each).
Carlos Rodiles almost had the chance of becoming the first Spaniard to win at Valderrama (apart from the 1997 Ryder Cup) – and, more importantly, winning his first European Tour title. In the end, however, amidst intense Spanish disappointment, it was Fredrik Jacobson who took the Volvo Masters Andalucía title and achieved various firsts of his own: the first Swede to win three official European Tour events in the same season; the first wire-to-wire winner of the Volvo Masters Andalucía; and the first time he had won more than one million euros in a season. He also emulated fellow Swede Anders Forsbrand, who finished fourth on the 1992 Volvo Order of Merit (and who, ironically, used to represent Valderrama on the Tour). It had taken Jacobson 160 Tour events coming into 2003 before he won his first event, then he reeled off three in 18 starts.
Ian Poulter beat Sergio Garcia at the first hole of a sudden-death play-off to capture the Volvo Masters Andalucia at Valderrama. The European Tour report noted that, “Valderrama lived up to its nickname of ‘Valde-drama’ as, for the third successive year, the curtain fell on a European Tour season following the sudden-death excitement of a play-off.” Ernie Els didn’t tee up in the tournament, having already clinched number one spot on the order of merit.
Paul McGinley captured the Volvo Masters in grand style and Colin Montgomerie claimed a record-breaking eighth order of merit crown. Montgomerie had led the tournament at one stage by six strokes and McGinley had been four over par early in his second round – but their fortunes were reversed during a thrilling final day which ended in the Scot topping the money list six years after the last of his seven consecutive order of merit titles.
Jeev Milkha Singh extended his love affair with Volvo, following up his victory in the Volvo China Open earlier in the year by capturing the European Tour’s season-ending Volvo Masters on his debut appearance at Valderrama. A gripping sub-plot involved Padraig Harrington just edging out Paul Casey for the order of merit crown. For a third consecutive year, Sergio García had to settle for second place.
Justin Rose put the icing on the cake of his European Tour order of merit victory by winning a dramatic three-way play-off for the Volvo Masters at Valderrama. Simply securing a place in the sudden-death play-off with Simon Dyson and Søren Kjeldsen was sufficient to guarantee Rose the Harry Vardon Trophy for the first time, but he made it a double celebration by beating his opponents at the second hole of sudden-death.
Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell achieved that rarest of golfing birds, an albatross, on the 17th hole in the final round.
In what was to be the final of 21 Volvo Masters (16 of them at Valderrama), and the 20th anniversary of the first edition, Søren Kjeldsen completed a wire-to-wire victory as Robert Karlsson became the first Swede to win the European Tour order of merit. Afterwards Kjeldsen said: “Winning is not easy. There’s a lot of good players out here – apart from Tiger Woods, there’s not a lot of people that seem to win a lot.”
After a one-year hiatus, European Tour action returned to Europe’s finest course with a new tournament, the Andalucía Valderrama Masters – but not without controversy. The “consejero” (tourism minister) of the Junta de Andalucía (regional government) at the time showed his displeasure with IMG’s decision to take the Volvo World Match Play Championship to another course the previous year by launching this new “Andalucía” branded event with the slogan comment, “…It’s now ours”.
As for the event itself, Graeme McDowell held off the challenge of Gareth Maybin and Damien McGrane to claim a battling victory. Martin Kaymer’s failure to claim a top-two finish ensured fellow Lee Westwood would displace Tiger Woods as world number one when the latest rankings were released on the Monday. There would be six Europeans in the top 10, with McDowell joining Westwood, Kaymer, Paul Casey, Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy – compared to four Americans.
Remarkably, no Spaniard had ever won an event at Valderrama since its European Tour debut with the 1988 Volvo Masters (Miguel Ángel Jiménez won the 1999 Volvo Masters when it was held at Montecastillo). Victorious the week before in the Castelló Masters, and three times a runner-up at Valderrama (2004, 2005 and 2006), Sergio García rectified that oversight, winning the Andalucía Masters by one shot over Jiménez, who had led for much of the front nine and then birdied 16 and 17 to re-ignite his challenge. “It’s very, very special,” said the 31-year-old. “Valderrama – I have so much history here and unfortunately it wasn’t as good as this until now!”
These were relatively dark times for European Tour golf on the Costa del Sol, and throughout Spain in general, as the economic crisis bit hard, sponsors shied away from investing their money in tournaments, and the Junta de Andalucía adjusted its tourist promotion policy to focus on overseas fairs and other initiatives. In spite of an ongoing contract with the European Tour, the regional government pulled out of the planned third edition of the Andalucía Masters just a few months before it was scheduled to begin. The region’s global star, Valderrama, then went into tournament hibernation as other Costa del Sol courses hosted a meagre handful of Tour events during this period.In 2015, in one of King Don Carlos I’s last executive decisions before abdicating as Spanish monarch, he bestowed “Royal” (“Real”) status on Valderrama Golf Club.
Valderrama was back in the limelight, taking on the floundering Spanish Open – which was in doubt because of lack of sponsorship interest – with the support of a regional government once again aware of the importance of hosting major tournaments in Andalucía to spread the word about the region’s golfing attractions. The late decision to host the event – the first one on the European Tour co-sponsored by the Sergio García Foundation – was made just a couple of months before players hit the fairways.
Andrew Johnston won his first European Tour title, the Real Club Valderrama Open de España, Hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation, and became the first man to win a Tour event with an over-par score since Justin Rose’s victory in the U.S. Open at Merion in 2013. It had been 20 years since a regular event had been won over par, Ian Woosnam carding the same one-over score to win the Scottish Open at Carnoustie in 1996. “I came off the course and I just started crying with the emotion of it,” said the charismatic Englishman who went on to become a global star popularly known as “Beef”.
The Andalucía Valderrama Masters returned to the Costa del, following the signing of a five-year contract with the Junta de Andalucía and with aspirations of eventually becoming one of the European Tour’s Rolex Series events.
In the lead-up to the tournament, rising Spanish star Jon Rahm, who had risen to fifth in the world in just his first season as a pro, winning on both the US PGA Tour and European Tour, gained much of the media attention. (Check out our exclusive photo of Rahm when he was 10 years old and seeking autographs of his own at the Volvo Masters.) However, he struggled with the fans’ expectations and missed the cut, before tournament co-host and reigning US Masters champion Sergio García went to seal a one-stroke victory over second-placed Dutchman Joost Luiten.
“It was amazing,” said García after securing his 14th Tour title. “The people were unbelievable, amazing, so many people came out and supported, it was really a treat. I want to dedicate this one to my wife Angela and our little baby coming next year in March.”