Matt Fitzpatrick with the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters trophy (photo © Real Club Valderrama)

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England’s Matt Fitzpatrick has claimed the coveted Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters trophy with a brilliant display of patience and tactics at Real Club Valderrama. Fitzpatrick, the highest ranked player competing on Sunday found the right targets and kept his cool when his birdie putts failed to drop. While he posted par after par his rivals faltered, and he was able at last to make back to back birdies on 16 and 17 to take the lead.

With overnight leader Laurie Canter moving backward, it was Sebastian Soderberg who held the lead for much of the round after a brilliant start, but the Swede collapsed in the final stretch.

The two-time Ryder Cup player capped his bogey-free 2-under par 69 for a three shot win, and got a standing ovation from the fans on the final green. He becomes the first English winner in the seven editions of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, and the sixth in 26 European Tour events played in Valderrama along the years. This means a lot to him.

“It's on the bucket list to win round Valderrama with the history that it has. To do it bogey free on Sunday as well is extra special. I'm delighted. It’s amazing, particularly the way I did It - very patient all day, didn't try to press anything, stuck to our targets and managed to hole the putts at the end. I'm delighted with the win.

There isn’t a breather hole out here. 16 is a tough driver, 17, disaster can happen, 18, par is a great score. That was how I felt all day. I felt if I could hang in there, hang around and pick up a couple of birdies if possible, pars were never a bad thing, and that’s what I did.

 

With this win, his seventh European Tour title, Fitzpatrick moves to fifth on the Race to Dubai Rankings and into the top 25 on the Official World Golf Ranking.

Pablo Larrazábal, the best Spaniard at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters finished 20th (+1) after breaking par on Sunday. Alejandro Cañizares, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Sebastián García Rodríguez share 25th place (+2).

 

INSIDE THE ROPES

Strong institutional support for the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters

The vice-president of the Junta de Andalucía and Regional Minister for Tourism, Regeneration, Justice and Local Administration, Juan Marín, attended the last day of the tournament to show his support for an event that he considers fundamental to showcase Andalucía in the media all over the world.

Marín highlighted the contribution of the tournament to the Andalusian economy due to its capacity to attract national and international tourists "with medium-high purchasing power, with a long stay and who tend to travel several times a year and help us to fight seasonality".

The Vice President of the Junta de Andalucía considers the golf sector to be fundamental at a time of recovery in the tourism sector. "When others were betting on not holding certain events, we showed that they could go ahead despite the circumstances." This effort is now paying off by consolidating Andalusia as a venue for major competitions.

Marín was pleased to state that "after difficult period the summer has been good and the autumn much better than expected. We are now reaching occupancy levels that exceed our expectations", as reflected in the occupancy figures for the recent Columbus long weekend of around 90% or 95% in coastal areas and over 78% in inland provinces.

The unforgiving 17th

Once again, the famous par five played a crucial role in the outcome of the event. Sebastian Soderberg stood on the 17th tee two shots clear, looking for his second European Tour victory with four birdies, an eagle, and only two bogeys on his card. However, a lost tee shot opened the door to his rivals in the final stretch. He played a provisional ball and three putted for a painful double bogey. Another bogey on the last relegated him to share the second place with Min Woo Lee.

Winners perform in Valderrama

Defending champion John Catlin said goodbye to Valderrama on a positive note. The American went round in 67 (-4), the joint best score of the day along with Gavin Green, to finish tied eleventh.

Andrew Johnston, who claimed the 2016 Open de España on this course, carded a final round of 69 (-2) to finish tied fifteenth.

Much more than a great putter

Although Matt Fitzpatrick is renowned as one of the best putters on Tour, his performance at Valderrama made it clear that the Englishman has a lot of magic in his bag beyond the putter  ̶  and his irons worked wonders.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work on my irons, me and my coach Mike Walker. Maybe I don’t give him enough credit but he’s the best in the business in my opinion. He spends hours and hours looking at my swing, trying to get things right, finding little things we can improve on. There’s so much credit to give to him on the things we’ve worked on and change, to improve them. It showed this week.”

The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, an event in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai made possible by the essential contribution of the Real Club Valderrama, is sponsored by Estrella Damm and the Consejería de Turismo, Regeneración, Justicia y Administración Local of the Junta de Andalucía, jointly funded by the EU, declared Event of Exceptional Public Interest by the Government of Spain. This tournament is also supported by the Diputación de Cádiz, Exterior Plus, Hero, Rolex y Santander Private Banking. Callaway, Cinco Jotas, Enterprise, Gadira, Kyocera, La Reserva Club Sotogrande, Marca, Quirónsalud, the Real Federación Andaluza de Golf, Riversa, SO/ Sotogrande, Varma and Volvo are official suppliers.

Laurie Canter in action at Real Club Valderrama (photo © Real Club Valderrama)

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Up to ten countries are represented in the top fifteen of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters leaderboard, headed by England’s Laurie Canter on 7 under, with best Spaniard Sebastián García Rodríguez in the top ten.

The calmer third round conditions were reflected on the scoreboard, led by Canter who followed up yesterday’s brilliant 65 with a 67 to take a three shot lead over countryman Matt Fitzpatrick. In his first event since the Ryder Cup, Fitzpatrick is the only member of the initial stellar group who will be in contention on Sunday, after Jon Rahm missed the cut and Rafa Cabrera Bello lost his chances.

Canter, the only player in the top eight seeking his first European Tour title, will need to keep a level head going into the final stretch as he faces the demands of the course and the challenge of his rivals.

“I don’t always have that calmness, but it’s something I actively try and work on – to be as level as I can be out there. It helps on a course like this. You have to be. The score almost goes out the window at times, usually that’s a governor of how you feel. The course is asking a lot of different challenges and you can’t dwell when it goes against you. I’m trying to stay as level as I can and I’m doing a good job,” he declared after his Saturday round.

Canter, who claimed the 2011 Spanish International Amateur Championship, will have to keep at bay a chasing pack led by Fitzpatrick (-4).  American David Lipsky stands one shot behind (-3) after a great 64. Five players follow with -2: Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, 2021 Scottish Open champion Min Woo Lee from Australia, Italian Renato Paratore, France’s Romain Langasque  ̶  also a winner of the Spanish International Amateur Championship  ̶  and Swede Sebastian Soderberg.

Sebastián García Rodríguez leads the Spanish contingent on level par. Alejandro Cañizares is one shot behind (+1), followed by Pablo Larrazábal and Rafa Cabrera Bello (+2).

After a good start at last week’s Open de España, Sebastián is looking to keep up the momentum.

“I have always liked Valderrama because it rewards good ball striking. In fact, I have been striking the ball nicely for the last three days and it’s put me in a good position. My putter has been my best friend today, but you need all fourteen clubs on this course.”

 

INSIDE THE ROPES

Saturday spectacle at Valderrama

The third day of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters has provided spectacular moments for the thousands of fans following the tournament.

One of the best was Bernd Wiesberger’s eagle on the opening hole, a 365-metre par 4. The European Ryder Cup player put his tee shot 90 metres from the pin and holed his wedge.

Robert Rock's visor

Robert Rock is one of the few golfers in the world who doesn’t wear a cap, hat or visor. This has generated much comment throughout his career. He doesn't do it for lack of brand interest and famously turned down offers of around $150,000 a year when he was in the top 60 in the world. His decision is a matter of comfort: "I have a lot of hair and it's quite thick, and caps make me hot and uncomfortable," he said a few years ago.

But that changed today when he appeared on the 1st tee with a visor bearing the Real Club Valderrama logo, in deference to a course he loves and where he always feels very much at home. This gesture honours the English player who, among other reasons, is familiar with Valderrama as the coach of club member Alejandro Cañizares.

Sebastián García Rodríguez battles to save his card on a course he loves.

This week Sebastián is having one of his best performances so far in 2021. He came to Valderrama looking for a win or at least to secure his playing rights for 2022.

He is currently ranked 136th in the Race to Dubai, and the cut is expected to be at around 122nd at the end of the season. His current position in the tournament would move him up to 125th.

The ideal scenario for García would be a top 5 this week, which would secure his card and allow him to enjoy his first tournament on the PGA Tour (he qualified for Mayakoba) without any worries for 2022.

He would not be the first player from Madrid to achieve this goal at Valderrama. Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño made it in 2018 with a fifth place finish.

Sunshine and birdies for moving day

Calm conditions have contributed to unusually low scores at Valderrama. On Thursday the course average was 74.3 strokes, on Friday 73.4 and it dropped to 71.7 on Saturday. A total of 21 players shot under par for the third round.

The lowest round of the day was David Lipsky’s 64 with one bogey and eight birdies for seven under par. Interestingly, he decided to change his putter last night, something he had never done before in the middle of a tournament.

 “My putter was just really cold the first two days. I sent some videos to my putting coach last night, he gave me a few tips and I switched out my putter. I just needed to change something and apparently it worked. I was terrible the last couple of days and I had to do something, so I switched it up and today was great.”

Lipsky's seven under par is two strokes off the course record of 62 set by Bernhard Langer at the 1994 Volvo Masters the same day Miguel Angel Jimenez hit his famous albatross on 17th.

Tickets can still be purchased to enjoy this year's edition of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, and the flexibility of the offer allows to choose between individual access for each day, season tickets or passes for the weekend, with preferential rates for children under 14 years, federated golfers or people with reduced mobility.

Tickets can be purchased from the Tickets menú on the tournament website, at edamgolf.es or at Fever.

The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, an event in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai made possible by the essential contribution of the Real Club Valderrama, is sponsored by Estrella Damm and the Consejería de Turismo, Regeneración, Justicia y Administración Local of the Junta de Andalucía, jointly funded by the EU, declared Event of Exceptional Public Interest by the Government of Spain. This tournament is also supported by the Diputación de Cádiz, Exterior Plus, Hero, Rolex y Santander Private Banking. Callaway, Cinco Jotas, Enterprise, Gadira, Kyocera, La Reserva Club Sotogrande, Marca, Quirónsalud, the Real Federación Andaluza de Golf, Riversa, SO/ Sotogrande, Varma and Volvo are official suppliers.

Jon Rahm and Rafa Cabrera Bello on 18 at Real Club Valderrama (photo © Real Club Valderrama)

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The second round of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters came to an emotional ending with Jon Rahm bidding a humble farewell to the public who gave him a standing ovation on Real Club Valderrama’s 18th green. France’s Romain Langasque leads the field with -4 and Alejandro Cañizares is the best Spaniard two shots behind after 36 holes.

Rahm got off to a bad start for second day in a row  ̶  starting from the first this time  ̶  and was unable to find the birdies he needed to stay in the tournament, although he played the back nine under par. He leaves after a long and eventful season, basking in the affection of the crowds who have supported him enthusiastically in the two events he has played in Spain and promising that he will do his utmost to ensure that the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters reaches a higher status on the international scene.

“I putted for birdie on every hole after 7 bit didn’t make any. I knew that I needed six and I didn’t give up.  Pity that I played badly. It’s been a long year and a good year, it's a shame that it ended like this. I love the course and I'll keep coming back, but I'm a bit tired. I don't like excuses, I've tried, but more than my body, my mind hasn't been able to cope. I’m going to hang my clubs for the next four weeks and do something else. I need a rest.”

Rahm admits that his main motivation for coming to this tournament is the passion he felt as a child which he now sees in the eyes of his young fans.

"The public was my reason for coming here, apart from wanting to win. I understand that having reached the level I have reached I can help Spanish golf. I remember when I was a kid coming to the Volvo Masters, seeing the players gave you a big boost. Now I will go and sign autographs because I remember when they signed my shirt in 2008 or 2009, I was thrilled. The next Spanish benchmark golfer could be right here".

Langasque, the 2015 Amateur Champion and a one-time European Tour winner, has carded back-to-back rounds of 69 to lead at the halfway stage with -4. After a stunning eagle on 17, the Frenchman is one shot clear of Swede Sebastian Söderberg, New Zealand’s Ryan Fox and Englishmen Laurie Canter (after a superb 65) and Ryder Cup star Matt Fitzpatrick.

Two shots behind the leader, Alejandro Cañizares made the most of his local knowledge to get to -2 with spectacular finish to his round.

Cañizares, a member of Valderrama, praised the character of the course.

 "Valderrama is a great example of a course that not being long is one of the most difficult if not the most difficult of the year. It would be nice to have more courses like this. Obviously, I'm not a big hitter and it suits me, but it's just that this type of course is nicer than having to hit 350 yards off the tee. More courses like Valderrama would do golf a lot of good.”

Rafa Cabrera Bello had a difficult day on the firm greens of Valderrama and paid dearly for his few long game mistakes, but managed to finish tied 13th in level par. One stroke behind, Sebastián García Rodríguez and Pablo Larrazábal tied 16th (+1). Outside the top 20, Jorge Campillo (+2), Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño and Adrián Otaegui (+3), Álvaro Quirós and Nacho Elvira (+4), and Santiago Tarrío (+5) also made the cut.

 

INSIDE THE ROPES

Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño equals his best round in this tournament

After struggling on Thursday, Fernández-Castaño, a member and great expert of Real Club Valderrama, carded a bogey-free 68 on Friday, his best score in this tournament (although he shot 67 on the third day of the 2008 Volvo Masters).

England’s Eddie Pepperell, also played bogey-free golf on Friday but missed the cut.

Romain Langasque and Laurie Canter have good memories of Spain

Both midway leader Langasque and lowest scorer Canter will be looking for a prestigious European Tour victory at Valderrama this weekend, the first for Canter and the second for Langasque.

Both are united by a prestigious triumph on Spanish soil, the Spanish International Amateur Championship (Copa S.M. El Rey) which they won resoundingly: Langasque by 9 & 8 at RCG de Sevilla in 2016, and Canter by 11 & 10 at El Prat in 2011.

 

Picking up Gasol's baton

Jon Rahm declared himself flattered by the front page of Marca naming him Pau Gasol's "successor" as the new benchmark for Spanish sport after the recent retirement of the great Catalan basketball player.

"I'm delighted to accept, and all I can say is that I hope I can deliver. Apart from the next few weeks, I'm going to keep training to try to win more titles and give Spain a lot of excitement. I hope I can be an example like Pau has been; he is a great Spanish sportsman."

Tickets can still be purchased to enjoy this year's edition of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, and the flexibility of the offer allows to choose between individual access for each day, season tickets or passes for the weekend, with preferential rates for children under 14 years, federated golfers or people with reduced mobility.

Tickets can be purchased from the Tickets menú on the tournament website, at edamgolf.es or at Fever.

The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, an event in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai made possible by the essential contribution of the Real Club Valderrama, is sponsored by Estrella Damm and the Consejería de Turismo, Regeneración, Justicia y Administración Local of the Junta de Andalucía, jointly funded by the EU, declared Event of Exceptional Public Interest by the Government of Spain. This tournament is also supported by the Diputación de Cádiz, Exterior Plus, Hero, Rolex y Santander Private Banking. Callaway, Cinco Jotas, Enterprise, Gadira, Kyocera, La Reserva Club Sotogrande, Marca, Quirónsalud, the Real Federación Andaluza de Golf, Riversa, SO/ Sotogrande, Varma and Volvo are official suppliers.

(From left to right) Miguel and Javier Ballesteros, María Acacia López Bachiller, José María Cañizares, Nuno Brito e Cunha, Manuel Piñero and Ignacio Rodríguez Marín (credit © Real Club Valderrama)

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The indelible memory of Seve Ballesteros impregnated the event held last Tuesday at the Real Club Valderrama in the setting of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters. Promoted by the Junta de Andalucía, represented among others by José María Arrabal Sedano, its Secretary of Sports, and also supported by the municipal corporation of San Roque headed by Mayor Juan Carlos Ruiz Boix, the heartfelt tribute to Seve Ballesteros was attended by his sons, Javier and Miguel, his colleagues Manuel Piñero and José María Cañizares and a very special hostess, María Acacia López Bachiller, press officer of the European Tour in Spain for more than forty years.

The importance of Seve Ballesteros for Andalusian and Spanish golf was once again made clear in a moving video that reviewed his career, and both his son Javier and the golfers who shared a thousand adventures with him framed with their words the spectacular figure of the genius of Pedreña. In addition, Javier Ballesteros gave José María Arrabal Sedano one of the polo shirts that his father wore in the spectacular Ryder Cup held in 1997 at the Real Club Valderrama to be exhibited in the Sports Museum of Seville, a garment that will be accompanied by a portrait of Victor Jerez, a painter specializing in sports scenes.

To round off the event, Nuno Brito e Cunha, President of the Real Club Valderrama, hosted a very special charity auction in which bidders competed for unique gifts, such as a spectacular bronze figure with Seve's hands, a painting of Seve by Víctor Jerez with the iconic image chosen by the winning bidder, the chance to enjoy an unforgettable day with José María, Gabriel and Alejandro Cañizares at the Real Club Valderrama and other unique gifts. Those attending the event, many of them belonging to public and private entities that sponsor the tournament (such as Damm and the Junta de Andalucía, for example) or members of the Real Club Valderrama, showed their generosity and their contributions added up to a great amount, approximately 40,000 € that will be given to the victims of the catastrophe in La Palma.

In this way, the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters once again became a great platform to strengthen ties between golf and the community in an event that remembered the best Spanish golfer of all time.

Tickets can still be purchased to enjoy this year's edition of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, and the flexibility of the offer allows to choose between individual access for each day, season tickets or passes for the weekend, with preferential rates for children under 14 years, federated golfers or people with reduced mobility.

Tickets can be purchased from the Tickets menú on the tournament website, at edamgolf.es or at Fever.

The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, an event in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai made possible by the essential contribution of the Real Club Valderrama, is sponsored by Estrella Damm and the Consejería de Turismo, Regeneración, Justicia y Administración Local of the Junta de Andalucía, jointly funded by the EU, declared Event of Exceptional Public Interest by the Government of Spain. This tournament is also supported by the Diputación de Cádiz, Exterior Plus, Hero, Rolex y Santander Private Banking. Callaway, Cinco Jotas, Enterprise, Gadira, Kyocera, La Reserva Club Sotogrande, Marca, Quirónsalud, the Real Federación Andaluza de Golf, Riversa, SO/ Sotogrande, Varma and Volvo are official suppliers.

Rafa Cabrera Bello at Valderrama's 17th hole (credit © Real Club Valderrama)

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Rafa Cabrera Bello, a big fan of surfing, keeps riding the good wave. After last week’s performance the Open de España champion has carded a first round 68, one shot behind leader Julien Guerrier, in tough conditions at Real Club Valderrama.

“You need to have a lot of respect for this course, but I feel confident and I’m managing to bring the good feelings to the course. If I don’t trust myself after a win, I don’t know when I’m going to do it. There’s a lot of difficult shots out there, but I have many recent memories of things going well, so I just go for it. I hit the shot that I think is right and it’s working fine!”

The wind that blew all day on Thursday adds to the merits of Rafa’s score.

“This might be one of my best rounds at Valderrama. It’s hard enough to shoot under par in calm conditions, with wind it just makes it all that tougher. The greens were fast and firm, so you really had to focus. There were some good shots that ended badly, but I was able to hold on, I took advantage of the opportunities and the putt helped me a lot today”.

In contrast, Jon Rahm had a difficult start, although he never lost his nerve and his performance improved as the holes went by, but his putter was cold and he was unable to come back. Despite his opening 78, tough conditions at Real Club Valderrama leave the door open as only ten players finished in the red on Thursday.

“Tough day, but I never gave up. 78 is better than 79, and every shot counts because the cut will be high if we have this wind tomorrow. I like this golf course and I want to play well, but I had a disappointing start. I didn’t make a single birdie, I never got started. I gave myself some opportunities and hit some good putts, but they refused to fall.”

Leader Julien Guerrier was almost faultless from tee to green and very pleased with his putting, including a few long ones. The Frenchman, third last week at the Spanish Open, seems to have caught the same wave as Rafa Cabrera Bello and having saved his card aims for higher goals.

“I think I’m more relaxed after last week. I’m playing to shoot a low score, not to save my card, that’s the main thing.”

As for the other Spanish participants, Alejandro Cañizares and Pablo Larrazábal carded well fought rounds of par with Nacho Elvira and Sebastián García Rodríguez one behind (+1).

 

INSIDE THE ROPES

Patience is key at Valderrama

Players at Valderrama keep repeating the word “patience”, particularly those who are familiar with the course. Besides the usual difficulties of the layout, patience is a priceless ally in windy conditions.

Alejandro Cañizares and Sebastián García Rodríguez made good use of it to finish on par and +1 respectively.

"A round of +3 is not pretty but it's quite usual on this course. You know that if you don't give up and stay focused, as soon as you make a couple of birdies you'll be in the top positions, something that doesn't happen in any other tournament of the year," said Cañizares, who knows Real Club Valderrama really well.

Sebas García confirms this: "As I played today I would be -4 or -5 any other week, but here I am happy with +1. These two years on Tour have taught me to be patient and keep my head, and that is essential on days like this."

Jon Rahm recalls what happened in Chicago

World number one is not giving up hope of getting into the fight with 54 holes to go.

"If anyone can do it, it's clearly me. Something similar happened in Chicago, playing the BMW Championships at Olympia Fields, when after two rounds I was +6 and I was able to fight for the title on Sunday to win the tournament. I will have to play under par tomorrow, and I have options for sure".

Only ten players under par

Soren Kjeldsen stands out among them three strokes behind the leader with -1. The Dane can boast of his record in previous editions of the tournament. He has played six times and has made the cut every time. His best result was a second place in 2010 and he has always finished in the top 50.

 In addition, Kjeldsen won the Volvo Masters in 2008, was runner-up in 2007 and finished in the top 25 in five of the six editions he played. He finished fourth in the 2016 Open de España held at this venue. He is an expert on the demanding Valderrama course.

Tickets can still be purchased to enjoy this year's edition of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, and the flexibility of the offer allows to choose between individual access for each day, season tickets or passes for the weekend, with preferential rates for children under 14 years, federated golfers or people with reduced mobility.

Tickets can be purchased from the Tickets menú on the tournament website, at edamgolf.es or at Fever.

The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, an event in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai made possible by the essential contribution of the Real Club Valderrama, is sponsored by Estrella Damm and the Consejería de Turismo, Regeneración, Justicia y Administración Local of the Junta de Andalucía, jointly funded by the EU, declared Event of Exceptional Public Interest by the Government of Spain. This tournament is also supported by the Diputación de Cádiz, Exterior Plus, Hero, Rolex y Santander Private Banking. Callaway, Cinco Jotas, Enterprise, Gadira, Kyocera, La Reserva Club Sotogrande, Marca, Quirónsalud, the Real Federación Andaluza de Golf, Riversa, SO/ Sotogrande, Varma and Volvo are official suppliers.

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