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(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.

Alejandro Cañizares and Santiago Tarrío, Spanish stars in the Beach Clean-up (credit © Real Club Valderrama)

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The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters has once again confirmed that it is much more than just a great golf tournament thanks to the initiative set up by the European Tour and the San Roque City Council to clean the Torreguadiaro beach. Hundreds of volunteers, students, and local residents joined the efforts of Santiago Tarrío and Alejandro Cañizares, two of the best Spanish players in this week’s field.

This initiative is part of the European Tour's Green Drive programme, created to promote social and environmental responsibility and generate a positive impact in terms of sustainability. The clean-up took place on Tuesday 12 with an immediate and visible effect, as volunteers were busy picking up litter and micro plastics in this wonderful environment of the San Roque coastline.

Every year almost eight million tonnes of plastic waste go to the sea. This is extremely harmful to marine and human life, as it contributes to the reduction of biodiversity and the extinction of species. The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters team organised this beach clean-up operation with the single objective of collecting as much plastic and rubbish as possible in order to make the beach and the sea cleaner and safer for everyone.

The two players who volunteered, Santiago Tarrio and Alejandro Cañizares, worked with enthusiasm and praised this initiative promoted by the local entities and the tournament sponsors. 

"Activities like these help make us all better. At the end of the day it's not just about playing golf; we must teach the next generation the wonderful values of golf, and these initiatives show something more important that the game  ̶ that we must respect the environment to respect ourselves," said Tarrío.

“The amount of rubbish that litters our beaches is just incredible, and we must realize at once that taking care of our environment is taking care of ourselves. I hope this will go beyond San Roque, Andalusia and Spain because it’s a global problem that we must resolve together. It costs nothing to help and not pollute", said Alejandro Cañizares.

The volunteers were rewarded for their efforts and commitment as the first 200 participants received a pass to enter the Real Club Valderrama on Saturday and enjoy the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters.

We would like to thank the San Roque City Council, the International School of Sotogrande for bringing so many young people, and the volunteers. They were able to collect 230 kilos of rubbish between them and left the Torreguadiaro beach cleaner. 

Tickets are now available for this year’s Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, with options for purchasing individual tickets for each day, four-day passes or weekend passes, with preferential rates for children under 14, 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 (credit © Real Club Valderrama)

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A relaxed and smiling Rafa Cabrera Bello looks forward to the challenge of Real Club Valderrama, once again at its best for this three million euro event in the decisive phase of the Race to Dubai.

Rafa recalls distant memories, well aware of the demands of the historic layout.

“Valderrama is a course that I've always loved, and I've been very conscious of how difficult it is. I played it for the first time when I was 12 years old as a junior, and I grew up dreaming of playing here because the most important tournament on the European Tour, the Volvo Masters, was played here. I think this course suits my game. It's not excessively long and you need to be very straight. The shots to the green are crucial, you need to know where to miss and you need a good short game. The only thing I haven't been able to do is to play freely. It's an intimidating course because only the perfect shot is good, but instead of worrying, the best way to go is to relax and believe that you're going to hit it well. I have never performed really well in Valderrama, and that’s something I hope to change.”

Las week’s win in Madrid has changed his outlook and boosted his confidence.

“If I saw the light at the end of the tunnel before, we are now out of the tunnel. Obviously, the course is very demanding; Valderrama is probably the most intimidating course I've ever played, and hopefully coming here with my confidence levels at 100% will help me a lot this week. I've noticed that the course is a bit easier because they've cleaned it up a bit. The last time I played here the rough was very high, but no matter what year you come, you get intimidating shots. And I use the word intimidating not because I'm going to play with fear, but to convey the feeling that we players have when we face the challenge of almost every shot on this course.”

After winning in front of a passionate gallery last weekend, the Open de España champion will play again for a tide of fans as he shares the stellar group with Jon Rahm and Matt Fitzpatrick for his first two rounds from Thursday at 9:40.

“This will not be the first time I play with Jon, and it's great to play with the crowd wanting to cheer you on. You have that added bit of pressure of wanting to do well for them to thank them for coming to see us. I can't promise that I will play well, but I can promise that right up to the last green I will be giving it my best shot.”

Fond images of his recent victory will be fresh in his mind.

“Last week was obviously very special. I have been competing for the Open de España since 2002 as an amateur and I gave myself a chance in 2019. It really is the fifth major for every Spanish player and I like to think that my name will remain on the trophy alongside those of other great Spanish players after I am gone. Nobody has followed me on more rounds of golf than my father. He saw me win as an amateur, but never as a professional. For a father, to see his son win his National Open in Madrid with the whole crowd roaring his name must have been huge. To be able to give that to my father made me feel very emotional.”

 

INSIDE THE ROPES

Pau Gasol takes up golf

The classic pre-tournament Pro-Am was held today with the presence of Pau Gasol, the Spanish basketball idol who recently announced his retirement. Gasol has swapped basketball courts for tees, fairways and greens.

“I started during confinement, as it was one of the few activities you could do outdoors. I started while I was recovering in the States and it helped me disconnect mentally”. 

Gasol has played with Adri Arnaus, whom he met at the Tokyo Olympics last summer. The Catalan professional, a big fan of Gasol, proposed a game of golf back in Spain, and they have played a few times since then.

Pau admits that he is hooked on golf, and he is enjoying it immensely.

“I'm getting to know a bunch of nice, wholesome people in golf. This game is a challenge and I want to keep improving.” 

The Spanish basketball icon finds some similarities between both sports

“You must work long hours, stay focused on every shot, not accumulate mistakes, have a short memory, and be aggressive when it counts. For the rest, just enjoy.”

There was another great sportsman and golf addict in the group, Luis Figo. They played the first round with Adri Arnáus and the second with Scott Robert McIntyre.

Martin Kaymer, a big fan of Valderrama

Germany's Martin Kaymer, world number one in 2011 and winner of the 2010 US PGA Championship and the 2014 US Open, is looking to improve on last year’s second finish and finally win on one of his favourite courses.

“Valderrama is very special for many reasons; it's a real icon of golf in Europe. I tend to play well here, I love it, and the course is always in incredible condition”.

 

Defender John Catlin looks to strike again

Defending champion John Catlin recalls with emotion his triumph at Valderrama, his first victory on the European Tour.

“It was huge for me, especially on a course like this. I remember perfectly many of the shots and look forward to competing again. It was like a boxing match, one punch after another and it turned out that I stayed on my feet until the 18th green. I'm proud of how I handled the situation, I had won tournaments before, but to do it on the European Tour is another level. That win was great for my confidence.”

The future of Andalusian golf at Valderrama

Once again the Royal Andalusian Golf Federation has seized the opportunity of having Europe´s best competing at Valderrama to motivate young Andalusian golfers.

All the champions in children and junior categories have been invited to play the Pro-Am. This initiative is not just a prize, but the best way to inspire future champions by watching first-hand what professional golf is like. Andalusia has around 6,000 children's licences, a great foundation for the future.   

 

Tickets are now available for this year’s Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, with options for purchasing individual tickets for each day, four-day passes or weekend passes, with preferential rates for children under 14, 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, during his Tuesday's press conference (credit © Real Club Valderrama)

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Just as Jon Rahm displays a wide variety of shots and skills on the golf course, the world number one approaches press conferences with a balanced mix of eloquence, confidence and analytical flair.  Rahm didn't evade any questions in his press conference at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters and made it clear how much the Real Club Valderrama means to him and how thrilled he would be to succeed on this historic layout.

“As I have often said, I owe my golf to Valderrama, when back in ’97 a group of my father’s Friends came to watch the Ryder Cup out of curiosity and got hooked on golf. That’s why my family started playing golf, and that’s why I am here.

It would be amazing to win here, and not only because this was the starting point, but also because of the history of the Volvo Masters, which was played here for such a long time as the last tournament of the year. I would love to join the list of great players who have won here because it's a very difficult course where any weakness in your game is always going to be accentuated by the course. You can't have anything going wrong this week, and the winner here is always a deserved winner. There is no luck. The winner will be the one who really faces up to the challenge of playing at Valderrama and does it better than the rest. I was lucky enough to play well two years ago and finished second, but let's see if I can go one better this time.”

In fact, Jon Rahm is willing to go a little further to make the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters grow. There is an agreement in the horizon between the two most important tours in the world and the possibility of the Real Club Valderrama hosting a tournament valid for both tournaments.

“Valderrama would definitely be a great venue for a hybrid between the European and US tours, and I'm going to do my best to get everyone to come here, because apart from being a great golf course, for me it's a great change from the PGA Tour. On many courses we play on the PGA Tour it’s just a driver, an 8 iron as high as possible and a chip if you miss the green. It’s very repetitive.

Valderrama is very different. It’s not a long course and it shows that distance is not everything. Here you need to play golf, you need to adjust to the course and hit the right shots to the right spots  ̶  and it can be costly if you risk too much. I would be great to bring here one of those important events combining the FedExCup and the Race to Dubai because there is such a love for golf in our country and because this course deserves it.”

After his Tuesday round, Rahm recalled Ian Poulter’s comment about scoring at Valderrama a few years ago.

“I don't dare to predict a winning score because I've been told that they want the greens to be harder during the tournament, and that will complicate things with the wind. I only know that if you make par on this course all four days, you will be top ten  ̶  and sometimes they've even won with that. If the wind is still strong and the greens harden, I would be surprised if the result is better than -5, but as I said in Madrid, I hope the winning score will be mine.”

The U.S. Open champion has had a year full of emotions and contrasts, including his consolidation as world number one and his triumph at Torrey Pines, but also his mishaps at the Memorial and the Olympic Games due to covid. His family has been a key support.

“It's been a year with a lot of good things and some drawbacks, and being a father has been the biggest help in overcoming them. I must to give all the credit to my wife Kelley because she always told me that as soon as I became a father I would win my first major, and she was right. She saw something in my personality that made her think that, and it's clearly helped me a lot. Even though I still care, as a competitor, about everything that happens on the course, if I am upset after a bad day, I look at him and it goes away. And I've always said that if you're good off the course, you're going to be good on the course. Golf is not everything, it’s an important part of my life, but it’s much more important to be a good person, a good father, a good friend.... And that's what I’ve realized this year.”

Reaching the top is still a daunting task, because it is difficult to get a foothold in the highly skilled competition in modern golf. Confidence and discipline are the two basic ingredients.

“The hardest part about being world number one is to stay there. Last year I got there and lost it after two weeks. But I think that it comes as a consequence of playing well. You just have to keep doing well, and that's why every time I tee it up I want to play well and to prove that I am number one.”

“I want to say two things to the kids watching this. If you think you're going to be number one like I did when I was a kid, say it, no matter what anyone tells you. Everyone who has ever been the best at something has believed it and made it public. Say that you believe it and work for it, which is the other fundamental part, because there are no tricks or anything special to be number one, it's about putting in a lot of hours of work and having a lot of determination to achieve your goals. This is not just for golf, it's for everything in life; if you want to be the best at something you need to work very hard and have a lot of discipline.”

Despite brimming with confidence and knowing from a very young age what his path to the top was going to be, Jon Rahm is not yet fully aware of the effect he is making around him, particularly in Spain.

“I'm not very aware of popularity; I only concentrate on my job on the golf course. Yesterday I had dinner with Aritz Aduriz and he prepared me for what Bilbao will be like when I go there in December. My way of thinking about myself hasn't changed, I'm the same kid from Barrika, but with the things I've done some more people will know me."

 

INSIDE THE ROPES

Jon Rahm’s favourite nicknames.

“I’ve had many nicknames in my life, but I never heard about the “Cantabrian Shark”. In the States it’s usually “Rahmbo” and I rather like the “Barrika Lion”.

Sergio Garcia's tips for Valderrama

Rahm himself has pointed out that there are no secrets to being world number one, but there are ideed secrets is at Valderrama. Sergio García, triple winner of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters is the one who knows them best.

“While I was with Sergio at the Ryder Cup we only talked about what we had in front of us, there was no time for Valderrama; but today, playing a few holes here, I thought I'd write to Sergio because I'm sure he can give me some advice. This is a course where every trick and every experience can help, because you have to learn how to play it and adapt your game to the course, even though everyone has their own style. There are always flags, greens or tees where some mistakes are better than others, like if you send it to the right on 16th you are lost; so the advice of someone like Sergio is always welcome. Obviously, when Sergio is hitting the ball well, there are very few in the world at his level from tee to green, so no wonder he has won here several times.”

 

Beach Clean Up

This EDAM 2021 Tuesday has started with the 'Beach Clean Up', with Santiago Tarrio and Alejandro Cañizares helping to clean the Torreguadiaro Beach along hundreds of volunteers. 230 kilos of rubbish were collected throughout the morning, and the first 200 volunteers who turned up received a ticket for the tournament. This experience is part of the European Tour's 'Green Drive' initiative and shows the environmental awareness of the San Roque Town Hall, the circuit itself and the rest of the entities involved in the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters.

 

Photo of the Spanish players

At around 16:00 the traditional photo of Spanish players was taken, an initiative created years ago by Mª Acacia López-Bachiller. The players enjoy this tradition that takes place in every tournament played in Spain. Although some were absent due to different training schedules, eight of the players in this week’s field were able to be present.

Tickets are now available for this year’s Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, with options for purchasing individual tickets for each day, four-day passes or weekend passes, with preferential rates for children under 14, 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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