The European Tour visits an old friend this week when the players arrive in Sotogrande for the Estrella Damm Andalucía Masters.
Valderrama, which first staged a European Tour event in 1988, is the location for the second of four tournaments on the ‘Iberian Swing’.
This iconic Cadiz venue has hosted more European Tour events than any other Spanish course and in 1997 welcomed the Ryder Cup.
Valderrama sprang to life in 1974 when it was called Sotogrande New. It was later re-named Las Aves, before being acquired by Jaime Ortiz-Patiño 37 years ago.
Robert Trent Jones, the original architect, returned to the club to re-design and expand the course which by now was called Valderrama.
Valderrama has always demanded great accuracy from tee-to-green, and has an abundance of cork trees running alongside its narrow fairways.
Water hazards are only present on three holes, although the venue’s small, fast and undulating greens allow for little margin of error.
Good course management is almost a prerequisite to performing well here.
Avoiding the many large bunkers is another significant test when playing Valderrama which has hosted 25 European Tour events in its history – including 15 since the start of 2000.
On the tee
World No 1 Jon Rahm has travelled the 400 miles south from Madrid to tee-up for a second straight week in Spain.
The 26-year-old, who was born in the Basque country, began strongly in Madrid last week but fell away on day three.
However, Rahm’s all-round ability should be perfect at Valderrama where golfers require more than just a hot putter to succeed.
The reigning US Open champion tied-for-second here two years ago and will once again start as favourite.
Another accurate pro who should be suited to this week’s venue is Matt Fitzpatrick.
The Sheffield golfer makes his first appearance since being a member of the European team which was heavily beaten at the Ryder Cup.
Germany’s two-time major winner Martin Kaymer has twice finished second at Valderrama – including 12 months ago – while Jamie Donaldson could attract some interest this week.
Donaldson has twice posted top-10s at Valderrama since 2017, and the Welshman has registered a brace of podium finishes on the European Tour during the past two months. He also sneaked into the top-25 in Madrid on Sunday.
Bernd Wiesberger continues to play solidly and, despite his late fumble in the Alps in August, should be among the front runners in Andalucia.
Meanwhile, Richard Bland‘s career-best season goes on and on, with another top-10 over the weekend.
Although the 48-year-old does not have a great record at Valderrama, he remains respectfully placed in three key Tour categories for 2021 (Strokes Gained: Approach the Green, Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and Greens in Regulation).
The same applies to Matthias Schwab who has spent much of the current year in the United States.
The 26-year-old Austrian has posted seven top-10s during 2021 and tied-for-12th on his most recent European Tour outing at Wentworth last month.
Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive
MC* – Missed Additional 54-Hole Cut
Note: List Contains Leading Reserves