Mutuactivos Open de Espana Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE cream of Spanish golf, past and present, are in the field for the Mutuactivos Open de España at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid.
Defending champion Jon Rahm will be joined by Rafa Cabrera Bello and Sergio Garcia, along with veterans Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Cabrera Bello finished fourth at the 2002 Open de España, when he was still an amateur. Won that year by Garcia, Cabrera Bello capped off an outstanding amateur career in which he won all the Campeonatos de España from under-12 to under-19 levels.
A professional since 2006, Cabrera Bello is a three-time winner on the European Tour, with his most recent victory coming at the 2017 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
"The Open de España is undoubtedly the biggest victory a young Spaniard can dream of," said Cabrera Bello. "This tournament is truly exciting and for all Spanish golfers it is our fifth Major."
This is the first time that Cabrera Bello, Garcia and Rahm will have teed it up together in their national Open.
Jimenez will tee it up in his national Open for the first time in three years. In 2014 he extended his record as the oldest winner in European Tour history, securing his first triumph in the Open de España in his 27th appearance at the event at the age of 50 years and 133 days. At PGA Catalunya Resort, he overcame a play-off against Richard Green and Thomas Pieters and the following year he finished second behind James Morrison at RCG El Prat.
During his career, Jiménez has won 21 European Tour titles and two Senior Major Championships, adding to five further victories on the US PGA Tour Champions.
Olazábal will make his first appearance in the tournament in five years when he tees it up at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid from October 3-6.
The two-time Major Champion joins a star-studded line-up. The 53-year-old inspired the current crop of Spanish stars with his enviable list of career achievements, including two Masters Tournament victories, 28 further international titles and his famous captaincy of Europe's 2012 Ryder Cup side.
Olazábal formed the best pairing in European Ryder Cup history with his great friend and mentor Seve Ballesteros, who won the Open de España at Club de Campo in 1995. Olazábal's best finish at this event was a runner-up result in 1998, 13 years after his professional debut at his national Open in 1985. He has seven top-ten finishes at the Open de España, with his last appearance in the event coming in 2014.
Rahm’s victory last year was one of the most popular in the tournament’s history. It was his third European Tour win (he has since added number four at the Irish Open this year) and he achieved it with a final round of 67 at Centro Nacional de Golf to finish the week on 20 under par, two shots ahead of overnight leader Paul Dunne of Ireland, with fellow Spaniard Nacho Elvira a shot further back in third place.
Rahm’s emotional victory at his home Open meant he joined Spanish winners Seve Ballesteros, Garcia, Garrido, Jiménez and Alvaro Quiros as a home champion.
More than 50,000 spectators descended on the municipal Madrid venue to roar on their Spanish star to home victory with excitement around Rahm continuing to rise as his influence on global golf increases.
The Open de España win made him the third-fastest player of all-time to reach three European Tour victories after triumphs in 2017 at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, fellow Spaniard Ballesteros won his third European Tour title after 38 events. It took Rahm just 19 tries.
Four sub-70 rounds of 67-68-66-67 helped him not only to win the title, but to capture the hearts of the scores of Spanish fans attendance, who duly responded by registering with the Spanish Golf Federation as the organisation welcomed 7,000 new members.
Going into the final round two shots behind Dunne, Rahm started quickly with two birdies in his first two holes. A birdie on the seventh and a bogey on the par three ninth ensured he made the turn in 34, before three birdies on the back nine secured his maiden Open de España title.
Rahm said the crowd were feeding him energy and he could feel the tension around the course as he closed in on a victory. He wanted to win, but the crowd were equally as desperate to see their man become the sixth Spanish winner of the event.
Rahm said it was “hard to explain how good it feels and how satisfying it is” to win a competition which is clearly so close to his heart. He would go on to secure a place in Thomas Bjorn’s Ryder Cup team, which thrashed the USA at Le Golf National.
The win – his first as a professional in Spain – added to a CV which includes seven amateur titles in his home country after Rahm spent his formative years combining his studies and golf at Centro Nacional de Golf in his final two years of high school.
The tournament was won in 2011 by Thomas Aiken, in 2012 by Francesco Molinari, in 2013 by Rafael Jacquelin, in 2014 by Miguel Angel Jimenez, in 2015 by James Morrison, in 2016 by Andrew Johnston and in 2018 by Jon Rahm.
Jon Rahm. Who else?
Sergio Garcia. Adores playing on home soil
Rafa Cabrera Bello. Should win more than he does
Jon Rahm. Certain to be there or thereabouts
Sergio Garcia. Has remembered how to win again
Rafa Cabrera Bello. Brilliant ball striker
Alex Levy. Inspirational Frenchman capable of some very low scores
Charl Schwartzel. Recovering from long-term injury
Pablo Larrazabal. Fiery Spaniard
Lee Slattery. In need of some big weeks
Miguel Angel Jimenez. Plenty of life left in the old dog yet
Dean Burmester. Hugely talented South African
Ross Fisher. Another who needs some decent finishes - and soon
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