After a one-year absence, one of the most historic titles in all of European golf returns to the European Tour schedule this week with the 2018 Open de Espana.
This week’s tournament marks the 91st time that the national championship of Spain will be contested. Over that history, 43 of the 91 tournaments have been held in Madrid, but this will be only the second time the championship will be hosted at the Centro Nacional de Golf, the home of the Royal Spanish Golf Federation.
As you might expect, Spanish players are particularly well-represented in the field, with 25 Spaniards among the 156 entrants. Seven of those players have won previously on the European Tour, most prominently world No. 4 Jon Rahm and world No. 24 Rafael Cabrera Bello. The 2016 Open de Espana champ, world No. 130 Andrew “Beef” Johnston, is also among this week’s field.
Here’s more info to help you enjoy this week’s event.
Tournament: Open de Espana
Dates: April 12-15, 2018
Where: Madrid, Spain
Course: Centro Nacional de Golf
Distance: Par 72, 7,096 yards
Architect: Javier Arana
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: €250,000
Defending Champion: Andrew Johnston
Marquee Players: Johnston, Jon Rahm, Rafael Cabrera Bello, Eddie Pepperell, Matt Wallace, Pablo Larrazabal, Alvaro Quiros, Adrian Otaequi, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Stephen Gallacher, Paul Dunne, Andrew Sullivan, Thorbjorn Olesen, George Coetzee.
TV AND ONLINE
Round 1: Thu 6-8:00 am, 10:00 am-1:00 pm (GOLF)
Round 2: Fri 6-8:00 am, 10:00 am-1:00 pm (GOLF)
Round 3: Sat 8:00 am-12:00 pm (GOLF)
Round 4: Sun 8:00 am-12:00 pm (GOLF)
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History runs deep with an event now being played for the 91st time, and there are many interesting features from the past about the Open de Espana.
For one thing, the first-ever European Tour event was the 1972 playing of the championship. The host facility, Centro Nacional de Golf, had among its pupils Jon Rahm, who studied and played there for two years before heading to the United States for college.
The Open de Espana has been contested at Centro Nacional de Golf once before, not long after its opening, with Charl Schwartzel winning the title in 2007. The course has also hosted the 2009 Madrid Masters on the European Tour and the 2006 Challenge de Espana on the European Challenge Tour.
The list of past champions includes a number of golf’s all-time greats, both from Spain and otherwise. Prominent Spanish players who have won the title include three-time champion Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia, Alvaro Quiros, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Antonio Garrido. International players who have won past titles include such names as Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo, Padraig Harrington, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Robert Karlsson and the aforementioned Charl Schwartzel.
1997-2018: Open de Espana
1912-1996: Spanish Open
2016: Andrew Johnston (+1)
2015: James Morrison (-10)
2014: Miguel Angel Jimenez (-4)
2013: Raphael Jacquelin (-5)
2012: Francesco Molinari (-8)
2011: Thomas Aiken (-10)
WINS: 3 – Seve Ballesteros (1981, 1985, 1995)
SCORING: (-22) Mark James (1988); Kenneth Ferrie, Peter Hedbloom, Peter Lawrie (2003)
With the tournament not being contested on the 2017 European Tour schedule, the returning champion is the 2016 winner, Andrew “Beef” Johnston.
Tough scoring conditions on the Valderrama Golf Course where the event was held resulted in Johnston winning despite finishing at 1-over par for the week. However, on Sunday, he posted a 1-under round of 70, good enough to secure a one-shot victory over Joost Luiten.
Sergio Garcia shot the low round of the final day, a 67, but it wasn’t enough, as he finished two shots behind. Martin Kaymer had a shot at tying for the lead if he could have eagled the par-5 17th hole, but instead, his approach shot found the water.
FINAL TOP 5
1 Andrew Johnston +1
2 Joost Luiten +2
3 Sergio Garcia +3
4 Soren Kjeldsen +4
4 James Morrison +4
Coming home to a facility where he lived and studied for two years, Jon Rahm would naturally be among the favorites. Doing it as the world’s No. 4 player who is one week removed from his best showing yet in a major, a fourth-place finish at The Masters, elevates Rahm to categorization as a prohibitive favorite.
Rahm won a number of junior age-group titles in Spain, but has yet to compete in his country’s national open. Naturally, his expectations are very high for the week. “To be a part of it and know all the Spanish legends have won it – I would love to add my name to it,” Rahm said. “To be able to link my pro and amateur career by getting this final stamp would be amazing. There is no better place than somewhere like this because I spent two years of my life practising on this range and golf course, so hopefully I can get it done this week.”
There are certainly players in the field capable of presenting a challenge.
Fellow Spaniard and world No. 24 Rafael Cabrera Bello had a similarly decorated junior career as Rahm, but he will be playing in his 15th Open de Espana and he still considers winning the title as fulfillment of a childhood dream.
Cabrera Bello is also coming to the event off of his own Masters experience, having finished tied for 38th at Augusta. His game is in solid form, with three recent top-six finishes in top-tier events — a tie for second at the UBS Hong Kong Open in December, a tie for six in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in January and a tie for third in March at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
The 2016 Open de Espana champion, Andrew “Beef” Johnston, has also been playing solidly of late, moving up more than 50 spots in the Official World Golf Rankings since the start of the year. His most impressive finishes have been a tie for ninth in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA and a second-place finish at the recent Hero Indian Open.
The field also includes two recent European Tour title winners, Eddie Pepperell (Commercial Bank Qatar Masters) and Matt Wallace (Hero Indian Open). Besides Rahm and Cabrera Bello, other Spanish players in this week’s field who have previously won on the European Tour include Alvaro Quiros, Jorge Campillo, Adrian Otaegui, Alejandro Cañizares, Pablo Larrazábal and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño. Two others, Nacho Elvira and Pedro Oriol, have victories on the European Challenge Tour.
Credits: European Tour Media, Getty Images