THE European Tour returns to Valderrama in where last year's Spanish Open host will once again be on duty for the Andalusia Masters.
Ace Venturer is on holiday so we asked Unibet contributor Bryan Nicholson to look at the major contenders.
Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm (both 9-2, Unibet)
Garcia will tee it up in Spain for the first time since his Green Jacket win and Sergio was the winner of the last Andalusia Masters played at Valderrama back in 2011. Compatriot Jon Rahm will be teeing it up in his first European Tour event ever on Spanish soil and it will be interesting to see if the temperamental Spaniard justifies his 9-2 joint favouritism on a course that rewards precision and mental awareness over Rahm's usual attacking style golf.
Soren Kjeldsen (16-1, Unibet)
Kjeldsen is a notable contender towards the top of the betting. The Dane has a fabulous record at Valderrama. He lost a play-off in the Volvo Masters back in 2007 but won that event the next year.
He was then runner-up to Graeme McDowell at the Andalucia Masters in 2010 and fourth on his return at the 2016 Spanish Open. That had an April slot on the calendar while previous editions of the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama have been in October so conditions will potentially be a bit softer with a mix of sun and showers in the build-up. It's a course though that requires a particular skill set and it's arguably the toughest on the rotation.
Only 10 players in total finished under par between 2010 and 2011 in the Andalucia Masters while none broke par last year here at the Spanish Open.
Andrew “Beef” Johnston (40-1, Unibet) claimed his maiden win on a plus-one score total for the 72 holes, where he led both the driving accuracy and greens in regulation stats. Beef had been nursing a shoulder injury but returned to action in Italy and reckons he can feed off the positive vibes of the venue.
Martin Kaymer (20-1, Unibet)
Probably the stand-out player in the betting is Martin Kaymer who trailed by just one shot after three days in last season's Spanish Open. He finished T6 and has been simmering of late form wise.
He missed the cut last week in Italy but that was due largely, either directly or indirectly, to one hole where he was (strangely enough these days) unfairly not awarded a free drop after landing in what should have been ground under repair.
Kaymer's old Volvo Masters form here reads 2, 6 and he has another couple of top-25 finishes put away in the books at Valderrama. He was a late invite and may feel like he's free-wheeling at one of his favourite venues.
Joost Luiten (20-1, Unibet)
Luiten ticks all the Valderrama boxes. He was just one shot behind Johnston last season and also owns another top five here. Luiten has clawed his way back into 26th in fairways hit and is back into the top 15 for greens in regulation this year. He's found some form of late with a string of top 30 or so finishes and in Italy last week looked like he may be about to find first gear soon.
Nacho Elvira (40-1, Unibet)
Elvira has been in decent form of late, also with a number of top-20 finishes. The Spaniard won a pro-am here at Valderrama a couple of months back, shooting 66 on the final day in what he described as “optimal conditions”.
Alejandro Canizares (50-1, Unibet)
Canizares plays on his “home track” and also described Valderrama as “one of his favourite courses”. Not too many know how to strategise better there and course form of 21-7-11 would back this up. There are not many courses, if any, on the schedule that require the same attributes as needed around Valderrama but a runaway victory at the Golf Du Palais Royal in Morocco does get my attention. The Spaniard warmed up in Italy with a top-15 finish.
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