The tee times have been announced and we now know who will be joining Jon Rahm for the first two rounds as he bids for his fourth ACCIONA Open de España presented by Madrid title. On Thursday, the Barrika native will tee it up on the 10th hole at 09:30 alongside Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Germany’s Yannik Paul. On Friday, the same group will kick off their second round on the first tee at 14:00.
Every camera, every gaze, and all the expectation will be focused on Rahm. Not without good reason. The Basque player’s performances at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid (CCVM) have been outstanding for the last three years, and the fans will be itching to watch, follow, and marvel at one of the best players in the world in the flesh. Rahm’s following in Madrid is huge, something the other players in the match will have to cope with. The Spaniard himself admitted at the tournament presentation that it is not easy to contain one’s emotions in such situations. “Handling my desire to win, and that of the fans, is difficult. This isn’t football”. Rahm, humble as ever, admitted that it always takes some time to get used to such outpourings of affection and the hubbub that generally surrounds him on the course.
Hoards of people are expected to turn out to CCVM on Thursday, and they have plenty of reasons to do so. The weather forecast is perfect; between 20 and 25 degrees and not a whiff of wind. Add to that the fact that it is a bank holiday for The National Day of Spain, and you can expect to see the crowd 10 deep around the Barika Lion’s group.
This should not pose a problem for Rafa Cabrera-Bello. The Canary Islander demonstrated in the 2021 Open de España that he is unperturbed by such numbers. That year, he defeated Adri Arnaus in a playoff under the utmost pressure and with all eyes on him. The Spaniard could do with an injection of inertia to help him break a streak of bad results, perhaps the home support will provide him with the spark he has been seeking for some time.
German player Yannick Paul completes the threesome. One of the most unusual swings you will see on the DP World Tour will be put to the test in the star match. If you come to watch him close up, pay attention because you will not see many players make a move like his. He has enjoyed some good results on his run in to Madrid, with a T14 last week in Scotland and a T6 in Paris. He also knows what it is to win on Spanish soil, having taken the spoils at the Mallorca Open last season. The putt he holed to win from the fringe proved he has plenty of grit and ice coursing through his veins.
Both Cabrera-Bello and Paul will be trying to steal the limelight from Rahm, a tall order at Club de Campo. The Basque player has already said that he is here to win and, given that he has three ACCIONA Open de España titles under his belt and holds the course record for 72 holes, his warning should be heeded. Don’t miss chapter one on Thursday.