The 2019 Open de España could not have come at a better time for Spanish golf, or at least that is what our national players’ stats so far this year would suggest. There are three Spaniards in the world’s top 50, five in the top 100 and eight among the top 60 in the Race to Dubai; the players that will be teeing it up in the European Tour’s grand finale.
But the best thing about all of this for the Spanish fans is that this week at the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid they will be able to enjoy the best field of home players they have ever seen at a professional tournament, as the more than thirty national players includes the biggest stars, all of whom were quick to add their names to the first edition of the revamped Open de España.
Jon Rahm is firing on all cylinders as he prepares to defend his 2108 title after a series of stellar performances; the Basque player has been inside the top 15 in every single one of his last nine appearances on the European and PGA Tours, including a spectacular victory at the Irish Open and two second places, one at Valderrama and recently at Wentworth.
For his part, Sergio García seems to have found the spark he had been lacking in recent months, as evidenced by his stunning victory at the KLM Open a couple of weeks ago. Although it may seem to have been a sub-par season for the player from Castellon, he has posted eight top 10s in 2019.
The final member of the big three is Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who is also bringing his A-game back to Madrid, as his recent sixth-place finish at the European Tour’s flagship event seems to have given him a new lease of life, just like in July, when he strung together three top-10 finishes. Despite not having produced any victories this year, the Canary Islander comes to the 2019 Open de España determined to forget the cut he missed last time around.
The other two Spaniards in the top 100 are Jorge Campillo and Adriá Arnaus, both of whom are enjoying their best seasons as professionals. 2019 saw Campillo finally pick up his first European Tour victory at the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco. He boasts six top-ten finishes in 2019, just as he did last season, earning the player from Extremadura a place among Europe’s best.
In Adriá Arnaus’ case, his first season among Europe’s elite is certainly turning heads. Although, if we allow ourselves to be as ambitious as he, we could say he is lacking one thing; victory. But the Catalonian player has racked up three second places and two participations in majors (US Open and The Open Championship).
Two of the biggest names in the history of our country’s sport, Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Jose María Olazábal did not hesitate to add their names to the field for this great event. Although they now mostly ply their trade on the Senior Tour rather than the European Tour, they will be leading the Armada just as they have for decades. ‘El Pisha’, who is still producing solid performances at first-class events, is back at the Open de España after a four-year absence, and he actually finished second at the Real Club de Golf de El Prat last time he played in the event. In the case of Jose María Olazábal, it has been five years since his last appearance in 2014, so plenty of fans will be keen to get a glimpse of the Basque player at his national open, a tournament that he has never won but has often performed well at. The physical ailments that have hampered him for many years are currently not bothering him enough to prevent him from returning to the tournament where he made his professional debut in 1985.
As for the rest of the Spanish Armada, there are plenty of players who always do well on Spanish soil to keep an eye out for, such as Pablo Larrazábal, Nacho Elvira, Álvaro Quirós and Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño, who will be the only player at the tournament this year who is a member of the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, although he admits that it has been a while since he has been there and he is not familiar with the latest changes made to the course.
In summary, this is the most important Open de España for Spanish golf, not only because of the renewed commitment to its organisation, but also because of the quality of the players who are supporting this passionate project.