The Open de España has over 100 years of history, making it the third oldest tournament in Europe, only behind the French Open and The Open, the only major played on the Old Continent.
Its 95 editions have provided time for this tournament to witness something of everything, from the birth of stars like Sergio García (his first professional tournament was the 1999 Spanish Open, to victories from the likes of Arnold Palmer ‘The King’ and the late great Severiano Ballesteros’ final triumph. Let’s take a look back at all of them:
A trip back to 1984 allows us to enjoy a historic moment, Bernhard Langer’s spectacular course record at the Parador de El Saler to beat Englishman Howard Clark by two shots. 62 strokes were all the German needed to complete his final round and an astonishing Sunday comeback. El Saler is a Javier Arana design, as is the venue for the 2019 Open de España, will we see another course record this year?
The Valencian course in El Saler also witnessed a historic playoff in 2013, between Chilean Felipe Aguilar, German player Max Kieffer and Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin, in which the latter was victorious after nine extra holes. The playoff was, together with the 1989 Dutch Open, the longest in the history of the European Tour, lasting more than two hours.
Two years in the 70s stand out above the rest. The first is 1972, the year which changed the history of this tournament when it became part of the regular European Tour calendar. The tournament took on another dimension, the biggest stars started to come, and the first name in the new winners’ circle was Antonio Garrido. The Madrid player was victorious at Golf de Pals (Gerona), winning his only Open de España in a playoff against fellow Spaniard Valentin Barrios.
Another notable year in the history of this tournament was 1975, where we find one of the most illustrious winners of our national open, Arnold Palmer. The man who many credit with modernising golf came to Spain, more specifically to La Manga (Murcia), and cruised to victory. He was the only player under par (-5), five shots ahead of the second-placed John Fourie, and seven ahead of the above-mentioned Valentin Barrios.
The 90s provided us with a shoe-in for the list, as 1995, here at the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, fans witnessed one of the most emotional moments in Spanish golf, as Severiano Ballesteros sealed his final professional victory before one of the biggest crowds ever seen at a tournament on Spanish soil. The man from Pedreña roused the people’s passions, he had made golf accessible to many Spaniards, and that week, in the final stretch of his career, he left them with one final touch of magic, winning his third Open de España, something that nobody else has done in the modern era. He produced an enthralling duel against Ignacio Garrido, eventually beating him by two shots.
Once Seve Ballesteros’ era in Spanish golf was over, so began that of Sergio Garcia, who before winning the 2002 Open de España played in 1996, 1997 and 1998 when he was still an amateur. It was not until 1999 when the boy from Castellon made his debut as a professional at the Open de España, which that year was played on Catalonian course El Prat, where he finished 25th.
The same El Prat course witnessed undoubtedly the saddest Open de España for the world of golf, as during the 2011 tournament Severiano Ballesteros passed away after a long battle against cancer. That week was a continuous reminder of the Cantabrian golfer, the competition was merely a sideshow, as nobody could quite process what had happened. The man who changed the history of this sport had passed away during the week of the Open de España.
In the years before it formed part of the European Tour, in 1972, the Open de España produced many important champions, such as Angel De La Torre, champion of the tournament on five occasions (1916, 1917, 1919, 1923 and 1925), Mariano Provencio, who won it four times, and those who claimed a hat trick of crowns, such as Marcelino Morcillo and Gabriel González.
It is also worth mentioning that this tournament has been won by two amateurs, the Brazilian Mario Gonzalez in 1974, and Frenchman Conde de Lamaze, who claimed the title in 1955.