These are times of change and of dreams in Spanish golf with the Open de España, a tournament of some pedigree, which has this year incorporated a new team with the expertise of tennis’ Mutua Madrid Open. This is not the place to enter into comparisons between two disciplines whose individual nature and club culture mean they are often associated with one another. Establishing a tennis tournament is much simpler than a golf tournament, above all because of the ease in tennis of creating heroes through success stories.
The stars in tennis win at least 80 percent of their challenges, or matches. Golf, by nature, is full of heartache. You lose more than you win. At his historic best, Tiger Woods produced an outstanding 30 percent victory rate. He failed to win seven of every 10 tournaments. This makes it difficult to reel in the layman. It is also difficult make a sport attractive when it has short-sightedly been labelled elitist.
The foundations are well laid. A stage in the centre of the city has been chosen, Club de Campo, somewhat unusual on the big tours, and among the majors, where the venues are generally found in small towns with centuries of history or in haughty resorts. One of the most emblematic courses in Madrid, if not the most, is hosting a tournament that intends to grow progressively. Golf also differs from tennis is this regard. A large purse does not guarantee an all-star international field. The tournament had that in a bygone era when Seve, Langer, Faldo and company would do one another favours to increase the pull of their national tournaments, for which they were often even promotors.
This is why we should applaud the commitment garnered from Spain’s biggest three golfers, who will be supporting with their presence at the tournament. Jon Rahm, Sergio García and Rafa Cabrera, the trio that juggles the European and PGA Tours every season have come together. And that could be the turning point for golf to express itself as a sport for the masses once more. In reality, in terms of the number of licences, it already is; its consumption just needs to catch up. A successful first chapter, in which the packaging will be outstanding –Gerard Tsobanian’s team is unrivalled in this regard-, will entail new challenges whose goal is none other than making the Open de España the second most important tournament on the continent after The Open. Easier said than done.
In particular, Rahm has accelerated the recovery in the volume of interest in golf in Spain, with a little help from Sergio’s green jacket in 2017. It had been 18 years since the last major title, the barometer that in the midst of ferocious sporting competition serves as a reference to the general public. The golfer from Barrika, also the defending champion, is back in Madrid as a global superstar after a prodigious summer in which he recorded more top 10s than any other golfer on the planet plus a victory at the Irish Open. Golf has to make the most of this moment; the product on supply is truly interesting, let’s hope the demand responds.
By: Gerardo Riquelme