Dialled-in irons, firm commitments and grand aspirations. The Open de España, which takes place at the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid between 3 and 6 October and includes the best players on the European Tour, got underway at the Wanda Metropolitano, with a spectacular display of iron shots in a presentation that was attended by José Luis Martínez Almeida, the Mayor of Madrid, Ignacio Garralda, President of Grupo Mutua Madrileña, Gonzaga Escauriaza (President of the RFEG), Gerard Tsobanian (CEO of Madrid Trophy Promotion) and golfers Jon Rahm, Sergio García and Rafa Cabrera-Bello.
Jon Rahm, defending the title he won last year at the Centro Nacional, spoke with his usual clarity and directness, a trait of his that has also contributed, off the course, to the growth of this sport in our country. “I would rather win here than the Race to Dubai”, he declared as a demonstration of his commitment, which was met by the applause of the attendees.
The Basque player, undoubtedly one of the biggest stars at this Open de España, is feeling the weight of his 2018 victory. “I’ve never successfully defended a title”, he deadpanned, “but I am proud to be here. I hope we have a great rivalry that the fans can enjoy”, Rahm said before speaking emotionally about last year’s win; “… on top of that, it was at the RFEG headquarters, with that huge crowd cheering us on, it was amazing”.
By his side, Sergio García spoke of his first appearances at the tournament in 1995 and 1996, when he was still an amateur. “A lot of good things have happened to me since then. It’s been a long time since I last played in Madrid so I’m really excited to be here. The course is fantastic, they’ve worked hard on it and I’m sure it’ll be a success”.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello is looking forward to the event just as much as his compatriot, perhaps even more so as he has the additional incentive of being the only one of the three not to have put his name on the trophy. “It is one of my biggest dreams”, he recognised, “because I have similar trophies but much smaller ones, from all the age groups from 8 onwards, but I’m missing this one”, he said before reminding Sergio that he played with him when he won in 2002 and last year he played with Jon Rahm on the first two days, “so I hope next year they’ll be saying they played with me the year I won”.
Aspirations to become a leading tournament
The Mayor of Madrid, the President of Grupo Mutua Madrileña, the President of the RFEG and the CEO of Madrid Trophy Promotion all agreed that the Open de España is a tournament that is well capable of becoming one of the biggest in world golf and one of the most significant of the international events that take place in Madrid throughout the year.
José Luis Martínez-Almeida, the Mayor of Madrid, highlighted that “the tournament has a long history and we are lucky to have all the ingredients in place so for this year to be a success and in the future. It is a wonderful opportunity for a lot of people to discover this marvellous sport.”
Ignacio Garralda, the President of Grupo Mutua Madrileña, recognised that “we are very excited about this golf tournament, which will publicise Mutuactivos as a fund manager. Our desire is to be present at all the large events held in Madrid and to promote this great city on the international stage.
Gonzaga Escauriaza, the President of the RFEG, spoke of his happiness that “the tradition of this tournament, the second oldest on the continent, is being maintained. We have great players and seeing them in the flesh is a great opportunity. While the big event in spring is the tennis, golf is going to be the big sporting date in autumn in Madrid”.
Gerard Tsobanian, CEO of Madrid Trophy Promotion, agreed. “We want to take this Open de España to a very high level, to make it the envy of sport in Madrid and Spain. In addition, we are going to make it a sustainable tournament that is environmentally friendly, with the help of Ecovidrio”, he said before going through all the moving parts that will contribute to its success: first-class players, institutional support, sponsors, press, fans…”.
A spectacular exhibition of golf gets the ball rolling
Before the press conference, Jon Rahm, Sergio García and Rafael Cabrera-Bello were joined by the Mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, in an exhibition of golf where they hit balls from high in the stands to the centre of the pitch with unfailing accuracy. Even Madrid’s governor, who plays off 4.6, was able to show off his golfing prowess.
Arana’s course, another ace up the sleeve of the Open
The qualities of the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, designed by Javier Arana, were also covered at the presentation, although Jon Rahm was quick to point out that “I haven’t played it, but I’ve heard it’s in great condition and the greens are very firm”.
For his part, Sergio García, having recently played 9 holes, called the 6th “a real gem of a hole. The course has changed a little, with some new greens and tees, but its essence remains the same”, while Rafael Cabrera-Bello remembered that “I played it a decade ago at the Madrid Open. My memory is a little hazy, but it’s a classic design, where you have to play well from the tee, because otherwise you’re hampered by the trees”.