It was a dream morning session on Friday for the Spanish ‘Armada’, with three home players finishing among the top 10 at this ACCIONA Open de España presented by Madrid, with the afternoon session yet to reach its conclusion.
The greens are perfect, and Alfredo García Heredia, Álex del Rey and Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño, who already showed signs of form in round one, continued in a similar vein but managed to get more putts to drop.
After 36 holes the best Spaniard, as of yet, is Asturias native Alfredo García Heredia who, quietly as always, manoeuvred himself into fourth position on -9, two shots behind leader Pavon. It was one of the only bogey-free rounds in the morning session, making his seven birdies even more potent:
“Generally, when you play well, you have a good time on the course, but today I really had fun. I’ve been playing well since four weeks ago, when I sent my coach Jorge Parada some videos and he made some corrections. I’ve been with him for three days and you can really tell. So these good rounds are down to that. If I had to give myself a score [out of 10], it would be an 8, because it’s really worth playing rounds like that”.
Despite not being the match with the biggest following, this week the ACCIONA Open de España is enjoying a huge turn out, particularly around the Spanish players: “I really enjoy playing like that with so many people. If only every week were like that. Let’s see if we can play like that every week when we’re in Spain”.
Another of those who reported yesterday that he had played better than his score suggested was Álex del Rey, who started a bit cold today, leaving several birdie putts short. However, he managed to turn things around on his back nine to sign for a 67 to leave him at -7 after 36 holes.
“After the first nine (from 10 to 18) I was really frustrated that I hadn’t made the most of all the birdie putts I had, particularly on 16, 17 and 18, but with the result, it’s one of those days where you have to say it was worth being patient and not throwing the towel in. The eagle on 4 was perfect, with a good drive and second shot, leaving myself a 15-foot putt that got things rolling for the day. From there, another good one on the next, and I finished with a great shot on the 9th. I’m happy but I know I could have gone a few shots lower. Let’s see if it all comes together at the weekend”.
The other Spaniard to go low in the morning, was Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño who, apart from celebrating his 43rd birthday on the course he grew up on, repaid the throng of fans who came to see him with a fantastic 66, his lowest score on the DP World Tour for 2 years. “I’m very happy about everything that happened today. Yesterday, I was a little frustrated with that last hole, but today I started playing well, tidy, just without holing putts. But boy did they start to drop on the last few holes!”.
The Madrid native is not able to dedicate himself to full-time competition on the European circuit this season, in fact he has only played in three events, plus one on the Challenge Tour. But his preparation for 2024 Q-School is on the right track and today’s round is proof of that: “It was a very important round, definitely the day I have most enjoyed for a few years, because my family was there, my friends, and I want to do well in front of them. I can tell that things are going in the right direction, and that is a must for confidence, that’s why I’m so proud of that finish with three birdies just after having hit two bogeys. Maybe I’m not quite there mentally, but at least I’ve earned the right to dream”.
That final stretch on 7, 8 and 9, for those who started on the 10th hole, seems to have been a happy hunting ground for the home players, because another one who made hay there, when he was battling against the cut, was Pablo Larrazábal. An eagle on 7, birdie on 8 and birdie on 9 allowed him to finish with a -5 which, for now, puts him among the top 25.