Sergio Garcia will play in front of his home crowds for the first time as the Masters Champion when the returning hero plays a special role at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation.
The 13-time European Tour winner and his charitable foundation host this week’s event at Real Club Valderrama and, with World Number Five Jon Rahm making his first appearance on home soil as a professional, the Spanish crowds are expected to flock to watch the local superstars in action.
Garcia has an incredible record at the famous venue – which 20 years ago provided the backdrop for a memorable European victory in The Ryder Cup – boasting one win, three runner up finishes and seven further top tens.
The 37 year old cannot get wait to get started on the course he described as his all-time favourite as he aims to rekindle the form which has earned him two European Tour titles this season, his victory at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February preceding his Masters triumph in April.
Andrew Johnston, meanwhile, returns to the course upon which he won his maiden European Tour title last year, while multiple Major winners Padraig Harrington, Martin Kaymer and José María Olazábal, as well as the 2016 Masters winner Danny Willett, are also in the field.
“I’m very proud this week. To have a tournament hosted by your foundation is something amazing but to have it at Valderrama is spectacular. We’re really happy, really proud of it and hopefully it will be a great tournament which everybody will enjoy.
“This is my favourite golf course ever and it’s the kind of golf course that even though it’s not long, it challenges you. It’s tight and it’s always asking you to hit good shots, all kinds of shots. They are small greens so your iron play has to be spot on and if you miss the greens it’s tricky. It’s just a great, solid golf course.
“I’m sure the support will be great this week. Obviously I played in Munich earlier this year and it was the first time I played in Europe since the Masters and I got an amazing reception, so I’m sure this week will be no different.
“The pressure is still the same this week as any week, trying to do well and yes maybe trying to perform in front of my home crowds. It’s as simple as that.”
“It’s certainly a different feel this week. I haven’t been able to see any crowds yet because it’s been closed to the public. There have been some pictures floating around on social media and obviously I’ve been waiting for this moment for ten years. The photo is of me waiting for some autographs right here in Valderrama and it was Henrik Stenson who signed my shirt.
“It’s funny how I’ve come from that ten years ago to now being able to compete alongside him and accomplish the things I’ve accomplished so it’s quite a special feeling to be back.
“This tournament is huge for Spanish golf. We all know that Spain needs a tournament and golf is a big sport in Spain, it deserves a lot better in golf. It’s the last tournament of the regular season for the European Tour and it’s hard to get support.
“Hopefully with Sergio’s support and my support we can get Spain back on the map in golf like it used to be, like it used to have seven European Tour events. Hopefully we can help out and boost Spanish golf in a forward direction.
“This venue is very important for Spanish golf. In the past it did a great job putting Spanish golf on the map, they made it an iconic golf course. Then the Ryder Cup came along and made a huge impact in Spain, that’s the reason why I’m playing golf.”
“This is a very iconic place for the European Tour in Spain. I called up Sergio last week very spontaneously to get in because I hadn’t entered. I was due to be playing in Tokyo but that was cancelled last week so I said to Sergio, if you have an invite left I would love to play.
“Hosting an event like this is a real commitment to your country, to the European Tour – which really gains from players like Sergio hosting – and also for the local region. Ideally you would like to playing at a course near where the player is from but obviously it’s difficult sometimes to get the right golf course.
“I really enjoy playing Valderrama. You have to enjoy playing this kind of golf course. It doesn’t really let you breathe, every single shot is very important and you have to place the ball so well. It’s one of those ones where you have to be really focussed from the first to last shot. I really enjoy that because it’s not a putting competition or a birdie fest, you really have to play well.”
“Obviously it’s a very week for everyone but definitely even more special for me because this is home. It would be ideal to have more tournaments in Spain and this is the only one we have but we are very pleased to be back at Valderrama.
“There is no doubt that when you’re talking about Sergio, you’re talking about one of the best players in the world. That’s nothing new, everybody knows it and especially if you are Spanish.
“It’s a great field and obviously we must talk about Jon Rahm too, so there are great names here and hopefully there will be a lot of support from the locals.”