Jon Rahm is happy to be able to fulfil his duty to his homeland as he chases the great Seve Ballesteros’ record of three wins at the ACCIONA Open de España presented by Madrid.
The World Number Six won this event on his debut in 2018 and then repeated the feat at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid 12 months later before finishing in the top 20 a year ago.
With a Major to his name and a spell at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, the 27-year-old has already added his name to Spain’s golfing roll of honour, but he hopes he can do even more to inspire the next generation.
Spain holds a special place in the history of European golf, with the Open de España in 1972 the first DP World Tour event ever staged. Since Antonio Garrido lifted that trophy 50 years ago, the country has produced some of the greatest names in the history of the game including Major Champions Ballesteros and José María Olazábal.
Rafa Cabrera Bello also quoted Ballesteros as he reflected on a victory claimed with his heart at last year’s event, as the home hero returns to Madrid this week to defend the title he won in dramatic fashion 12 months ago defeating countryman Adri Arnaus in a play-off.
Meanwhile, Tommy Fleetwood is eager to further etch his name into DP World Tour history. The Englishman has illustrious wins of his own, including the Open de France – the only national open in continental Europe older than this one – and he is relishing the chance to get his hands on yet another storied trophy.
Jon Rahm: “As a Spanish player it is my duty and if I can only come to one, then I will come to one, I will try what I can to play and to support my country,” he said.
“I am aware of the impact a player like me can have and I have seen it every time I come, so I take it upon me as a duty to be able to come and try to perform and give them four days of entertainment and something to look forward to.
“Luckily for me I have been able to put my name on that trophy a couple of times and with something that special, I would love to match Seve’s record of being the Spanish player to win it three times, so it would be a very important Sunday if I was able to do that.
“For me, the legacy you leave is very important. I’ve won cups like this Open de España, one at amateur level, and that will always be there. With the tournament’s ties with the RFEG, being able to win it is very important for me.”
Rafa Cabrera Bello: “It was very special. It was clearly a tournament that was on my bucket list. I got here last year and I was a little bit lost with my game, not really understanding where the golf ball wanted to go and somehow I managed to gain that confidence and to feel competitive again that week.
“I think the support of the crowd and my family and friends that were watching did a lot to boost my morale and get me ready for competition.
“It was just an amazing week, the way it all happened and the rollercoaster that was that 72nd hole and the play-off. After the tee-shot, it looked lost and then I managed to make an amazing par save to get into the play-off, so to birdie the first hole and to win it, it was a dream come true.
“It is hard to explain it. I think some tournaments, and this is not my quote because I think Seve said this: ‘Some tournaments you win with skill, some tournaments you win with your heart’, and I felt like this tournament last year I won with my heart.
“I have said it a million times and I will never get tired of saying it: I saw Ollie win the 94 and 99 Masters, I have seen videos of Seve growing up when I was a little kid and those things made me dream about one day becoming a pro golfer.”
Tommy Fleetwood: “It’s an amazing opportunity and being literally the first event, I am looking at the trophy and it is one of the oldest trophies that we have got.
“It is so important to keep these events going and have the chance to support the event and coming to play is a great thing and I feel very lucky. Players love having their names on trophies, especially ones that have a long history to them, so I will be doing my best this week to do so.
“Overall I feel pretty comfortable with how I am playing, how my practice is going and for the most part I have been pretty consistent in tournament play. I haven’t played a lot so there is always a certain element of scoring or rustiness that’s involved but overall I feel ahead of what I thought I might be considering the amount of time I had off.”