The natural amphitheatre of Real Club Valderrama’s 17th green will return to the limelight from October 18-21 at the Andalucía Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio García Foundation, under the sponsorship of the Council of Tourism and Sport of the Junta de Andalucía.
Valderrama’s iconic par five 17th – originally the 8th, a rather nondescript hole of the former Las Aves layout – was first transformed by Robert Trent Jones and later redesigned by Seve Ballesteros into the feature hole of the final stretch, a spectacular amphitheatre capable of accommodating 7000 spectators. Its challenging green, framed by bougainvillea studded gabion walls, has been the scene of unforgettable moments of glory and drama throughout Valderrama’s rich competitive history. This is a hole that lures the many but rewards the few.
Jiménez and McDowell shine in Valderrama. The first to tame #17 was Miguel Ángel Jiménez during the second round of the 1994 Volvo Masters. “I had 202 yards to the front and 212 to the pin. I hit a 3-iron that started dead on line, pitched at the front of the green and rolled thirty feet into the hole! I was too far away to see it drop, but the cheers of the crowd told the story”. A plaque on the tee immortalizes Miguel’s albatross.
Fourteen years later, Graeme McDowell faced a similar shot. This time G-Mac holed out with a 7-iron to a pin tucked to the right of the green.
A Ryder Cup hole. Seve Ballesteros had redesigned #17 for the 1993 Volvo Masters, and none knew better than the Spanish Captain that it would be the crucial hole of the 1997 Ryder Cup. One of the turning points of the event was Nacho Garrido’s fabulous bunker shot during the Saturday morning fourballs. His partner, José María Olazábal recalls: “The key moment was on 17 when we were really struggling against Phil Mickelson and Tom Lehman. Nacho’s second was bunkered past the green while Phil had hit a superb shot to six feet. Nacho’s bunker shot was amazing; the best bunker specialist couldn’t have done it in a hundred tries. He made his putt and Phil missed, so we halved that hole and eventually halved the match. It was an incredible moment.”
The Sunday singles were close, and it was on the 17th green that Europe got the half to retain the Cup, as Brad Faxon missed a ten-footer to lose to Bernhard Langer.
Tiger struggles. #17 was notoriously cruel to Tiger Woods at the 1999 WGC-American Express Championship when he held a two-stroke lead over Miguel Ángel Jiménez on Sunday. The then world number one was well aware of the challenge of this green – having putted into the hazard during the Ryder Cup – so he decided to lay up. He played his third the way he wanted and was surprised by the murmurs of the gallery as his ball rolled slowly back into the water. He then tried to play safe with his fifth, but left himself a tricky putt from the back fringe. He ended with a triple bogey that allowed Jiménez to get back in it. Woods eventually won on the first playoff hole.
Great memories for Sergio. Sergio García is a big Valderrama fan, but #17 had not been particularly kind to him in the past until last year, when it became his best ally as it yielded three consecutive birdies. The home hero birdied Valderrama’s signature hole on Friday, Saturday and Sunday on his way to victory in front of an enthusiastic gallery – great memories to bring with him to the defence of his Andalucía Valderrama Masters title in October.
Early bird tickets for the 2018 Andalucía Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation are just €8 for the Pro-Am on Wednesday October 17, €12 on Thursday and Friday of the tournament and €20 on Saturday and Sunday. Children aged under 14 are admitted to the event free of charge when accompanied by a ticket holding adult. Tickets are available now HERE