The European Tour touches down on mainland Europe for the first time in 2015 this week. The circuit is in Spain for the historic Open de España at Real Club de Golf El Prat near Barcelona. The evergreen Miguel Angel Jiménez will defend the title he won last year at PGA Catalunya.
This tournament marks the start of a number of classic European Tour events including the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth next week, followed by the Irish Open at Royal County Down in two weeks time.
With a prize-fund of €1,500,000 and a winner’s cheque for €250,000 on offer, this event provides a great chance for a player to make a significant move on the 2015 Race to Dubai.
Four things to watch for at the Open de España:
1. Sergio Garcia will be looking to win his home open for a second time – he was the champion back in 2002 aged just 22. “El Niño” comes into the event off the back of losing out to Rickie Fowler in a playoff for the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. The World Number 7 will start this event as a strong favourite and he’ll be aiming to bounce back from last week’s disappointment in the best possible way here.
2. Miguel Angel Jiménez won this event last year at PGA Catalunya. He’s now 51 and will be aiming to extend his record as the oldest ever winner on the European Tour – a record he set at this tournament in 2014. Jiménez played in the Spanish Open 26 times before finally coming out on top last season. He came through a sudden-death playoff with Richard Green of Australia and Thomas Pieters of Belgium. This will be his first competitive outing since the WGC-Cadillac Match Play and his well-documented spat with Keegan Bradley.
3. The history of this event. The Spanish Open is one of the oldest tournaments on the professional circuit - the first instalment was hosted in 1912 when the competition was won by Frenchman Arnaud Massy. Since then, there have been a number of notable champions, including Peter Thomson, Roberto DeVicenzo and Seve Ballesteros.
4. Players building up for Wentworth. The week after this tournament is the European Tour’s flagship event – the BMW PGA Championship over the West Course at Wentworth. Many players in the field this week will be using this event to fine-tune their games. Watch out for the likes of Richie Ramsay, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen – all talented European Tour players on good current form. Also keep an eye on Peter Uihlein of the USA. He recently posted two consecutive top-10 finishes in China.