Garcia ready for another special week in Valderrama
by María Acacia López-Bachiller
Defending champion Sergio Garcia is looking ahead to another special week in a place that he loves, as he returns to Real Club Valderrama just three weeks after becoming Europe's all-time Ryder Cup points scorer.
He is aiming for a third Andalucia Valderrama Masters title, after also winning here in 2011, but it is a week that is about more than just golf for the 2017 Masters Tournament champion, as the event is hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation for the second successive year.
There's a distinct Ryder Cup feel at Real Club Valderrama as Garcia is joined in the field by Thomas Bjørn, the man who led Europe to a 17.5-10.5 win over the United States in the week that the Spaniard overtook Sir Nick Faldo at the top of the points list.
Bjørn's own Ryder Cup journey comes full circle this week as he returns to the venue where he made his debut in 1997 as part of the team - captained by the late, great Seve Ballesteros - which won the first of the biennial events to be held in continental Europe.
The theme continues with three of the Dane's Vice-Captains - Padraig Harrington, Robert Karlsson and Lee Westwood - all in the field, alongside 2012 winning Captain José María Olazábal. Two of the Spaniard's ‘Miracle of Medinah' stars, Nicolas Colsaerts and Peter Hanson, are also joined by Stephen Gallacher and Edoardo Molinari, who both featured in winning sides in 2014 and 2010 respectively.
Valderrama will also be the battleground for the players who are seeking to maintain their playing privileges for the 2019 season, with players within the top 116 players at the end of this week (taking into account the six Affiliate Members currently inside the top 110) retaining their European Tour cards. Players who are on the bubble going into the week include four-time European Tour winners David Horsey of England and Italian Matteo Manassero, and Scottish pair Richie Ramsay and Marc Warren, who each have three European Tour titles.
Sergio Garcia: "It's always great to come to Valderrama, and hopefully I can keep up the good work of the last six weeks so I can give myself a chance to defend the title.
"I love the way this course plays, I love how tough it is even though it's not a long golf course. It's just testing you and every part of your game, which is always good fun. The course condition is spectacular and the greens are rolling incredibly fast and true. Valderrama should be really proud.
"Being the record points scorer in the Ryder Cup is not something that I had in my mind, but it's very nice to be on top of that list in front of all those amazing players and it means a lot. I know how much it means and I hope that everybody realises how difficult it is, so I'm very proud of that.
"I have played nine Ryder Cups, which is an achievement in itself, and I have played effectively, but I must give credit to my partners that helped me get the points, because I had great four ball and foursomes' partners. But the main goal is helping the team."
Thomas Bjørn: "It's always nice to come back here. It was such a special week that one, in the sense of Seve and the way the week unfolded.
"If I had to choose a moment in the 1997 Ryder Cup, for me it was moment when I walked into that team room for the first time and I saw who was actually in that room. When you realize that you are playing in a team with Faldo and Monty, Langer and Woosie, Ollie and then Seve as a Captain, you realise that your career is going in a direction pretty fast where you are going to places you never thought you'd be, and that moment is quite big for any young player.
"The practice I've done over the last six months doesn't really allow me to look at this tournament in a competitive way. I wanted to be here for Sergio, I wanted to be here for his Foundation and for all the things he's done for golf and for me. It was a pretty unique situation for Sergio to become the all-time scorer and that's something pretty cool to be part of."
The Andalucía Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio García Foundation is sponsored by the Council of Tourism and Sport of the Junta de Andalucía through the European Regional Development Fund of the European Union, with the added institutional support of the Diputación de Cádiz, the San Roque City Council, the Royal Andalusian Golf Federation and the Marbella City Council. It also enjoys the support of La Reserva de Sotogrande, Rolex, Heineken, Dubai Duty Free, Santander Private Banking, Shell, Exterior Plus and Samsic Iberia. Only Water, Grupo Hospitalario Quirónsalud, Coca-Cola, Varma, Korporate Technologies Group and Volvo are official suppliers.