Peter Lawrie returns to Real Club Valderrama Open de España, Hosted by the Sergio García Foundation to play the 90th edition of one of the oldest national opens in Europe. Its origin linked to the appearance of those first Spanish professionals and a reflection on the development of golf in Spain during that time. Appropriately one of those prodigies, Sergio Garcia now Host of the event.
It was 2008 when Lawrie won Open de España – after a playoff with Ignacio Garrido – at Real Club Golf de Sevilla. A victory that formed an important part of the Dubliners success on the European Tour during the past decade. With Lawrie almost repeating the feat the following year at PGA Catalunya when he finished in a share of third place of the Open de España with Thomas Bjorn – both behind Fabrizio Zanotti and winner Thomas Levet
That win also consolidated a partnership with swing coach Brendan McDaid which saw the former UCD Sports Scholarship qualify for the 2012 US Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. Doing so through a crowded and competitive qualifier at Walton Health to earn the right. Although a frequent visitor to Andalucía Lawrie returns to Valderrama for the first time since the Andalucía Masters in 2011 where he finished in 15th place
For this year’s Open de España Lawrie will join forces with McDaid once again with the role of caddy added to the weekend’s chores for the experienced golf coach. Both men keen to rediscover some tournament form in the south of Spain, following a number of months working together off the course.
“Most of our work has been focussed on impact improvement” explained McDaid, “and getting Peter to compress the ball more at point of impact.”
“Being on the bag will allow me see the progress through the rounds and help keep building on the good work done through the winter,” concluded McDaid
In availing of his winner’s exemption the Open de España is very timely in what will be a challenging season for Lawrie given his reliance on invites and favours this season. All a result of having dropped out of the automatic places in the Race to Dubai two seasons ago. In 2015 Peter missed the cut 17 times, including the Open de España at El Prat in Barcelona. Although he finished 37th at the Challenge de Madrid some weeks later.
The previous year the former event winner missed the weekend play at NH Collection Open de España at La Reserva. However, in 2013 at El Saler in Valencia Lawrie finished 13th and on his return to the Real Golf Club de Sevilla he signed for a 16th place finish. A share of 15th place on his last outing at Valderrama might stir the memory bank for his trip this year.
Such history will prove a bonus for the Lawrie McDaid combination as they battle the 1997 Ryder Cup course, which has seen significant work done recently. Both on the bunkers and tees in order to bring them up to the same high standard as the fairways and greens.
Many of the cork trees lining the course have also been pruned, allowing more aggressive play from the rough, and a brand new high-tech pumping system has improved the playing conditions.
In terms of the Open de España the first event hosted in Andalucía was in 1966 at the neighbouring – and newly opened at the time RCG Sotogrande – where Argentina’s Roberto de Vicenzo stole the show. Four years later it was RCG Las Brisas in Marbella, another Robert Trent Jones layout, which saw a home winner, Angel Gallardo, the current Vice-Chairman of the European Tour.
That year Gallardo won by two shots over England’s Neil Coles and Christy O’Connor Sr. “I had always dreamt of winning my national Open; that was the most thrilling moment of my career” recalls Gallardo.
Nine years passed before the event returned in 1979 to southern Spain at Torrequebrada in Benalmádena, near Málaga, where South African Dale Hayes triumphed. In an event that for the first time had a title sponsor – Benson&Hedges.
In 1983 Eamonn Darcy prevailed over home favourites Manuel Piñero, José María Cañizares and Manuel Montes on a thrilling final day. Sir Nick Faldo’s 1987 carded a two-shot victory over Seve Ballesteros and South Africa’s Hugh Baiocchi.
Faldo later saying the win was a “major turning point”, which restored his confidence as two months later he claimed the first of his six Major titles at The Open Championship.
The event was held consecutively in 2005 and 2006 at The San Roque Club where Sweden’s Peter Hanson and Niclas Fasth, earned playoff victories over Peter Gustafsson and John Bickerton respectively. Then Seville hosted the 2008, 2010 and 2012 editions at Real Club de Golf de Sevilla. A José María Olazábal layout that proved so favourable for Peter Lawrie.
At Valderrama Lawrie goes in search of his own turning point following his failure to regain a playing card at Q School in PGA Catalunya last year. But with renewed confidence, and a friend on the bag there are reasons to be cheerful for this 90th Edition of the Open de Espana.
Lawrie will be joined at the San Roque course by fellow Irish players Paul McGinley and Paul Dunne.
The Real Club Valderrama Open de España, Hosted by the Sergio García Foundation runs from April 14 – 17th 2016