Innovation comes to the fore once again on the European Challenge Tour this week as the Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9 takes place at Valle Romano Golf, Estepona, and here are five things you need to know ahead of the tournament.
The event is split between stroke play and match play, with 156 competitors playing 36 holes of stroke play across the first two days of the tournament. The field will be strictly cut to 64 players upon the conclusion of the second round, after which the remaining players will battle it out in nine hole matches across the final two days. Players will be seeded according to their stroke play scores with rounds of 64, 32 and 16 taking place on Saturday, before the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final bringing the tournament to a close on Sunday.
Both of the winners of the Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9 to date have gone on to earn promotion to the European Tour at the end of the season. Englishman Aaron Rai triumphed in the first edition of the event in 2017, defeating Ireland’s Gavin Moynihan 2&1 in the final. Last year was a showdown between two friends and countrymen as Liam Johnston took down Grant Forrest in the final nine holes of the tournament, with a close battle finishing 1UP to Johnston on the final hole. Rai went on to finish fourth on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit, with Johnston finishing tenth in 2018.
Experience could be key
This week’s field is littered with match play experience with various players having previously teed it up in the Walker Cup, Junior Ryder Cup and, most recently, the Belgian Knockout on the European Tour. Danish twins Nicolai and Rasmus Højgaard both earned points in Singles Matches at last year’s Junior Ryder Cup, while Matthew Jordan, David Boote, Connor Syme and Garrick Porteous, among others, have all played in the biennial Walker Cup. Meanwhile, Grégory Havret and Antoine Rozner both tee it up in Spain having finished in the top 20 at the Belgian Knockout last month.
This week’s Match Play outing is the second Spanish event of the season following the Challenge de España at Izki Golf, Urturi, in May. The first event on Spanish soil was won by Antoine Rozner – the first of two victories for the Frenchman this season – and has been ever-present on the Challenge Tour International Schedule since 1999.
Match Play returns
The inaugural Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9 saw match play return to the Challenge Tour International Schedule for the first time in 18 years and the tournament has gone from strength-to-strength as it enters its third year. It is a highlight for Challenge Tour members as it offers a different test to the usual 72-hole stroke play format which forms the majority of events, while the southern Spanish climate on the Estepona coastline offers an enjoyable experience off the course.