Spain’s Pablo Larrazábal is excited by the prospect of playing in front of big home crowds once again after he confirmed his participation in the Open de España, one of the oldest and most celebrated tournaments in Continental Europe, from April 12-15.
With just five weeks to go until the European Tour’s Race to Dubai reaches European soil for the first time in 2018, the Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid – the home of the Royal Spanish Golf Federation and one of the country’s top public golf courses – will host the 91st edition of the event, with Larrazábal preparing to make his tenth appearance at his national Open.
A four-time winner on the European Tour, Larrazábal attended his first Open de España in 1998 as a 15 year old, when the event was held at his home course of Real Club de Golf El Prat.
Together with his fellow future European Tour player Eduardo de la Riva, the childhood friends were inspired by their idols Seve Ballesteros and José María Olazábal as they watched the Spanish legends negotiate their home track, before collecting 256 golf balls between them on the 18th green, memories that Larrazábal says have stayed with him almost 20 years later.
“I remember watching Seve and Olly every day in 1998 and I was one of the kids asking for balls and gloves on the 18th,” said the 34 year old. “We got 256 golf balls between us and I loved it. I remember a lot of the golf shots from Seve and they really inspired and helped me in the years to come.
“I loved playing last year in Valderrama. The crowds were big time and I was going through a tough time in the year, but they pushed me hard to do well. In Madrid, you are always guaranteed a big crowd, so I am looking forward to playing in front of my home fans once again.”
Large crowds are expected at Centro Nacional de Golf – the home of Spanish golf – with the course serviced by an underground station no more than 400 metres from the entrance and two bus lines connecting it to the heart of Madrid.
“We have to thank the European Tour for believing that the Open de España has a future and the Royal Golf Spanish Federation for supporting the event financially too,” said Larrazábal.
“The Madrid Golf Federation has always believed golf has a future in Spain and without their help we would not have any tournaments in Spain, so we are very excited about the event returning this year.”
Larrazábal has started his 2018 campaign in fine form with three top five finishes to his name as he searches for a fifth European Tour title. A tied fourth finish at the Hero Indian Open last week, the Spaniard is eager to better his record at his home Open which has seen him finish runner up and third over the years.
“To play in Spain and see so many Spanish flags, so much support for us and such big crowds, it really means a lot to me and it would be amazing to win.”