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Monday, 26 April 2010
Miguel Angel Jimenez  (EuropeanTour)
Miguel Angel Jimenez (EuropeanTour)

Miguel Angel Jiménez returns to action following an unexpected week off when he attempts to become the first home winner of the Open de España since Sergio Garcia in 2002.

Jiménez had been due to play in last week’s Ballantine’s Championship but was unable to reach Korea because of the Volcanic ash cloud which caused widespread travel chaos across Northern Europe.

The 46 year old will instead be hoping the enforced break has left him fresh to challenge for his home Open and a 17th European Tour title.

Jiménez, who has four European Tour victories on home soil, has already tasted success this season, holding off Race to Dubai winner Lee Westwood to capture the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February.

Joining him at Real Club de Golf de Sevilla will be a strong cast of compatriots, including Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, Pablo Larrazabal, Alfred Dunhill Championship winner Pablo Martin and the big-hitting Alvaro Quiros.

It was Cabrera-Bello who finished as leading Spaniard last year at PGA Golf Catalunya and the home challenge will be hoping the tournament’s relocation to Seville can deliver the fifth Spanish champion in the past 30 years, following Seve Ballesteros’s three titles (1981, 1985 and 1995) and Garcia’s win eight years ago.

The Spaniards will all be trying to succeed Thomas Levet as champion following the Frenchman’s two stroke victory over Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti 12 months ago.

That was former Ryder Cup player Levet’s fifth European Tour title – a record for a French player – and he dedicated the win to Ballesteros, Spain’s most famous golfer, and his ongoing battle against a brain tumour.
 
Levet will have to tackle a different course this time, with the €2million tournament returning to Real Club de Golfe de Sevilla, which hosted the 2008 edition won by Peter Lawrie.

The Irishman made an admirable defence of that title last year, finishing tied third, but is looking forward to returning the scene of his success.

He said: “It’s a wonderful golf course that tests every part of your game. You have to hit it straight and manoeuvre your iron shots as the pins positions are normally quite tight and close to water. You also have to putt well as normally the greens are very good there.

“We’ve played in some tough conditions in the last two weeks in China and Korea so I think we are all looking forward to some nice weather in Spain.”

Joining him in the field is Welshman Stephen Dodd, who returns to action after finishing tied runner-up with compatriot Rhys Davies behind winner YE Yang in the Volvo China Open two weeks ago.

Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie will attempt to recapture the title he won in 1994 when the tournament was staged at Club de Campo in Madrid, and he is accompanied by former Ryder Cup team-mates Thomas Bjørn, the 1998 winner who finished in a share of third position with Lawrie last year, and Darren Clarke, who is looking to continue his recent good form.

The Open de España is one of the longest-running tournaments on The European Tour, having featured on the International Schedule since 1972. It boasts a legendary roll of past champions including Ballesteros, Arnold Palmer, Sir Nick Faldo, Bernard Gallacher, Bernhard Langer, Sam Torrance and Padraig Harrington.

The tournament also signals a return to Europe following two weeks in Asia and kicks off a seven-week run on the continent ahead of the US Open Championship in June.

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