José Maria Olazábal, The 2012 Ryder Cup Captain, and Colin Montgomerie, his immediate predecessor who led Europe to glory last year, headline the Iberdrola Open this week as The European Tour’s three-week Spanish swing continues at Pula Golf.
Olazábal was a member of Montgomerie’s backroom team at The Celtic Manor Resort and the illustrious pair will be reunited with Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley from the support team who masterminded Europe’s 14 ½ - 13 ½ point victory in Wales last October.
Olazábal’s intimate knowledge of Pula Golf, a course he redesigned and on which he won the last of his 23 European Tour titles in 2005, is sure to stand him in good stead as he continues his comeback from injury, and he remains the only player to have won on a course he designed.
Indeed, Pula Golf Club has been a happy hunting ground for Spanish players. The first three years of the Mallorca Classic produced home grown champions with Miguel Angel Jiménez winning in 2003, Sergio Garcia victorious in 2004 and Olazábal the following year. In fact, the island of Mallorca has been particularly kind to the home players, with seven of the 15 events played on the island won by Spaniards with the late, great Seve Ballesteros winning three times.
Ballesteros, who passed away on Saturday, will be remembered throughout what is sure to be an emotive week with his funeral taking place on Wednesday at Pedreña, northern Spain, and black ribbons will be placed on the flags of every hole as a mark of respect.
Every player in the field, and the Spaniards in particular, will be striving to pay tribute to Ballesteros in the way they know best, by winning this week. Among the home challengers, Alejandro Cañizares will be hoping to go one better than last year when he was denied in a play-off by Swede Peter Hanson, while Pablo Larrazabal will be looking to continue his fine form after claiming a share of third place in last week’s Open de España.
The Iberdrola Open, being played for the second time after the tournament made its debut last year, is the third different European Tour event staged on the island of Mallorca. The Turespaña Open Baleares took place between 1988 and 1995, and the Mallorca Classic was held between 2003 and 2007.
Spain will host seven events in total on the European Tour International Schedule this year. Paul Lawrie, Open de Andalucía de Golf by Turkish Airlines champion, and last week’s Open de España winner, Thomas Aiken, have already tasted success and the Spanish adventure continues next week with the Volvo World Match Play Championship before returning later in the year for the Madrid Masters, CASTELLÓ MASTERS Costa Azahar and the Andalucia Valderrama Masters.