This year Mark James will be defending the title he won last year in dramatic style at Golf La Moraleja II in Madrid, beating Greg Norman in a sudden death play-off at the third extra-hole.
James won his 18th European Tour title and 23rd world-wide after a final round of 69 brought him level with Norman. On the third extra-hole Norman missed the green and failed to save his par and James took the title.
The El Prat course, inspected by European Tour’s Director of Greenkeeping Richard Stillwell, is in excellent condition and a new tee has been built to the highest standard at the sixth.
The par 72 course measures 6639 yards and each hole of the palm-crowded layout beside the sea has its own character. The par four opening hole has trees to the right and bunkers to the left in the driving area, but offers a real birdie chance. Players need to favour the left side of the fairway at the fifth, a gentle dog-leg right, to set up a scoring chance but at the next hole five bunkers and a lake short of the 224 yard hole conspire to reduce birdie chances.
The ninth plays beside the beach and a tough two-tier green awaits players at the end of this par five. The tenth, with trees on both side, strategically placed bunkers and a tall tree blocking the left side, demands a tightly controlled tee shot.
The toughest hole on the course, the 455 yard 14th, dog-legs to the right with palm trees a constant threatening factor on the way to a triple-tiered green. The par-five fifteenth is the longest of El Prat’s holes, measuring 547 yards to an undulating green and the 18th is a fine finishing par four, dog-legging to the left around dense woods, with a bunker in the driving area on the right and a tricky two-tier green.
The first Open de España, played in 1912, was won by Arnaud Massy, the first overseas winner of the Open Championship and since then Peter Thomson, Roberto de Vicenzo, Arnold Palmer, Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo have won both the Spanish and Open Championship titles.
Location: 15 km south of Barcelona