One of the most impressive fields of the year, boasting no fewer than 24 winners on The 2002 European Tour International Schedule and 11 of Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup Team, will assemble at Club de Golf Valderrama this week for the conclusion of a fascinating climax to the Volvo Order of Merit campaign.
A primary goal of all Members of The European Tour - the quest for the Harry Vardon Trophy and the recognition as Europe's Number One - this year's race to the winning post focuses on two principals at the season-ending Volvo Masters Andalucia.
Retief Goosen, the reigning European Number One, remains in pole position with €2,335,190 (£1,468,341) as he seeks to retain the Harry Vardon Trophy but Padraig Harrington closed the gap to just €23,119 (£14,538) after finishing tied sixth in the 59th Italian Open Telecom Italia last week.
Harrington will be defending the title he won at Montecastillo Hotel and Golf Resort last year when he finished the season on a winning note by birdieing the final hole to finish one stroke ahead of fellow Irishman, Paul McGinley.
The Volvo Masters Andalucia also re-unites 11 members of the Ryder Cup Team with Thomas Björn, Darren Clarke, Niclas Fasth, Pierre Fulke, Sergio Garcia, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Phillip Price and Lee Westwood joining Harrington and McGinley in the field.
Indeed six of The Ryder Cup Team have already savoured success in the Volvo Masters Andalucia. In addition to Harrington last year, Montgomerie won the title in 1993 at Valderrama on his way to winning the Volvo Order of Merit for the first time. The following year Langer established one of the most enduring and impressive course records in European Tour history, a nine under par 62, on his way to winning by a stroke from Seve Ballesteros and Vijay Singh. Westwood triumphed in 1997 when the tournament moved to Montecastillo Hotel and Golf Resort. Clarke followed in 1998 and in 2000 Fulke claimed the title when he produced The European Tour Shot of the Year - a majestic five wood at the 70th hole - to edge out Clarke.
Valderrama first hosted the Volvo Masters Andalucia in 1988, when Nick Faldo won with a total of 284. The drive and quality for presentation spearheaded by owner Jaime Ortiz-Patiño and supported by Volvo, led to the development of a course that was voted the best in mainland Europe within six years. Valderrama quickly established a reputation for excellence and won the right to host The 32nd Ryder Cup Matches in 1997 and the World Golf Championships - American Express Championship in 1999 and 2000.