Steen Tinning will make an emotional return to the Club de Campo course in Madrid this week to defend the Telefonica Open de Madrid title he won in fine style a year ago.
Any return for a defending champion is special but this week’s tournament will have special poignancy for the 41 year old Dane, for he announced earlier this month that he will be retiring from The European Tour after the tournament due to injury.
Tinning, whose other European Tour success came in 2000 at The Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open, has had severe back problems for a number of months but the pain has intensified recently, making it impossible for him to maintain a full tournament schedule.
The amicable Dane, who played in the World Cup and the old Alfred Dunhill Cup for Denmark, will be a loss to The European Tour for, at his best, he was capable of superb golf, as he showed last year in Madrid.
Then, a sensational third round 62 brought him into contention for the title before a final round 67 saw him home by a shot over an impressive chasing pack, headed by Andrew Coltart, Brian Davis and Adam Scott, who tied for second.
All four of last year’s main protagonists will tee up once again on the Club de Campo course but they will face a strong challenge from a high quality field entered for the penultimate event on this season’s Volvo Order of Merit.
A host of winners from this season’s European Tour have entered, including Lee Westwood, who will be aiming to continue a recent renaissance which saw the Englishman win the BMW International Open and the dunhill links championship in five weeks on his move to fifth on the Volvo Order of Merit.
The Telefonica Open de Madrid is also the final chance for players to climb into the top 60 in the Volvo Order of Merit to qualify for the season-ending Volvo Masters Anadalucia. Jose Maria Olazabal secured his place in the elite field, climbing to 55th in the Volvo Order of Merit from 60th after finishing runner-up last week in Majorca.
Arjun Atwal currently occupies 60th place but, with the Indian absent this week, Australian Peter O’Malley, in 61st will be leading the challenge to nudge past and into the top 60.
Much of the focus will also be around the all important 115 mark this week with this being the final chance to secure playing privileges for The 2004 European Tour International Schedule.
As well as points for the Volvo Order of Merit, the tournament subtext will also see players battle to confirm their places in The Seve Trophy match, which will take place in two weeks time at Campo de Golf Parador El Saler in Valencia, as well as continue to seek valuable Ryder Cup points, a race currently led by Westwood.