Alejandro Cañizares, The European Tour’s newest champion, has confirmed his presence at the NH Collection Open.
After his dominant wire-to-wire win in the Trophée Hassan II, the Spaniard will lead the home charge at La Reserva de Sotogrande, where he arrives as one of the favourites and with good knowledge of the Cabell Robinson design.
Cañizares said: “La Reserva de Sotogrande is a course I know well. In 2008, I played the Spanish Championship and sometimes I practise there with my father. It is a longish course, fairly generous off the tee with quite a few elevation changes and undulating greens. Some holes are long: the sixth, for instance, is a three-wood par three. Wind is a big factor, and it can really toughen up the course.
“The NH Collection Open is a very important event in this area. It may start modestly, but there is big room for growth, and hopefully more tournaments will return to Spain and boost Spanish golf. It was a shame to lose the Valderrama events which were so popular – the final between Sergio García and Miguel Ángel Jiménez (2011 Andalucía Masters) was the best tourist draw to the Costa del Sol as a golfing destination.”
Cañizares will tee up in next week’s dual ranking tournament full of confidence after securing his second European Tour title in Morocco.
His victory ended an eight year drought between titles, and has enabled the 31 year old to re-adjust his ambitions.
He said: “Right now I feel I’m in the best position to move forward and try to break into the world’s top 50 – that’s my next goal. In order to get there I need to achieve smaller objectives: I want to put myself in contention week after week and to finish consistently in the top ten. If I manage to stay grounded, keep my focus and try my best on every shot, the higher objectives will take care of themselves.
“When I turned pro in 2006, my dream was to win on The European Tour, and I fulfilled it straight away at the Russian Open. It was only my third appearance and I felt on top of the world, but it probably came too soon. It’s been nearly eight years of learning experience between my two victories, mainly building up confidence.
“I knew I had the game in me, but I had to learn to believe in myself. I have been working on it step by step all these years and watching the top players. When I had the opportunity of playing with them, I realised that the big difference was not so much in their game as in their attitude. Attitude and self-belief are key.
“Funnily enough, before Morocco my confidence was really low. I wasn’t hitting the ball well, I wasn’t putting well and I was a little nervous about my golf, but I had a great session with my coach on Tuesday and spent an hour with Phil Kenyon on the putting green and that helped a lot. After that, the confidence started growing, the putts went in and the swing was there. It felt as if it was far away, but it took five minutes to fix it. Thursday was one of the best golfing days of my career. On Sunday, as has become the tradition, I invited all the Spaniards to dinner and we had a great time. Hopefully I will be celebrating on the Sunday in Sotogrande!”
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