Hansen hoping to keep home challenge at bay

5/10/2010 4:09:57 PM
Soren Hansen  (Getty Images)
Soren Hansen (Getty Images)

Denmark’s Søren Hansen will be looking to consolidate his position in the World’s Top 50 when he tees up in the Iberdrola Open Cala Millor Mallorca at Pula Golf Club this week.

It has been three years since The European Tour visited Pula Golf Club and the José Maria Olazábal-designed course will present a tough challenge for the field assembled on the island of Majorca where Hansen, who made his Ryder Cup debut in Valhalla in 2008 and who will be amongst the favourites for the title, will hope to bring his experience to bear as he chases a third European Tour title.

The World Number 50, only the second Dane to play in The Ryder Cup after Thomas Björn, has already accumulated four top tens this season and will make his first appearance since the Masters Tournament.

The curtain-raising Pro-Am for the Iberdrola Open Cala Millor Mallorca on Wednesday will also mark the return to action for Olazábal himself. The two-time Masters Champion has not played since last October as he continues to battle rheumatism but will make an outing in the Pro-Am as part of his rehabilitation. He will not play in the tournament proper however.

He might not be in the field but Olazábal is still in the record books after his victory in the 2005 Mallorca Classic at Pula, the last of his 23 European Tour victories to date. As a result of that triumph he went down in European Tour history as the first player to win on a course he designed.

The European Tour has already visited another Olazábal-designed course this month with the Open de España hosted by Real Club de Golf de Seville, where Spain’s Alvaro Quiros won the title, and a host of Spaniards will be lining up hoping to make it second successive home winner.

Pula Golf Club has traditionally been a happy hunting ground for Spanish players. On each of the first three European Tour visits to Pula, home players claimed the Mallorca Masters; Miguel Angel Jiménez (2003), Sergio Garcia (2004) and José Maria Olazábal (2005).

José  Manuel Lara was the leading Spaniard three years ago, finishing joint seventh, and he will head to Majorca with some confidence after three closing rounds in the 60s in last week’s BMW Italian Open.

Another Spaniard Alejandro Cañizares, who came so close to winning in front of his friends and family in finishing tied third in the Open de España, has another shot at a home title this week.

“The Open de España was a big confidence booster. After last year when my confidence was low that was a big boost especially in the way I finished. Hopefully I can carry that on. It was a lot of fun to play well. My family was there and in front of the home crowd I enjoyed it.”

Cañizares is also on course to top the first Re-Rank of the season having earned €191,219 this season but  behind him there is plenty of jostling for position ahead of the big summer events for those who came through the Qualifying School and finished 11th to 20th on the 2009 Challenge Tour.

Their performances this week could well determine which events they get into over the next few months so there is plenty at stake.

The last player to win at the Pula Golf Club was Frenchman Grégory Bourdy, and when asked what the players might expect this week, he replied:  “It’s a tricky course and you must hit it well from the tee. The greens are not big and you have to be consistent, keeping the ball on the fairway so you can attack the holes. The course also finishes with a par three which is unusual and it sometimes difficult to finish that way.”