Cañizares ready for stiff test

5/11/2011 4:09:31 PM
Alejandro Canizares  (Getty Images)
Alejandro Canizares (Getty Images)
Alejandro Cañizares is anticipating a tough challenge as he looks to improve on last year’s second place finish in the Iberdrola Open in Mallorca.

Low scoring proved difficult at Pula Golf Club 12 months ago, when Cañizares lost out in a play-off to Swede Peter Hanson after finishing the tournament on six under par.

At 6,915 yards, the course is far from the longest on the circuit, yet the par 70 layout poses a number of difficult questions.

“It is not an easy golf course - it is very tricky and you really have to place the ball off the tee. Then the greens are very hard so it is very difficult to make birdies here,” Cañizares said.

“I will be very impressed if the winning score is more than single figures this week. There is bad weather coming in the weekend too, and that will make it tougher.”

Cañizares admits he was somewhat surprised to come so close to triumphing at this venue last year, adding: “It was kind of strange because I had never really played this golf course well until that point.

“I managed to keep it going last year and just came up one stroke short and lost out in the play-off to Peter. But I have some good feelings around here now and hopefully that will help me go one better than last year.

“I have a bit more confidence since the beginning of the year and the signs are there that I am starting to improve. Hopefully this will be the week it all comes together.”

A Spanish victory this week would be extra special following the passing of the legendary Seve Ballesteros, whose funeral took place in Pedreña today.

Cañizares’ father José Maria played with the five-time Major winner in his prime and Alejandro has fond memories of one particular Seve moment.

“I have one very special memory from when I was very young and was with my dad at the European Masters in Crans-Sur-Sierre,” he explained.

“Seve was in the group in front of him and it was the day that he played that miracle shot over the wall of the swimming pool to the right of the 18th fairway.

“I saw it with my own eyes, it was unbelieveable. He played that shot which was a miracle and then chipped in for birdie. It was amazing, the crowd went crazy and Seve’s caddie was bowing before him like he was worshipping him.

“It is such a strong memory for me and I think most Spanish players have a memory like that of Seve. That’s why we all want to be Seve. When you go to that spot where he hit the shot from – there is a plaque there now – you just look at it and wonder how he ever got it over the wall, never mind close to the green.”

Past and present Ryder Cup Captains Colin Montgomerie and José Maria Olazábal - both competing this week - are among those who will travel back from Ballesteros’ funeral to attend a memorial service in the small church at Pula Golf Club this evening.

It is sure to be an emotional week, yet Cañizares believes a sense of positivity can prevail.

“I hope it is now a celebration of his life,” said the 28 year old. “That’s what it should be now and I think people are helping each other a lot by telling stories of Seve and remembering him in the right way.

“It would be very nice if a Spanish player can win this week so that we can dedicate the title to Seve.”