Tom Lewis will aim to continue his incredible golfing fairytale this week when he takes his prodigious talent to the fairways of the Club de Campo del Mediterráneo on the outskirts of Valencia for the Castelló Masters.
The 20 year old Englishman lived up to his enormous potential in style with victory in last week’s Portugal Masters in only his third European Tour event as a professional. Now he will hop across the border to Spain in an attempt to win again.
Such is his ability that it would not be a surprise, as Lewis has taken the golfing world by storm in recent times. In July, he shot to fame with his opening 65 at Royal St George’s, which was the lowest round by an amateur in Open Championship history and gave him a share of the lead.
He was then part of the victorious Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team at Royal Aberdeen before joining the professional ranks, producing a top ten finish in the Austria GolfOpen and playing all four rounds in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Lewis’ seven under par round final round 65 at Oceânico Victoria Golf Course in Portugal on Sunday saw him cut through the field, and at 21 under par for the week he finished two shots clear to win on only his third professional appearance, two starts quicker than Tiger Woods.
George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “We would like to congratulate Tom on his staggering achievement in winning the Portugal Masters, and also to thank him for honouring his commitment – both to the Tour and to the promoters, who gave him a sponsors’ invitation – to play at the Castelló Masters. His maturity and level-headedness are a credit to himself and the Tour, and we wish him every success this week in Spain and in what promises to be a glittering future career.”
While Lewis will command a lot of attention in Castellon, there will also be a strong home contingent hoping to impress and claim the lion’s share of the €2,000,000 prize fund.
Part of that group will be Ignacio Garrido who will be looking to draw on a wealth of local knowledge of the golf course as well as good recent memories of the tournament itself.
The 39 year old from Madrid was in fine form last year at the Club de Campo del Mediterráneo, four under par rounds seeing him finish on 12 under par 272 to take second place behind Italian teenager Matteo Manassero.
Twelve months on Garrido is back, looking to go one better than last year and add to his two European Tour titles to date, hoping his intimate knowledge of the Ramón Espinosa layout will aid him in that quest.
“As well as the Castelló Masters, we play a local tournament there at the end of the year where four teams of eight players each from The European Tour, the Challenge Tour, the National Tour and the Senior Tour take part. The way they set it up for that tournament is pretty similar to the way they set it up for the Tour event, so that helps.
“I think it’s a lovely course and actually a lot more challenging than perhaps it might first look when you get there. It has had good champions there in the past such as Sergio Garcia and Matteo last year of course and, as a result, it’s a tournament we all look forward to.”
Garrido is currently in 90th spot in The Race to Dubai and, having played in the season-ending Dubai World Championship last year, the Spaniard is keen to return to the Jumeirah Golf Estates in December.
“I remember a few years ago this was the last tournament to try and get into the Volvo Masters or for guys trying to keep their card,” he said. “Even though there are now a few more tournaments to come before the end of the year now, it is still an important one and I’ll be looking for a similar performance to last year to try and help me move into the top 60.”
Alongside Garrido and stirring the home supporters will be past champion Garcia and Ryder Cup Captain José Maria Olazábal alongside European Tour champions Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, Pablo Larrazabal, Pablo Martin and Rafael Cabrera-Bello, who was runner-up to Lewis in Portugal.
Finally, another young man who will command the attention alongside Lewis is the defending champion Manassero who, at 17 years and 188 days last year, became the youngest winner in European Tour history when he triumphed by four shots, comfortably beating the record held by New Zealander Danny Lee, who was 18 and 213 days when he won the Johnnie Walker Classic as an amateur in 2009.
Manassero added a second title earlier this year in the Maybank Malaysian Open – remarkably, before he had even turned 18 – and admitted he is relishing his first appearance as a defending champion.
“The 2011 Castelló Masters will be the first time I have ever defended a title as a professional and I am extremely excited about it,” he said. “I never expected my first victory would come so soon. I had come close in several events before the Castelló Masters last October, but to actually go all the way was a fantastic feeling.
“The Club de Campo del Mediterráneo is a great golf course and obviously holds very special memories for me. This season has gone very well so far and I was delighted to win another tournament early in the year. Hopefully I can continue my good form into the autumn to be in with a chance of successfully defending my title in Castellón.”
The Castelló Masters is one of seven tournaments to be held in Spain on The 2011 European Tour International Schedule, along with the Open de Andalucia de Golf, the Open de España, the Iberdrola Open, the Volvo World Match Play Championship, the Bankia Madrid Masters and the Andalucia Masters.