Former Ryder Cup and World Cup stars Manuel Piñero and José Rivero will spearhead the Spanish challenge this week as the European Seniors Tour makes a welcome return to the country for the €250,000 Castellón Costa Azahar Open de España Senior, after an 11 year absence.
Rivero turned 50 on September 20 and wasted no time in making his debut as a Senior, putting in a strong performance to finish tied third at the Bendinat London Seniors Masters last weekend.
The man from Madrid showed he had lost little of the talent that saw him win four times on The European Tour and feature in two winning European Ryder Cup Teams, at The De Vere Belfry in 1985 and Muirfield Village two years later, by carding rounds of 70-67-69 over the magnificent, par 72 Jack Nicklaus-designed Heritage Course at The London Golf Club.
It was a pleasing debut that should stand him in good stead for this week’s event at Club de Campo del Mediterraneo in Castellón, near Valencia, where Victor Garcia is the professional and his son, European Tour Member, Sergio, holds the course record with an eight under par 64.
“I played well for my first Seniors event and now I’m looking forward to playing back in my homeland,” said Rivero, whose biggest success on Spanish soil came when he won the 1992 Open Catalonia.
Piñero, meanwhile, counts three Madrid Open titles in his nine victories on The European Tour and also boasts a proud Ryder Cup record. The Badajoz born golfer played in the 1981 and 1985 matches and won both his singles matches, defeating Jerry Pate 4 and 2 and Lanny Wadkins 3 and 1 respectively.
Garcia senior is another Spaniard playing this week and in total there are 11 home golfers in the 72-strong field, which also includes seven names from the top ten on the 2005 European Seniors Tour Order of Merit – Italian Giuseppe Cali, Luis Carbonetti of Argentina, Nick Job of England, Scotland’s Bill Longmuir, Carl Mason of England, Irishman Denis O’Sullivan and England’s David J Russell.
Mason, currently Number One in the Rankings, will be keen to capture his third victory of the year at the 6754 yard, par 72 Club de Campo del Mediterraneo course in order to put some daylight between him and Scotland’s Sam Torrance, who is only €8,529 (£5,776) behind him in second place.
Torrance, who won last week’s Bendinat London Seniors Masters by three strokes from Russell, will not be in Spain as he is partnering his son Daniel at the dunhill links championship, which starts in Scotland on Thursday.
Set in the hills overlooking Castellón, the Club de Campo del Mediterraneo course weaves its way through olive and carob trees and will provide, according to Andy Stubbs, Managing Director of the European Seniors Tour, a challenging three days of golf.
“I am sure the course at Club de Campo del Mediterraneo will prove a good test for the Members of the European Seniors Tour and afterwards they can relax in the warmth of the Spanish hospitality and the facilities of the golf club and adjoining spa.
“We are indebted to the efforts of everyone at Club de Campo del Mediterraneo, the region of Castellón, the Spanish Golf Federation and our promoter Javier Gervas of Match Golf for reviving the Open de España Senior, which was last played in 1994 when Brian Huggett won,” said Stubbs.
The event will be preceded by two Pro-Am days on Wednesday and Thursday.