Lowdown:
The European Tour returns to Valderrama this week for the second staging of the Andalucía Masters. Graeme McDowell defends the title and a strong field has assembled to do battle for the sizeable prize-fund.
With €3,000,000 up for grabs this week and a winner’s cheque of €500,000, this tournament provides an excellent chance for players to make a significant move in the Race to Dubai. With Luke Donald well clear at the head of the list, he can’t be challenged at this stage, even though he’s not playing this week. But Martin Kaymer, currently fourth on the standings could get very close to Rory McIlroy in second, should the German taste victory here.
Another man looking to continue his progress up the ranking is home favourite Sergio Garcia. After his victory last week in Valencia, El Nino has climbed to 11th in the Race to Dubai. He’ll be looking to continue his good run this time out.
“It’s been really positive recently, after two bad years,” he said. “I think I’m going in the right way but that doesn’t mean it’s time to relax.”
Defending champion Graeme McDowell hasn’t enjoyed the same success this season as he did back in 2010 but he’ll be hoping a return to the site of last year’s victory will inspire him to success.
It’s a second year on the circuit for the Andalucía Masters at Valderrama. The course is probably Spain’s best-known having hosted 16 Volvo Masters plus the 1997 Ryder Cup. Constructed in 1974 by Robert Trent Jones Snr, it was expanded and improved when the club was acquired by Jaime Ortiz-Patiño in 1984.

Venue:
Club de Golf Valderrama, Sotogrande, Spain
Date: Oct 27-30
Course stats: par 71, 6,988 yards
Purse: €3,000,000 Winner: €500,000
Defending Champion: Graeme McDowell (-3)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 27 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 12pm
Friday 28 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 12pm
Saturday 29 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 1pm
Sunday 30 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 12pm

Player Watch:
Martin Kaymer – Some good recent results for the German (second at Crans and eighth in Portugal) would suggest he’s coming back into some decent form. If he does, he’s always a force to be reckoned with.

Francesco Molinari – The Italian’s consistent game and straight driving should be well suited to this course. If he can get the putter going, watch out.

Sergio Garcia – He looked superb in the Castello Masters last week. If he can continue to play like that he could well make it to victories on the spin.

Key hole: 17th. A brilliant risk and reward par five. 536 yards with water short of the green so the approach must be perfect, anything a little too soft will roll back into the hazard.

Skills required: Course management. Valderrama requires a tactical approach and damage limitation is often the order of the day. It’s not a course that generally produces low scoring.

Where next?
PGA Tour:
CIMB Asia Pacific Classic preview