Lowdown: 

The European Tour heads to Spain this week for the fourth edition of the Bankia Madrid Masters. England’s Luke Donald defends the title around El Encin at Alcala de Henares.
A strong field has assembled in Madrid as players look to collect valuable Euros in their quest to make the top-60 on the Race to Dubai and thereby secure a start in the Dubai World Championship.
One man who won’t have any concerns there is Luke Donald. The defending champion and World Number 1 has season’s earnings of €3,839,161, some €1,300,000 more than Rory McIlroy who is currently second in the Race. A repeat win here would go a long way to securing Donald the Harry Vardon Trophy (awarded to European Tour Number 1 at the end of each season.)
“My victory in Madrid last year gave my confidence a big boost. Any time you win, it always gives you a lot of satisfaction that all the hard work has been worthwhile. It was the start of an incredibly consistent run for me, so I’ve got great memories of my win. When you’re playing well you tend to enjoy your golf more, and that was certainly the case for me in Madrid and in the weeks that followed it,” he said.
“Because the win opened up a lot of doors for me, I felt duty bound to support the event by going back to defend my title. I’ve had a very busy stretch lately, and my wife’s also due to give birth soon so I’ll be taking a break after Madrid. It’d be great to sign off with another win to extend my lead at the top of The Race to Dubai.”
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano will once again be the tournament host in Madrid, though there’s a switch of venues for this year’s event. Designed by Robert Von Hagge, the El Encin Golf Hotel, some 34km north of Madrid, only opened for play last March. It’s a great tournament track stretching to almost 7,600 yards and featuring undulating greens and testing bunkering.

Venue: El Encin Golf Hotel, Alcala de Henares, Spain
Date: Oct 6-9
Course stats: par 72, 7,561 yards
Purse: €1,000,000
Defending Champion: Luke Donald (-21)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 6 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 11am
Friday 7 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 11am
Saturday 8 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 1pm
Sunday 9 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 1pm

Player Watch:
Luke Donald – It’s hard to look past the defending champion, though this is one of the longer courses on the circuit and that’s not where the World Number 1’s strength lies. Despite that, he’s the clear favourite.

Alvaro Quiros – One of the home favourites, Quiros will certainly not be daunted by the length of this new course. He’s been quiet through the second half of this season and will be looking to spring back into form this week.

Peter Hanson – The consistent Swede was ninth in last week’s Dunhill Links and currently sits 17th on the Race to Dubai. His solid, all-round, game should be suited to this track.

Key hole:
18th – A long par 5 stretching to 577 yards, getting up in two shots is a tough ask for even the biggest hitters. Water protecting the green further adds to the complication.

Where next?
PGA Tour –
Frys.com Open preview