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Sergio García teeing off in the first practice round of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters (© Real Club Valderrama)

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It’s safe to say that the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters is one of the best tournaments on the European Tour calendar, and it’s not the only tournament at the highest level in Spain in 2019, nor is it the only one where it’s possible to catch the main stars in the world of golf in action, such as Jon Rahm, Sergio García and Matthew Fitzpatrick. But the big event at Real Club Valderrama, held from June 27th to June 30th, is all that and so much more. One of the main incentives of the tournament is that it pertains to the “Qualifying Series” of the Open Championship, meaning that it will be granting three golden tickets to play in the fourth and last major of the season, which will be held on the Royal Portrush course in Northern Ireland from July 18th to July 21st, one of the last opportunities for golfers in the European Tour to earn a spot in the Open Championship, making it all the more attractive. 

More than just an additional incentive for the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, it’s also worth noting that the Real Club Valderrama will once again become a pioneer, making national golf history by being the first course in Spain to host a qualifier for the Open. This is the sixth season since the Royal & Ancient introduced this new form of accessing the Open and, to date, their tournaments have not yet touched upon Spanish terrain. 

Thus, Valderrama will always be linked to the history of the Open, the oldest tournament in the world, as well as being the only course in Spain and continental Europe, dating back to 1997, to host a Ryder Cup. Always cutting edge. Always hand in hand with the biggest events in golf. 

The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters will grant three invitations to the Open to the highest-ranked golfers who finish in the top ten, and who don’t already have a spot secured. And thus, it’s a very enticing prize, a sweet pot that the golfers are prepared to fight for. In light of these special events, the European Tour live broadcast online of the rankings will be done a bit differently. Viewers will see the results superimposed on a claret jug, the trophy that will go to the champion of the Open Championship, with the names of those who have already qualified. It’s the easiest way to be able to follow who will be there on Sunday fighting for the three golden tickets. 

The Real Club Valderrama will attempt to give Spanish golf a stroke of luck with this “qualifying series”. Much needed at that, seeing as how, since it’s been implemented, the numbers have been unsatisfactory, to say the least. Of the near 150 different golfers that have managed to earn one of these ‘golden tickets’ for the Open by way of this system in the past six years, only one was Spanish, golfer from the Canary Islands, Rafa Cabrera Bello, in the Open de France in 2015, a rather minuscule amount.

In the latest edition, there are many candidates who are vying for their shot at one of those all-powerful golden tickets, so to speak. Of the 22 Spanish golfers on the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters roster, there are only four who have already qualified for the Open: Rahm, Sergio García, Jorge Campillo and Adrian Otaegui, which means there are fourteen potential candidates to win a dream trip to Portrush. There are currently five Spanish golfers who have secured their spot in the upcoming Open. The four previously mentioned and Miguel Ángel Jiménez, who earned his spot as last year’s champion of the Open Championship Senior on the Old Course at St. Andrews. The record of Spanish participants in an Open Championship goes back to 1983 and 1991, when there were ten representatives. The Open in 1991 is, coincidentally, still the major with the most Spanish golfers in history, a total of seven, to make the cut. 

Valderrama could be the one to make history now as the first champion of the Open Championship qualified by way of the “Qualifying Series”, why not? For now, the best score in these past five years from a golfer who has gone through these tournaments is fourth place, claimed by American golfer, Steve Stricker, in 2016. Additionally, there have been three more top tens: Edoardo Molinari (7th in 2014), Tyrrell Hatton (5th in 2016) and Eddie Pepperell (6th in 2018).

It’s important to note that after Valderrama, there will still be four more qualifying tournaments for the Open, which are the Rocket Mortgage Classic, held the same week as the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, the Irish Open, the Scottish Open and the John Deere Classic. In other words, after Valderrama, there will only be nine more spots up for grabs through this ever so enticing “Qualifying Series”.

Tickets for the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters 2019 hosted by the Sergio García Foundation are on sale now at the event website, starting from just €7 for juniors and €18 for adults (free entry for children aged under 12 when accompanied by an adult). For more information, see the event websiteFacebookInstagram and Twitter.

The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio García Foundation, an event in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai made possible by the essential contribution of the Real Club Valderrama, is sponsored by Estrella Damm and the Consejería de Turismo, Regeneración, Justicia y Administración Local of the Junta de Andalucía, jointly funded by EU and declared Event of Exceptional Public Interest by the Spanish Government. This tournament is also supported by Diputación de Cádiz, Dubai Duty Free, Rolex, Exterior Plus, La Reserva Club de Sotogrande, Santander Private Banking and Shell. Callaway, Coca-Cola, Enterprise, Grupo Raga, ISDIN, Korporate Technologies Group, Marca, Maui Jim, the Hospital QuirónSalud Campo de Gibraltar, the Real Federación Andaluza de Golf and Volvo are official suppliers. 5J, Gadira, Grupo Joly and Varma collaborate in the event as well.

Christiaan Bezuindehout hugs his mother during the prize-giving ceremony of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters (credit © Real Club Valderrama)

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This fifth edition of the Andalucía Masters – the first with Estrella Damm as title sponsor – has been a complete success in every aspect. Around 45,000 enthusiastic spectators enjoyed the excitement of Christiaan Bezuindehout’s brilliant first European Tour win as well as a great Spanish performance. Backed by full institutional support, the Real Club Valderrama was the ideal setting for a festive week of top class golf.

• One of the most meaningful images of this Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters is indeed the big hug between Christiaan Bezuindehout and his mother after victory.

There is a long story of overcoming adversity behind that picture. At the age of two he mistakenly drank rat poison, an incident that led to him developing a stammer that caused him to suffer anxiety. The beta blockers he took to combat his stammer led to him failing a doping test at the 2014 Amateur Championship, and while his two year ban was reduced to nine months after officials judged he had not been seeking to gain a competitive advantage, he missed out on representing his country at the Eisenhower Trophy. Now five years on from those dark days, he is a European Tour winner and he will make his Major Championship debut at The Open in two weeks.

• Bezuindehout’s family celebrations led Jon Rahm to comment: “Such moments as hugging his mum on 18 are memories forever. When you see the family’s happiness and what he has achieved, you realise that there is much more than golf in life. There are much bigger problems than dropping shots or missing putts.”

• A good number of dignitaries enjoyed the Sunday duel between Jon Rahm and the winner, as well as the performance of the rest of the field. Both María José Rienda, President of the National Sports Council and Juan Marín, Vice-President of the Junta de Andalucía, watched every single shot of the final group. They were joined by Juan Carlos Ruiz Boix, Mayor of San Roque and José María Arrabal, General Secretary for Sports of the Junta de Andalucía.

• Christiaan Bezuindehout has been the hottest putter this week. He leads both the GIR Putts (1.435) and the Putts Per Round (23.8) stats, which is certainly impressive on the testy Valderrama greens. Sergio García and Jon Rahm had a very solid week from tee to green, but the South African was the best with the short stick.

• Two Spanish runner-ups, Álvaro Quirós and Eduardo de la Riva, missed out on the consolation prize – a spot in the Open at Royal Portrush. France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera ousted Quirós with a superb up-and-down on the last. De la Riva missed a putt for birdie to finish outright second (which he needed in order to qualify, being the lowest ranked in the OGWR), and it was Adri Arnaus who got the place despite his bogey finish.

• Special mention must be made of the volunteers and all the staff members who have made the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters such a success. The green keeping team, headed by Adolfo Ramos, was up a 3:30 every morning in order to present the course in pristine condition. The result of their efforts has been highly praised by all.

Christiaan Bezuindehout, with the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters trophy (foto © Bosco Martín)

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Christiaan Bezuidenhout won his first European Tour title in emphatic style with a six shot victory at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation. The South African came into the final day at Real Club Valderrama with a five shot lead and while he saw that trimmed to three at one point, a closing 71 saw him finish at ten under par, to become only the third different player to lift the trophy after Graeme McDowell (2010), and tournament host Sergio Garcia (2011, 2017, 2018).

The victory also secures Bezuidenhout a Major Championship debut at The Open in two weeks, alongside Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera and local favourite Adri Arnaus.
Bezuidenhout's victory completes a remarkable rise for a player who has had to overcome adversity since a young age. At the age of two he mistakenly drank rat poison, an incident that led to him developing a stammer that caused him to suffer anxiety.

The beta blockers he took to combat his stammer led to him failing a doping test at the 2014 Amateur Championship and while his two year ban was reduced to nine months after officials adjudged he had not been seeking to gain a competitive advantage, he missed out on representing his country at the Eisenhower Trophy.

Now five years on from those dark days, he is a European Tour winner in his 57th appearance and moves into the top ten of the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex after two other top three finishes this season.

Spaniards Eduardo de la Riva, Alvaro Quiros and Jon Rahm finished alongside Arnaus and Lorenzo-Vera at four under par in a five way tie for second place.

Garcia was then at three under par, with Europe’s 2018 Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn, Belgian Thomas Detry, Gavin Green of Malaysia, German Bernd Ritthammer and Hideto Tanihara of Japan one shot further back.

Player quotes
Christian Bezuidenhout:

“I was relieved, it was a long day. I went through a struggle in the middle of the round, three bogies in a row. I thought, I can’t let it slip. My caddie kept me in the moment nicely and the par save on the eighth hole was crucial. It just got the momentum going that I had lost a bit.

“To bounce back with three birdies in a row after that was nice and it settled the nerves a bit. To come out with a win today is special.

“My family have kept me humble throughout my career, they’ve supported me and thanks to them. I’m here because of them, it’s so special.

“It’s been a dream since I started playing golf to play in a Major Championship, and to play The Open, which is my favourite Major, just makes it even more special.”

Adri Arnaus: 
“It was an honour to play two days in a row with Sergio in such as iconic place as Valderrama. Yesterday I started a bit nervous, but I calmed down after four holes and I started to enjoy it, and we got along so well.

“Today was more like being on my own, and I was able to do it on that back nine, so I’m really pleased.  I was trying to put a score out there as low as I could, but I saw that he’s playing so well it would be tough to put a little pressure on him, so I just tried to focus on me. 

“All week the place in The Open is what I came here for.  It’s just an incredible feeling to come out here on home soil, play well, and get one of those spots.”

Mike Lorenzo-Vera: 
“I knew that If I wanted to give myself a chance to play in The Open I needed to make par on the last, but I hooked that three wood. I hit a good wedge, but the green was an absolute rock. I had to make that putt, I gave it a chance and I made it.

“My objective at the beginning of the season was to play two Majors. I played the US PGA Championship and I absolutely needed this one, so that could be great for my mind.”

Jon Rahm: 
“As wonderful as it is, it’s always difficult to play on home soil. It’s hard to keep my own expectations in check.

“It’s all about Christiaan today; he played a wonderful round of golf. He played an amazing tournament; ten under par this week in Valderrama is no joke.

“Playing in front of a home crowd increases my wanting to win the tournament. You’ve got to focus in yourself and keep it to yourself, but every time I went from the green to the tee the support was unbelievable and at the end it’s really hard to not let that through.”

Sergio García:
“It was a very solid week. You’ve got to be realistic, I feel like I played probably the best I played all year, but I made two putts all week which didn’t help. Taking that into account, finishing sixth shows how well I hit the ball. That’s very positive, and that’s what I’m taking.

“It’s been a great tournament for my foundation, and it’s been fun. Every year we seem to be coming up with things to raise more money and that’s nice. Just to be able to help some people is very fulfilling and a great feeling to have.”

The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio García Foundation, an event in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai made possible by the essential contribution of the Real Club Valderrama, is sponsored by Estrella Damm and the Consejería de Turismo, Regeneración, Justicia y Administración Local of the Junta de Andalucía, jointly funded by EU and declared Event of Exceptional Public Interest by the Spanish Government. This tournament is also supported by the Diputación de Cádiz, Dubai Duty Free, Rolex, Exterior Plus, La Reserva Club de Sotogrande, Santander Private Banking and Shell. Callaway, Coca-Cola, Enterprise, Grupo Raga, ISDIN, Korporate Technologies Group, Marca, Maui Jim, el Hospital QuirónSalud Campo de Gibraltar, the Real Federación Andaluza de Golf and Volvo are official suppliers. 5J, Gadira, Grupo Joly and Varma collaborate in the event as well.

Christiaan Bezuindehout hitting a shot in the third round of the tournament (credit © Real Club Valderrama)

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Christiaan Bezuidenhout will take a five shot lead over local hero Jon Rahm into the final round of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation as he looks for his first European Tour victory. World Number 11 Rahm recorded his best round as a professional at Real Club Valderrama with a 67 to sit at five under par alongside Japan's Hideto Tanihara, but the duo could not keep pace with Bezuidenhout, whose round of 69 took him to ten under par.

The South African arrived in Spain off the back of claiming third place at last week's BMW International Open. He came in to Saturday with a four shot lead, but with three birdies and just one bogey he managed to stretch that advantage on one of the toughest layouts on the Race to Dubai.

Tanihara carded a round of 68 to join Rahm in a tie for second place, two shots ahead of Belgian duo Nicolas Colsaerts and Thomas Detry. Tournament host Garcia and 2018 Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn are then in a group of nine players eight shots off the lead at two under par.

Player quotes

Christiaan Bezuidenhout:

“I take a lot from that. Definitely wasn’t my best ball striking day today. I made some great saves on the turn through seven to nine. Got all three up and down there, which kept the momentum going.

“Going into Sunday with a five shot lead is definitely nice. I’ll just keep playing my game and see how I finish up tomorrow.

“Rahm is a great player, he’s top 15 in the world and he’s a legend in Spain so it will be quite an experience tomorrow. I haven’t played with him yet so I’m looking forward to the challenge and we’ll see how we go tomorrow.”

Jon Rahm:

“The biggest difference today was how I played off the tee, I can't recall missing many fairways. I always had a chance and on that front nine, I putted for birdie pretty much on every hole.

“There was maybe a little bit more commitment on some shots but that's only because I was always in the fairway and always had a chance.

“I'm confident, there's a lot of shots to make up and I'm also aware that every time you play here in the afternoon the wind is going to pick up, the greens are going to get a little firmer every single day. If I can get off to a good start and play as solid a nine holes as I did today, I give myself a chance on the back nine."

Nicolas Colsaerts

“It feels pretty good. For the last two days I’ve been a bit up and down on the back nine, every time I make a bogey I bounce back, which is pretty satisfying on a course that doesn’t give you many opportunities.

“Coming over the years you start to have an idea about how to play this place. I think the biggest difference is that my shot selection is a lot better off the tee, which is key on this golf course.”

Sergio Garcia:

“I’ll do the same thing tomorrow, there’s not much more I can do. I don’t know how to explain that I shot 73 the way I hit the ball, it just doesn’t make sense.

"That’s the way golf goes sometimes; the only thing I can do is play as well as I’ve been playing every single day, and hopefully everything that’s been going wrong goes right. If not, we’ll try to finish as high as possible. It’s disappointing because I feel I hit so many good shots and got nothing out of them, but that’s how it goes.”

Thomas Bjørn:

“I played lovely - I haven’t played like that for a long time. Very happy just with a round of golf just now. Four weeks ago I was in a boot with a bad ankle, wasn’t really looking to be playing. I’m delighted with how that has turned out so that I can be out playing golf.

“It’s been a while since I have felt as good about my golf game as I did today. It’s funny what a good night’s sleep can do in golf.”

Sergio García, during the second round of the tournament (foto © Real Club Valderrama)

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Christiaan Bezuidenhout mastered the tougher conditions during round two to take a commanding four shot lead into the weekend at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation. The fearsome Real Club Valderrama had proved scoreable in round one as Bezuidenhout registered a round of 66 but firmer greens and higher winds made it a different proposition on Friday.

The South African signed for a round of 68 in the morning to get to eight under par, as he chases his first European Tour win following his third place finish at last week's BMW International Open.

With conditions getting even tougher in the afternoon, tournament host Sergio Garcia, fellow home favourites Adri Arnaus and Alvaro Quiros, and Welshman Bradley Dredge emerged as the closest challengers at four under par.

Quiros had carded a 68 in the morning and Garcia battled to an afternoon 72 to keep himself right in the mix to win this event for the third consecutive season. He also has a victory at this event in 2011 and ten other top tens from 14 appearances at Valderrama and he delighted the home fans on the ninth as he chipped in for a birdie to go with two other gains and four bogeys.

Arnaus signed for a 70 and Dredge carded a 71 to make it a four way tie in second place, with only Brooks Koepka at the US PGA Championship holding a bigger 36 hole lead than Bezuidenhout so far on the 2019 Race to Dubai.

India's Gaganjeet Bhullar, South African George Coetzee, Scotland's Scott Jamieson, Finn Mikko Korhonen and Frenchman Victor Perez are all one shot further back at three under par, with 12 players in a tie for 11th place at two under par.

Player quotes

Christiaan Bezuidenhout:

“First of all I just kept it in play really nicely. That’s the key thing here, hitting fairways. I was driving it really well. On a course like this you can score well if you hit the fairways but if you don’t you can really struggle.

“I prefer the tougher conditions. It’s tough for everyone. The wind is getting quite a bit stronger, you just have to face it.  

“It’s going to be tough - it’s tough without wind - so I’m just hoping to do the same, hit fairways and greens, give myself chances and see where I finish up.”

Álvaro Quirós:

“Being local, it’s always nice to play in front of my home crowd, but Valderrama is one of those few courses where you can sometimes do better if you don’t know it too well – I am starting to know every single corner for good or for bad.  

“This is not a long hitter’s golf course. Most of the time we are looking to place the ball off the tee and we are not allowed to hit the driver every single time – that’s not an advantage for long hitters. I don’t consider myself at disadvantage here, but really my length doesn’t help a lot.”

Adri Arnaus:

“It wasn’t playing easy, the wind picked up and in the afternoon the greens were firmer. It was kind of a grind for most of the round until I made that eagle putt on 17, which was my highlight.

“You have to pick whenever you are going to be aggressive, definitely not all the time. I was probably aggressive five times, the rest was just keep it in play, keep it in the middle of the green and try to make some putts. If some dropped that was going to be a bonus. It was just one of those days.”

Sergio García:

“Obviously it was very difficult this afternoon, the greens were very firm and it got quite windy, more than yesterday afternoon. I just didn’t make any putts, but I felt like I played really well under the conditions and the difficulty of the course.

“The way the course is playing you have to pick your spots, there are some good spots where you can be aggressive, but you also have to be a little bit careful.

“It’s always great to play in Spain. Playing in front of Spanish people is amazing; I always enjoy it, it’s one of my favourite things, and thanks to that I’ve been very successful in Spain.”

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