Monday, July 22, 2024

McDowell among strong Spanish field for this week’s LIV Golf Andalucia – Irish Golfer Magazine

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The LIV Golf League heads for Cadiz, Spain this week and the iconic Real Club Valderrama for the second edition of the LIV Golf Andalucia.

England’s Tyrrel Hatton comes into the week looking to go back-to-back after his first individual victory in Nashville since joining the LIV Golf League. His team Legion XII, captained by local hero Jon Rahm, who also won the team event in Nashville, travel to Andalucia in search of their fourth team victory of the season.

Valderrama will be the perfect backdrop for this, the 10th event of 14 in the LIV regular season as Torque GC look to defend their team win here in ’23. Talor Gooch comes in as defending individual champion in the final event before 16 of the League head for Royal Troon for next week’s Open Championship.

The 1997 Ryder Cup venue, Valderrama will put up a par-71, 7010 yard challenge this week, with three par-5s to test the pack including the 536-yard 17th that has seen so many dramatic finishes in it’s 50-year history.

A pair of par-3s await on each nine, including two short tempting ones on the front nine, the third at 187 yards and shorter still, the 173 yard sixth holes. Expect fireworks here as the teams attack the pins over the 54 holes of the week. Anthony Kim and Hudson Swafford join the field as this week’s wild cards to complete the final spots in the 54-man field.

The defending champ, Talor Gooch, now of Smash GC, and teammates with Graeme McDowell will look to emulate his 69-65-67 from last year to help his team, captained by Brooks Koepke progress from their current fourth place standing in the team rankings. Joaquin Niemann still sits top of the individual standings heading into the opener on Thursday, 36 points clear of second placed Rahm.

Another local who will be looking to make waves this week on home turf is Fireballs GC team captain Sergio Garcia. Currently in 7th individually and 5th in the team rankings, Garcia and fellow Spaniards and teammates David Puig and Eugenio Chacarra will look to squeeze any drop of home field advantage out of the three rounds this week.

All the action of an exciting weekend will kick off at lunchtime on Thursday, with the characteristic shotgun start of the LIV Golf League getting under way at 13.15. The first-round groupings have thrown up some tantalising three-balls with no fewer than three of the 18 groups all being made up totally of team captains.

Away from the second, we have Ian Poulter with Cam Smith and Louis Oosthuizen. Meanwhile one hole ahead sees Bryson, Mickleson and Kevin Na face each other. And finally, on the 18th, Dustin Johnson will have Brooks and Niemann for company in another blockbuster grouping. McDowell will head off from the 10th with teammates Kokrak and Gooch for his first round on Valderrama this week.

Fireballs GC and their Spanish armada were on hand on Wednesday and spoke about their excitement heading into the week on home soil:

Sergio Garcia: “It feels amazing. Obviously, every time we come back to Spain, it feels really, really good. Obviously home country for all four of us, I would say. We’re taking him in the Spanish spirit. But to come back to Valderrama, it’s super special. Not only for me but for all of us because of how much Valderrama means to all of us, to Europe, all the amazing things that have happened here on this golf course. We’re really excited about it.”

Eugenio Chacarra: “It feels nice, like Sergio said. I didn’t come to Spain for a while. I think last time I was here was for Christmas. It feels a little weird, but I love it. It’s so much fun, the people, the home crowds, the food, and to be able to see family and friends, it’s something really nice. Obviously being in Valderrama, probably the best course we have in Spain, it’s something special.”

Asked about their age and how they have matured into the group on tour as young players:

Eugenio Chacarra: “I mean, if you go in age, yeah, but obviously being three years already competing with probably a lot of the best players in the world, you get more confidence every single week. I think we’ve both proved that we can compete at this level, and hopefully we can both have a great week in Spain. That would be really special for both of us.”

David Puig: “Yeah, same for me. At the end of the day, it’s true we’re one of the youngest players, but we’ve been playing golf for our entire lives pretty much. That makes it 16 years, something like that. So, we have a lot of preparation, a lot of tournaments that we played. Yeah, I think we’re ready and we’re mature enough to compete against these guys.”

A fantastic weekend of golf is in store with individual and team honours at stake. Will we see more history made around the famous Real Club Valderrama?

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