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  • Alistair Tait

The Spanish Open Deserves Better

Well done Jon Rahm for turning up to play in his home open, this week’s Spanish Open, or the Acciona Open de España presented by Madrid to give the tournament is official title.

Too bad many other top Europeans no longer turn up to play in one of the most historic events on the European Tour calendar.

Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo, Padraig Harrington, Colin Montgomerie, Bernard Gallacher, Francesco Molinari, Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Howard Clark, Sam Torrance, Mark James, Arnold Palmer, Neil Coles, Roberto de Vicenzo, Peter Thomson, Peter Alliss, Max Faulkner and Arnold Massy are among the names adorning a trophy that date backs to 1912, when Massy won his first of three.

Ballesteros also has his name on the trophy three times, with his 50th and last European Tour win coming in the 1995 Spanish Open. Matching Seve’s record is one of Rahm’s motivations for playing this week. He won the 2018 and 2019 (above) Spanish Opens, but couldn’t defend last year because of Covid-19.

"It would be very unique,” Rahm said about winning a third title. “I know names like Ollie (José María Olazábal), he couldn't win it and I know he would have loved to have done it. I would hope to be able to get to a third not only to tie Seve but to win it three times in a row. "It doesn't matter what event it is, not many people have been able to win one three times in a row so I'm hoping I can get it done - it would be truly my honour.”

Rahm is the obvious favourite given his world number one status. The sad fact is, he will have an easier time trying to pull off a third victory than Seve ever did.

It’s a sign of the times that the Spanish Open just can’t draw the same cast of great players it once did. In the age of World Golf Championships, Rolex Series tournaments, the FedEx Cup, not to mention the majors, the Spanish just gets lost on the schedule for most top Europeans.

Can’t blame the top American-based Europeans for not playing at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid when they can earn far more in other tournaments that feature higher world ranking points, especially on the back of a long season that has included a Ryder Cup. Most of our top players don’t get on private jets to play in €1.5 million tournaments, unless it’s in their homeland. Hence Rahm’s involvement. That’s a shame given the massive and to be applauded effort the European Tour has made to put together a schedule following Covid-19.

There was a time when the Spanish was firmly penned into every top European Tour player’s schedule. Flash back 30 years and the 1991 field includes Seve, Langer, Montgomerie, Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Olazabal and a host of other recognisable names. Argentina’s Eduardo Romero defeated Seve in a playoff that year. Vijay Singh was third, Langer second, while Torrance and Montgomerie finished in the top 10.

This week’s Spanish Open features just one world top 50 player – Rahm. There are only a further six world top 100 players – Victor Perez (52), Bernd Wiesberger (62), Min Woo Lee (63), Guido Migliozzi (65), Richard Bland (80) and Santiago Tarrio (90). There are just another 21 top 200 players.

National golf championships deserves so much better, especially ones with a rich history like the Spanish Open.

#JustSaying: “He started ever tournament thinking he had won it. No player I had ever seen had belief in his own abilities as Seve had.” Dave Musgrove

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