Club de Golf Valderrama, Sotogrande, Spain. Designer: Trent Jones Snr, 1985, with Kyle Phillips updates; Course Type: Classical, Technical; Par: 71; Length: 7,028 yards; Fairways: Bermuda Tifway; Rough: Bermuda/Rye; Greens: Bentgrass (G2).
Course Overview. The course is set just a few kilometres from the Mediterranean coastline and is a typical Trent Jones test in many respects with narrow, undulating fairways leading to tiny, sloping and relatively fast bentgrass G2 greens.
At a shade over 7,000 yards, the course isn’t long by today’s standards, however it’s still a stern test in all departments which can turn positively nasty if the weather closes in.
Changes to the course prior to the 2016 Spanish Open held here were generally to the bunkers and tees, plus the cork trees that line the fairways were cut back a little, however that didn’t make the course play any easier with Andrew Johnston running out the winner at +1 over the 4 days. More work has been undertaken on and around the putting surfaces on the front nine since Beef’s victory, however the challenge here is fundamentally the same and it’s a tough test from start to finish.
The layout features 3 par-5s in the par-71 35-36 format, with the back 9 and particularly the closing stretch featuring a succession of tough holes and the par-5 17th offering little in the way of respite, despite its seemingly attractive 536 yards in length.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key statistics for this week’s event that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at Valderrama: Current Form | Course Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Course Winners. 2021: Matt Fitzpatrick, 14/1; 2020: John Catlin, 125/1; 2019: Christiaan Bezuidenhout, 80/1; 2018: Sergio Garcia, 9/2; 2017: Sergio Garcia, 5/1; 2016: Andrew Johnston, 100/1 (Spanish Open).
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here. It’s expected to be mostly sunny for the 4 tournament days this year at Valderrama with afternoon temperatures peaking in the mid-70s Fahrenheit. Winds will be moderate at around 10-15mph.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Analysing the final stats of the past 10 winners at Valderrama (all competitions) gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
- 2021: Matt Fitzpatrick (-6). 55.4% fairways (44th), 57.0% greens in regulation (32nd), 80.6% scrambling (1st), 1.79 putts per GIR (35th).
- 2020: John Catlin (+2). 66.1% fairways (4th), 47.3% greens in regulation (28th), 68.4% scrambling (5th), 1.79 putts per GIR (33rd).
- 2019: Christiaan Bezuidenhout (-10). 64.3% fairways (19th), 47.2% greens in regulation (66th), 73.7% scrambling (2nd), 1.43 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2018: Sergio Garcia (-12, 3 rounds). 78.6% fairways (10th), 77.8% greens in regulation (4th), 58.3% scrambling (6th), 1.60 putts per GIR (7th).
- 2017: Sergio Garcia (-12). 62.5% fairways (24th), 65.3% greens in regulation (9th), 52.0% scrambling (27th), 1.68 putts per GIR (9th).
- 2016: Andrew Johnston (+1). 78.6% fairways (1st), 70.8% greens in regulation (1st), 52.4% scrambling (20th), 1.82 putts per GIR (25th).
- 2011: Sergio Garcia (-6). 69.6% fairways (10th), 63.9% greens in regulation (10th), 61.5% scrambling (4th), 1.74 putt per GIR (8th).
- 2010: Graeme McDowell (-3). 69.6% fairways (6th), 66.7% greens in regulation (1st), 58.3% scrambling (18th), 1.71 putt per GIR (4th).
- 2008: Soren Kjeldsen (-8). 57.1% fairways (29th), 58.3% greens in regulation (22nd), 73.3% scrambling (4th), 1.74 putts per GIR (12th).
- 2007: Justin Rose (-1). 51.8% fairways (26th), 55.6% greens in regulation (8th), 59.4% scrambling (7th), 1.67 putt per GIR (3rd).
- 2006: Jeev Milkha Singh (-2). 41.1% fairways (52nd), 59.7% greens in regulation (17th), 62.1% scrambling (16th), 1.77 putts per GIR (15th).
Hitting the narrow fairways at Valderrama is only a small part of the task at hand, as is clear from the stats of the most recent winners on this track.
GIR stats as low as these for winners (2018 was an exception due to soft conditions) are extremely rare which emphasises just how difficult it is to hit the tiny greens here, and the winner is going to need to have an outstanding week scrambling from off of the putting surfaces in order to compile a winning score. Valderrama truly tests all aspects of a player’s game and any weaknesses are often cruelly exposed.
Strokes Gained: Overall, the last 3 winners here did their best work on the SG Tee to Green and SG Around the Green elements, with none of the trio producing any strong SG Approach figures into these small greens:
- 2021: Matt Fitzpatrick. T: 18th; A: 37th; T2G: 4th; ATG: 1st; P: 27th
- 2020: John Catlin. T: 11th; A: 48th; T2G: 3rd; ATG: 2nd; P: 16th
- 2019: Christiaan Bezuidenhout. T: 22nd; A: 36th; T2G: 4th; ATG: 1st; P: 1st
Key: T: SG Off the Tee; A; SG Approach; T2G: SG Tee to Green; ATG: SG Around the Green; P: SG Putting.
Incoming Form: Looking at the recent form of the same winners at Valderrama and the overriding trend is that all players had been in pretty good nick.
This includes last year’s winner Matt Fitzpatrick who had lost a play-off at the Scottish Open and improved through the week on his last start at Wentworth to finish 20th. The same applies to John Catlin who, despite being a 125/1 chance, had finished 8th in Austria and 6th in Wales before closing with a round of 68 the week before his victory here in 2020 for some good momentum.
Bezuidenhout has finished 3rd on his last outing in 2019, whereas Garcia had finished 7th the week before his successful defence the previous autumn, included in which was a closing round of 65 to suggest he was rounding into form.
The previous year Sergio had finished 12th and 10th at the final two FedEx Cup PlayOff events on the PGA Tour before returning to Europe and his effort in Italy the week before winning here had shown some promise as he sat 6th going into the weekend. The others all had contending performances to their names in recent weeks too as the stats below confirm:
- Matt Fitzpatrick: 4/MC/23/MC/10/55/2/26/57/MC/MC/20
- John Catlin: 22/16/2/MC/MC/MC/8/43/51/6/MC/25
- Christiaan Bezuidenhout: MC/24/67/2/9/36/4/14/MC/MC/25/3
- Sergio Garcia: MC/70/MC/MC/12/8/MC/MC/39/MC/24/7
- Sergio Garcia: 20/12/21/2/37/39/MC/35/12/10/MC/30
- Andrew Johnston: MC/22/71/4/45/MC/15
- Sergio Garcia: 20/MC/7/2/9/39/53/12/32/31/12/1
- Graeme McDowell: 26/28/4/1/1/21/23/31/22/MC/3/17
- Soren Kjeldsen: 7/38/MC/MC/7/MC/MC/16/30/MC/16/4
- Justin Rose: 9/30/12/2/12/14/MC/5/11/2/9/21
- Jeev Milkha Singh: 5/8/21/MC/MC/3/25/14/8/3/21/13
Course Form: A bit of a mixed bag here in terms of course form with Jeev Milkha Singh and Beef Johnston winning on their competitive debut, whereas Soren Kjeldsen, Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia (3 times) all had a strong record here prior to winning.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout’s record falls somewhere in the middle of those extremes with a 29th place finish on debut, however in doing so he recovered from an opening round of 77 to post one of the best final 2-round aggregate scores. John Catlin had missed the cut by a couple of shots on his only other start here before winning here in 2020, and it’s a similar story for defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick:
- Matt Fitzpatrick: MC
- John Catlin: MC
- Christiaan Bezuidenhout: 29
- Sergio Garcia: 7/5/7/7/2/2/2/34/4/10/1/3/1
- Sergio Garcia: 7/5/7/7/2/2/2/34/4/10/1/3
- Andrew Johnston: Debut
- Sergio Garcia: 7/5/7/7/2/2/2/34/4/10
- Graeme McDowell: 55/15/22/32/4/8
- Soren Kjeldsen: 55/25/22/18/2
- Justin Rose: 18/44
- Jeev Milkha Singh: Debut
Boiling it all down, it looks like the most likely winner will be a player who can handle a grind who’s shown some good form of late and is performing nicely around the greens. Accuracy both from off the tee and with approach shots is an advantage and far outweighs power in my opinion.
Birdies are in very short supply here at Valderrama – last year’s winner Matt Fitzpatrick made just 13 red numbers on the week – and players who thrive on momentum-building birdie streaks often get frustrated on this fiddly setup.
My selections are as follows: