Sergio García, favorite at the premiere of Valderrama at the LIV

the emblematic Real Club Valderrama de Sotogrande (Cádiz), home of the 1997 Ryder Cup, opens a new era from this Friday. The complicated course in which legends such as Tiger Woods have won (it hosted the WGC-American Express in 1999 and 2000) lands at LIV Golf, the Saudi circuit that celebrates its second season in 2023. It can be said that, for the first time, players will face a truly challenging field, which requires mastering all records to stay with options. And, among the 48 golfers who will start today at 1:15 p.m., there is one who has already shown himself to be capable of them: Sergio García.

The one from Borriol has his fetish field in Valderrama. The numbers of the winner of a Masters on the Cádiz track are scary: 15 participations, fourteen top-10s, nine top-5s, seven top-3s and three victories. Sergio won in 2011, 2017 and 2018, when the Andalucía Masters was organized by the European Tour (now DP World Tour). Things have changed a lot since then. World golf, following the birth of LIV, is no longer the same; the Valderrama field is now used for the Saudi circuit; and Sergio himself, already 43 years old and with the intention of playing less, does not shine as much as before. But none of that matters when ‘El Niño’ sets foot in Valderrama. In fact, LIV Golf places the Spaniard as the number one candidate for victory in Andalusia, which would earn him four million dollars.

“It feels incredible to be here in Spain, at Valderrama. It is an incredible golf course. It’s in such good shape. It always is. And with beautiful weather. We are all very excited to get started”, said the man from Castellón yesterday at the press conference prior to the start of the tournament, which will be the first that LIV Golf will play on continental European soil (it did play in the United Kingdom). And all eyes point to a Sergio who plays at home. “We will all compete for second place,” joked Mexican Carlos Ortiz, Garcia’s teammate on the Fireballs team (it is also made up of Abraham Ancer and Eugenio López-Chacarra). “You can say that I have a bit of an advantage because of the number of times I have played here. It is my favorite golf course in the world and I love it. History is always nice, but that doesn’t mean I’ll start with -6 and the rest at even under par.”Serge explained.

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The winner of 36 titles as a professional will not be alone. Eugenio López-Chacarra and David Puig will be the other two Spaniards in contention, both eager to do well. “Since I found out that it was being played there, I marked it as the best of my season. If I continue like these weeks I have a chance to win”, said Chacarra from Madrid in the week before the event. While he has more experience at Valderrama having played on this course for several years, Puig revealed that he has only completed four rounds on the course before the start of the tournament.

Puig’s situation is the same as that of many people in the fields of 48 players. Having been part of the European Tour for the last decades, the Cádiz countryside is largely unknown to many of LIV’s great figures., which did not leave the PGA Tour much in their day. It will be the case, for example, of Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith or Brooks Koepka, who have known the route during these days. The same does not happen to Lee Westwood and Phil Mickelson, the only two in the tournament who also competed in the legendary 1997 Ryder. Valderrama, like world golf, opens up to a new era.

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