Spanish star Sergio Garcia’s love affair with Real Club Valderrama began as a teenager. Call it a wildly successful relationship.
In 15 professional starts at Valderrama, Garcia has 14 top-10 finishes, including wins in three consecutive starts (2011, 2016, 2017 at the Andalucía Masters), along with three second-place results. One of those was a playoff loss to Ian Poulter in 2004 at the Volvo Masters.
This week at LIV Golf Valderrama, he returns to the course that’s generally considered as the finest in continental Europe and one of the best in the world. As the captain of Fireballs GC, the 43-year-old Garcia would love nothing better than to hoist two trophies on Sunday – one as the individual winner, the other for the team title.
Here are a few thoughts from Garcia on his favourite course.
Q: When was the first time you played Valderrama?
SERGIO GARCIA: “I was probably 13, I would say. Probably like Spain versus England, some kind of match like that.”
Q: Did you know right away that it was the course for you?
GARCIA: “Yeah, from the beginning, from the first time I played. Just amazing shape. It was love at first shot. I love Valderrama.”
Q: What is it about Valderrama that you enjoy?
GARCIA: “It’s my favourite golf course in the world, but some guys don’t like it. For me, I just love that even though it’s not a long course – it’s a 7,000-yard, par 71 – it makes you think, and it makes you hit every club in the bag. That’s something I think good courses do. Good courses are asking you to think about what you want to do and, and they’re making you hit pretty much every club you have in the bag. And I love that kind of design – tight, trees, doglegs, small greens. It’s the kind of design that I’ve always envisioned in my mind when I was going to do golf course design. I just love it.”
Q: What’s the key to success at Valderrama?
GARCIA: “You have to think your way around it well. It’s the kind of golf course that you have to be very patient, you have to put the ball in the right spots. And if you manage to do that, then you can score. But if you don’t, it’s a grind. To me, it’s the kind of golf course that could hold a major championship easily because you can make it play as tough as you want if the weather is good.”
Q: Do you have a favourite hole?
GARCIA: “Hmm, good question. I think the fourth hole [564-yard par 5] is great. I love 12 [212-yard par 3]. I think it’s a great par 3. All of the par 3s are amazing.”
Q: What is it about No. 4 that you like?
GARCIA: “It’s just a solid par 5, Like I was saying, it makes you think. If you hit a good tee shot, you can go for it, but there’s not a lot of room, so you have to be very precise with your second shot. Obviously a lot of danger right. And if you miss it left, it doesn’t leave you a lot of options with the chips. So it’s just a matter of how close from the green you lay up, depending where the flag is. And it’s a beautiful hole, with the water and the little waterfall behind it and everything. It’s very picturesque.”
Q: On the flip side, which hole has been the most challenging for you?
GARCIA: “I feel like seven [490-yard par 4] is always a tough hole. It’s a difficult fairway to hit, and the wind is usually blowing from the left, and it cambers from left to right. Seven is probably one of the toughest holes that you get out there. But if it gets firm and there’s a little bit of wind, like it usually does there, every hole is asking you for some good shots.”