Matt Fitzpatrick’s enthusiasm for the test at Real Club Valderrama remains undiminished as he prepares to defend his Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters title - and close the gap at the top of the DP World Tour Rankings in partnership with Rolex.
The Englishman posted a patient bogey-free final round of 69 to win at the iconic 1997 Ryder Cup venue last year, and his career has since reached new heights after sealing a maiden Major victory at the U.S. Open in June. While he admits his expectations have altered since then, this date remains firmly circled on his calendar.
The eight-time DP World Tour winner has registered a further three top-20 finishes worldwide this year, including a runner-up spot at 2023 Ryder Cup venue Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in last month’s DS Automobiles Italian Open.
He currently sits in second place behind Ryder Cup team-mate Rory McIlroy in the DP World Tour Rankings and, like third placed Ryan Fox, he has his sights set on topping the pile for the first time come November.
Fox arrives in Spain in a buoyant mood after his second win of the season at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship two weeks ago and is looking for a big finish to become New Zealand's first European Number One.
The Spanish contingent at Real Club Valderrama includes Ryder Cup player Rafa Cabrera Bello, who is seeking more success on home soil to add to his 2021 acciona Open de España title, while Alejandro Cañizares will make his 400th DP World Tour appearance at his home course.
Matt Fitzpatrick: A lot has changed (since the Major win), expectations have changed, thoughts about everything have changed. Since the U.S. Open, I feel like I want to play events that I want to play. I’m going to places where I want to be and enjoy being, and this is a prime example of one of those. I’m really excited to tee off tomorrow.
There are just so many things that make this a tough test. The greens are small, fairways are tight, trees everywhere, the wind is swirling. It’s just a real test of everything. There is a bit more importance on driving, if you put the ball in play off the tee you can limit the mistakes. The last twice I played here – first time I missed the cut and wasn’t driving well, second time I drove it great and came out with a great result.
Patience is important. I had 15 pars in a row (on Sunday). Made my first birdie on 16 then birdied 17 to give myself a cushion going into 18. But patience is the key, it’s about not getting frustrated by bogeys. Sometimes making a bogey is good – it could have been more. If you can limit them, a winning score round here typically isn’t low, so it’s just important to keep yourself in it.
This is a chance for me to catch Rory this week, particularly round a golf course that I am comfortable on. Looking forward to having a chance going into Dubai. Winning the DP World Tour Rankings is on my list of goals. Hopefully can do it this year.
Ryan Fox: The Dunhill win probably hasn’t sunk in yet, it still feels a bit surreal. Obviously I know it happened and it’s been a whirlwind to be honest.
I just won’t change anything. I’ve done a good job this year of just trying to beat the golf course every week, not worrying about any external stuff and just go out and try to do the same thing every week, have a care-free attitude on the golf course.
If I can keep doing that for the rest of the year, hopefully I can challenge Rory and Fitz for the (DP World Tour Rankings) title at the end of the year. I’ve got to do something special to beat those guys, that have had fantastic years and are top ten players in the world for a reason.
Rafa Cabrera Bello: This is an iconic course. We know how difficult it is, it’s a true challenge, and I’m looking forward to fighting against it again this week. Bring it on.
You need an extra dose of patience here. It’s very tough. Some shots need to be extremely accurate for them to end up being good shots, and good shots end up in bad places – that’s what makes it so hard.
I’m very proud of the Spanish crowds. I love the way they have treated me all over Spain. The Spanish crowds support us really well and they also have fun, you can feel the interaction with them. I just hope I can play good because I feel like I feed off them, but I know I need to hit the shots for it. I hope this week is my week and I’m up there again.
Alejandro Cañizares: It’s a big coincidence (to play the 400th event at home). I didn’t know until last week, it’s a coincidence that it’s at my home club and I’m really happy about it.
It’s just another tournament that I will play but I’m looking forward to the week, I’m with my family and at my home club. Very excited.
Looking back, I’ve learned that it’s not as important as it looks every week. Look at the bigger picture and see that time flies. Enjoy every moment that you can, enjoy every week. Don’t take playing on Tour for granted – I’ve learned that the last few years.
I’m excited, I’m still motivated, I’m still young enough – I think. I’ve got a lot of golf to show and I’m excited for the end of the year and what comes next.
Enjoying this DP World Tour event is easy, since individual day tickets, weekend passes or season tickets are available at experiences.dpworldtour.com/edam or at Real Club Valderrama's box office (credit or debit card payment required).
The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, an event in the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai made possible by the essential contribution of the Real Club Valderrama, is sponsored by Estrella Damm and the Consejería de Turismo, Cultura y Deporte of the Junta de Andalucía, jointly funded by the EU and was declared Event of Exceptional Public Interest by the Government of Spain.