Jon Rahm looking to complete historic hat-trick and defend Spanish Open title

World number one could achieve something his hero Seve Ballesteros missed out on

World number one Jon Rahm is looking to complete an historic hat-trick in the Acciona Open de Espana and achieve something even his hero Seve Ballesteros could not.

Rahm won the event in 2018 and 2019 and with the coronavirus pandemic forcing a cancellation last year the 26-year-old Spaniard still has the chance to make it three in a row.

Ballesteros is the only other three-time winner of the Spanish Open but his victories were spread over a 14-year period.

“It would be very unique. I know Ollie [Jose Maria Olazabal] couldn’t win it and I know he would have loved to have done it,” he told europeantour.com.

“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.”

Fellow world number ones Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam and eight-time European number one Colin Montgomerie are the only players to have won a European Tour event outside of the Majors and World Golf Championships in three consecutive editions.

Rahm hopes returning to Spain will give him the boost he needs after a disappointing Ryder Cup last month.

“It’s coming back home that’s important. It’s very fun to play in front of the crowd, they’re very golf hungry in this country,” he added.

“Especially after Covid and the pandemic they haven’t really had the opportunity to enjoy many sporting events so I’m hoping we can put on a good show for them.”

Rahm has a double-header in his homeland as after this week at the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid he moves on to the world-renowned Valderrama for the Andalucia Masters.

“For a Spanish player they are important. Both of them are iconic in each way: I have a chance to win three in a row and then Valderrama is Valderrama,” he said.

“It’s an iconic golf course, it’s an iconic stop on the European Tour and it would be amazing to get my first win there.”

Philip Reid’s golfing lowdowns

Acciona Spanish Open
Purse:
€1.5 million (€230,000 to the winner)
Where: Madrid, Spain
The course: Club de Campo Villa – 7,112 yards, par 71 – is part of a council-run sporting club on the outskirts of Madrid which also includes equestrian, hockey, tennis and swimming facilities. The Black Course, designed by Javier Arana, is the host course for the Spanish Open (last won by Jon Rahm in 2019): set on hilly terrain, starting and finishing at the elevated clubhouse, the ninth hole is typical of the landscape with a Par 3 hole from a tee over a gorge to the green.
The field: With world number one and defending champion Jon Rahm playing, this latest tour stop – the start of a month-long Iberian swing on the PGA European Tour – has a ready-made headline act. Rahm will tee off for the opening two rounds with fellow Ryder Cupper Bernd Wiesberger.
Quote-Unquote: "[The Spanish Open] is important to me, that's why I keep coming back. I am hoping someday to give Spain the quality of event it deserves . . . to win it three times in a row, it would truly be my honour" – Jon Rahm on his quest to complete a hat-trick of Spanish Open wins (to go with 2018 and 2019).
Irish in the field: John Murphy earned his place in the field through a top-10 finish in the Alfred Dunhill Links and the Corkman is first of a trio of Irishmen to tee off. Murphy starts his latest European Tour event at 12.20pm (Irish time) with Jonny Caldwell off at 1.20pm and Cormac Sharvin starting at 1.30pm.
Betting: No surprise to find Rahm as the raging hot favourite at just 2-1 . . . another Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello was runner-up two years ago and is a 50-1 shot which represents decent each-way value. An interesting long shot could be Dane Jeff Winther who had a top-five finish behind Rahm in 2019 and is rated 80-1.
On TV: Live on Sky Sports (live coverage from 1pm).

Shriners Children's Open
Purse:
€6 million (€1.1m to the winner)
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
The course: TPC Summerlin – 7,255 yards, par 71 – designed by Bobby Weed in collaboration with Fuzzy Zoeller has a layout through rough desert terrain with canyons and a number of water features. Low scoring can be expected, with the course record 60 set by JJ Henry in 2013 and equalled by Rod Pampling in 2016.
The field: Louis Oosthuizen, the world number eight, is the best-ranked player in the field which features 11 players from inside the top-25. A number of the winning US Ryder Cup team – Brooks Koepka, Harris English and Scottie Scheffler – are back in action along with a number of the losing Europeans, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Viktor Hovland, also playing.
Quote-Unquote: "It was a good way to clean out. I'm fresh and ready to go." – Rickie Fowler, who hasn't played since August, of a six-week mini-fast diet which saw him lose five lbs (2.3kg) of body fat as he kick-starts the new season.
Irish in the field: Séamus Power off the 10th tee (3.57pm Irish time); Graeme McDowell off the 10th tee (8.46pm Irish time).
Betting: Brooks Koepka is the pre-tournament favourite at 18-1 . . . . however, the 25-1 about Louis Oosthuizen would appear to offer a bit more value, while Harris English, fresh from the Ryder Cup, is available at 28-1. As far as each-way value goes, the 80-1 about both Sahith Theegala and Rasmus Hojgaard looks decent.
On TV: Live on Sky Sports (live coverage from 6pm, featured groups from 10pm, 2.30pm on the red button).

Cognizant Founders Cup
Purse:
€2.6 million (€395,000 to the winner)
Where: New Jersey, USA
The course: Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell – 6,656 yards, par 72 – is located just 20 miles from New York and is a noted design by architect Donald Ross. Ross designed two loops of nine which start and finish at the elevated clubhouse site and the course is considered one of the best in the Metropolitan region, with the small, undulating greens and run-offs.
The field: A stellar field for one of the late-season LPGA Tour big money tournaments (new sponsors Cognizant doubled the purse) with nine players from the top-10 on the Rolex world rankings playing, only number eight Lydia Ko is missing this event. This is the 10th staging of the Founders Cup. Unlike last week's ShopRite which was a 54-holes event, this is a 72-holes tournament.
Quote-Unquote: "There were so many weeks [playing], so much travel, so much luggage that I had to get off the carousel that it was just overused and I needed to rest." – world number one Nelly Korda on a shoulder injury that has seen her rest since the Solheim Cup.
Irish in the field: There are three Irish players in the field, with LPGA Tour card holders Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow joined by Olivia Mehaffey who claimed one of the Monday qualifying spots. Mehaffey tees off in the first round at 1.54pm (Irish time), with Maguire at 5.50pm and Meadow at 6.12pm.
Betting: Jin Young Ko – who has finished 1st-6th-2nd in her last three appearances and the 2019 champion – is the market leader at 15-2 with world number one Nelly Korda priced at 9-1 . . . the in-form Celine Boutier – winner of two of her last three starts, the French Open and the ShopRite – is worth an each-way look at 30-1. Maguire is also available at 30-1.
On TV: Live on Sky Sports (live coverage from 7pm, also Sky Sports Golf Youtube channel).

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