This weeks Open de Madrid marks the last full-field event of the 2004 European Tour campaign and some of the players not already assured of a spot in next weeks Volvo Masters are still fighting for a playing privileges next year.
Last year, players ranked inside the top-117 on the Order of Merit retained full status for the 2004 campaign.
The 2003 event seemed to be destined for a win by Paul Casey. The talented Englishman led after each of the first three rounds with scores of 63-65-71, four clear of Nick OHern and Peter Fowler heading into Sunday. The final round would prove otherwise, as Ricardo Gonzalez carded a brilliant 65, posting eight birdies in a 12-hole stretch to catch and pass Casey for his second Tour title.
Gonzalez, who won in 2001 at the Omega European Masters, finished one ahead of Padraig Harrington, Marten Olander, OHern and Casey, who stumbled to a one-over 72. OHern was the lone player in the field to post all four rounds in the 60s. Gonzalez defeated quite a star-studded field that included Harrington (T-2), Sergio Garcia (T-6), Adam Scott (T-10), Miguel Angel Jimenez (T-20), Ian Woosnam (T-42), Ian Poulter (T-71), Lee Westwood (T-71) and Nick Faldo (MC).
Gonzalezs seven-shot comeback, not only was the largest on the European Tour last year, but it was the biggest in event history.
The Club de Campo course is one of the oldest and most celebrated in Spain and is hosting this event for the fourth straight year. All the fairways are tree lined so players must keep the ball straight off the tee. Club de Campo is situated close to the center of Madrid and is probably the biggest sports complex in Spain with around 40,000 members.
It held the first of its eight Open de Espaas in 1957 when Max Faulkner, the 1951 Open champion, won with an aggregate of 283. Other champions were Seve Ballesteros, Colin Montgomerie and Sam Torrance. The easiest hole on the course last year was the par-5 fourth with an average score of 4.52, as only 16 bogeys were recorded. In contrast, the ninth was the most difficult with a stroke average of 4.21 with only 43 birdies.
There have been only four wire-to-wire winners of this event - German Garrido, 1973; Simon Hobday, 1979; Howard Clark, 1984 and Des Smyth, 1993. There have been only three playoffs in event history, two of which produced wins by Manuel Piero. The first came in 1974 when Piero beat Valentin Barrios and the second was in 1985 when Piero knocked off Jos Maria Caizares. The final extra session was in 2001 when Retief Goosen defeated Steve Webster.
The European Tour concludes its three-week stay in Spain next week at the Volvo Masters Andalucia, as Fredrik Jacobson defends his title at Valderrama.