Jonathan Caldwell is the headline Irish act as the DP World Tour heads to Girona for the Catalunya Championship at PGA Catalunya Golf and Wellness in Spain.
The Clandeboye man is joined by Challenge Tour hotshot Tom McKibbin, Cormac Sharvin and Luke Donnelly who is supported by PGA Catalunya Golf.
PGA Catalunya is a well-renowned venue having been the home to Qualifying School for many years. The Stadium Course has hosted four of the six qualifying rounds from 2009 onwards while hosting the 2000, 2009 and 2014 Open de Espana.
Caldwell arrives ranked 182nd in the Race to Dubai after missing three of his last four cuts including last week’s ISPS Handa Championship in Spain.
The Scandinavian Mixed champion has struggled so far this season having been hampered by a persistent shoulder injury although he did post a season-best of T-40th at the Qatar Masters last month.
Caldwell’s struggles have seen him post just two rounds in the 60s so far this season and he needs to up the ante sooner rather than later as we get into the peak of the DP World Tour season.
In fact, since his breakthrough win last year the 37-year-old hasn’t posted a top-10 finish, with his best result a T-18 on the EuroPro Tour at the NI Masters which he hosted at Clandeboye.
While Caldwell is at odds with his game, the form of Tom McKibbin has been the complete opposite.
The 19-year-old has enjoyed a stellar season on the Challenge Tour, making all four of his cuts including two top-7 finishes in a row.
The Holywood sensation has struggled when making the step up to the top-tier of European golf with his best finish a T-26 finish on home soil in the ISPS HANDA World Invitational at Galgorm Castle but there is no doubting McKibbin’s talent and he has shown that with his maiden professional win in Florida over the winter period.
The Northern Irishman is sitting pretty in 15th on the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca Rankings and he will be hoping to carry that form in Girona this week with his early season form reflected in his draw. He has been grouped with English duo Marcus Armitage and Laurie Canter in what promises to be an entertaining threesome for the opening two rounds.
Indeed Canter is feeling rejuvenated having found some confidence off the tee and he will be looking to play attack-minded golf with the driver this week.
“A big foundation of my game has always been driving the ball well,” Canter said ahead of the second of back-to-back events in Spain.
“I found myself early on this season just not quite swinging the driver as well as I could to be honest and then you hit a couple of funny shots and you don’t back yourself as much as your normally would.
“There might be a 50/50 tee shot and you are looking at your caddie and saying, ‘is that a driver or a three wood?’, when normally the driver is out of the bag and the headcover is off.
“Driving is a big part of how I play well. After a little bit of a rocky start in Abu Dhabi, I know I made the cut in Dubai, but I love that course in Dubai so finishing where I finished was not really a very good result.
“Just slowly getting a little confidence going with the top end of my bag will help me in taking a few things on because the weeks out here the longer I have played, it is about freeing up and trying to play as well as you can. That is going to carry you to some success.
“I had a spell of probably being a bit defensive-minded. I have tried to work hard on my swing and get myself in a place technically and subsequently mentally where I can free up and enjoy a game and hopefully that leads to some better scores.”
Cormac Sharvin will be looking to arrest a run of back-to-back missed cuts as he makes the step up from the Challenge Tour to the DP World Tour.
The Ardglass native has struggled on both tours so far this season, making just one cut without posting a round in the 60s.
Meanwhile opportunity knocks for Luke Donnelly this week as he makes his first DP World Tour appearance and first tour appearance since the Monaghan Irish Challenge on the Challenge Tour in 2018.
The Kilkenny native is supported by PGA Catalunya so has earned himself a place in the field and he will be looking to cause a stir on what is now considered his home course.
The Mount Juliet man has been plying his trade on the Alps Tour this year and while counterparts Conor Purcell, Gary Hurley and David Carey have been lighting it up on the satellite tour, Donnelly has endured a slow start missing all four of his cuts.
Donnelly (25) is alongside Wade Ormsby and James Morrison for the opening two rounds and there is a big opportunity for him to learn from two DP World Tour veterans.