Caldwell the Lone Ranger as Race to Dubai heats up in Valderrama

Ronan MacNamara

Jonathan Caldwell (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Jonathan Caldwell will fly solo this week in one of the most famous venues in all of golf. Valderrama. Steeped in history. Host of the first Ryder Cup ever held in Continental Europe. Was once the end game for the European Tour at the Volvo Masters and has of course hosted the Spanish Open. 

Since 2017 it has been the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters and the second of a three week Spanish swing.  

Caldwell will be looking to take the positives from last week’s Open de Espana after his tournament was bookended by rounds in the 60s including a final round of 67. 

The Clandeboye native made the cut in this event last year en route to finishing next to last so there is undoubtedly room for improvement. 

Matt Fitzpatrick is back to defend the title he won in sumptuous fashion last year. It is no surprise that the Englishman boasts wins here and in the US Open over the last 12 months, a steely competitor who loves the toughest of tests. 

Although his expectations have been altered since becoming England’s first major winner since Danny Willett in 2016, the Sheffield man hasn’t lost the appetite for tough golf courses in particular Valderrama. 

“A lot has changed (since my win here last year),” he said. “Expectations have changed. Thoughts about everything have changed. 

“Since the U.S. Open, I have been able to play events that I want to play, and enjoy being there. This is a prime example of one of those. I am really excited to tee off tomorrow.” 

“The greens are small, the fairways are tight, there are trees everywhere and the wind is swirling,” he said of the famously tough examination players face at the Sotogrande layout. 

“It’s just a real test of everything in my opinion. There is a bit more importance on your driving, but I think if you can put the ball in play off the tee then you can limit the mistakes more so. 

“The first time I played it I missed the cut [and] did not drive it very well. Second time I drove it great and came out with a great result.” 

Fitzpatrick made 15 consecutive pars during last year’s final round and credits patience as being pivotal to his hopes of a successful defence. 

“It is about not getting frustrated by making bogeys,” he said. “Sometimes making a bogey is good, it could have been more. 

“As long as you can limit them, the winning score around here typically isn’t that low so it is just important to keep yourself in it and you never know what can happen come Sunday.” 

Ryan Fox made his omission from Trevor Immelmann’s International Presidents Cup side all the more baffling when he claimed an emotional win at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship a fortnight ago. 

Now the New Zealander is hoping to cement himself as one of Europe’s best having edged into the top-3 on the Race to Dubai behind Rory McIlroy and Fitzpatrick. 

After adding to February’s win in Ras Al Khaimah he is targeting a fast finish to become New Zealand’s first European number one, with just five events remaining this season. 

“I just won’t change anything,” he said. “I know that sounds simple and obvious to an extent, but I won’t let any of that stuff get to my head.  

“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 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.” 

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