sport

Canizares hopes for inside track

Alejandro Canizares will look to draw on some local knowledge as he attempts to claim a second successive win on the European Tour.

Canizares cruised to a five-shot victory in the Hassan Trophy three weeks ago, leading from start to finish at Golf du Palais Royal to end a wait of almost eight years for his second Tour title.

And the 31-year-old from Malaga will be hoping an enforced break will not have harmed his chances of a win on home soil at the inaugural NH Collection Openat Sotogrande.

"La Reserva de Sotogrande is a course I know well," said Canizares, who is attached to the nearby Valderrama. "In 2008, I played the Spanish Championship there and sometimes I practice there with my father (Jose Maria, who played in four Ryder Cups).

"It is a longish course, fairly generous off the tee with quite a few elevation changes and undulating greens. Some holes are long; the sixth, for instance, is a three-wood par three. Wind is a big factor and it can really toughen up the course.

"The NH Collection Open is a very important event in this area. It may start modestly, but there is big room for growth, and hopefully more tournaments will return to Spain and boost Spanish golf."

Spain has long been a popular destination for the European Tour, but hosted just one event in 2013 after the country was badly hit by the global economic crisis.

The NH Collection Open is a dual-ranking event made up of European Tour and Challenge Tour members and has a prize fund of 600,000 euros. It joins the Spanish Open, which will be staged from May 15-18 at PGA Catalunya, on the 2014 schedule.

Canizares will not be the only player with knowledge of the new venue competing this week, although England's Tom Lewis has rather more limited experience.

"Fortunately enough I played there with the English Golf Union," Lewis told the European Tour podcast. "We were meant to play the Spanish amateur championship there a few years ago but it got cancelled because of bad weather.

"I was fortunate to play a practice round so I know it a little bit. If I remember rightly it's quite hilly, you have some room to play with off the tee. The greens are slightly undulating but a lot bigger than they are in Morocco so it suits me to a tee really."

Lewis finished eighth behind Canizares in Morocco, securing his first top-10 finish of the season with a final round of 65 in Agadir. The 23-year-old won the Portugal Masters in 2011 in only his third professional start, but struggled to reproduce that form in the last two seasons.

The former Walker Cup winner was in danger of losing his card in 2013 until finishing third in the Dunhill Links Championship helped him end the year 94th on the Race to Dubai.

Spain's Santiago Luna will make 597th European Tour appearance at Sotogrande, taking him to seventh in the all-time list of most events played.