Madrid Masters golf preview

A preview of the Madrid Masters at Centro Nacional de Golf. The Race to Dubai is really hotting up and it's strong fields all the way now. Fergus Bisset previews the course and identifies who's likely to contend this week.

Alvaro Quiros

Lowdown: The European Tour heads to Spain this week for the Madrid Masters at Centro Nacional de Golf. Charl Schwartzel defends a title he won in some style last season. As the inaugural Race to Dubai approaches its climax, the heat is on for those looking to secure their place as one of the top-60 players who'll travel to Dubai to contest the Dubai World Championship next month.

As a result, a strong field will assemble in Madrid this week. Major champions Paul Lawrie and Jose Maria Olazabal will be joined by Miguel Angel Jimenez, Paul McGinley plus a host of other top names. Charl Scwartzel won the inaugural Madrid Masters last season at the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid. The young South African fired four rounds in the 60s to finish on 19-under-par, three clear of Argentina's Ricardo Gonzalez.

If he were to successfully defend the title this week Schwartzel would become the 31st player in European Tour history to win the same title at two different venues. He should have a good chance as he's won before at Centro Nacional de Golf - he took the Open de Espana around the course in 2007.

Opened for play in 2005, the Centro Nacional de Golf is a hilly and exposed layout with water in play on a number of holes. If the wind gets up it could test the players.

Venue: Centro Nacional de Golf, Madrid, Spain Date: October 8-11 Course stats: par 72, 7,242 yards Purse: €1,500,000 Winner: €tbc Defending Champion: Charl Schwartzel (-19)

TV Coverage: Thursday 8 - Live on Sky Sports 1 from 11.30am Friday 9 - Live on Sky Sports 1 from 11.30am Saturday 10 - Live on Sky Sports Xtra from 1pm Sunday 11 - Live on Sky Sports 2 from 1pm

Player Watch: Charl Schwartzel - The defending champion has also tasted success around this layout in the Open de Espana. Although he's not enjoyed the best of seasons, the omens are in his favour this week. Miguel Angel Jimenez - The Spaniard is always a consistent performer and he would love to secure victory in his home country. He'll be in the mix on the final day. Alvaro Quiros - With the ability to launch drives further than almost everyone on planet golf, he'll contend this week if he can find fairways.

Key hole: 17th. A testing par 3 that stretches to over 200 yards. Water lurks all down the left side and bunkers wait right of the green. Par is a good score here and it could be the scene of big swings as the tournament reaches its climax.

Skills required: Accuracy - The rough at Centro Nacional de Golf tends to be punishing so straight driving will be at a premium. Find the fairways and this is a layout that will produce low scoring - that's proved by Schwartzel's winning total of 16-under-par in the 2007 Open de Espana.

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Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?