Andalucia Preview: Rippers have high hopes for 'funky' and 'frustrating' Valderrama

Written by
Mark Lamport-Stokes, LIV Golf Correspondent
Jul 09 2024
- 4 MIN
Ripper Andalucia preview STORY image

SOTOGRANDE, Spain – Cameron Smith and his Ripper GC team mates have great expectations heading into this week's LIV Golf Andalucía on a Real Club Valderrama layout that he regards as "a very funky course" that can be frustrating.

The Rippers have enjoyed a bountiful 2024 season highlighted by victories in Adelaide and Singapore, and they finished with a flourish in their most recent start - placing joint sixth at LIV Golf Nashville after all four players dipped below par in the final round.

However, the all-Australian combination have also hit some low spots this year with four finishes outside the top eight and Smith knows as well as anyone that Valderrama can be a daunting venue to navigate if you are not on top of your game.

"It can be a frustrating golf course," said Smith, who finished a team-high 12th in the individual standings at Valderrama last year after the Rippers collectively failed to capitalize on a strong start to the week.

"Feels like you can birdie every hole and you can bogey or double every hole. It's just a test of patience. You've got to stay patient out there and wait until you hit the fairways and just make the most of your opportunities. It's one of those courses where you don't want to get on the back foot."

Last year, the Rippers ended a disappointing week at LIV Golf Andalucia in 10th spot on the team leaderboard despite having impressively surged into second place after a wind-swept opening round. On day two, they slipped into a tie for fifth before tumbling even further back on day three when none of their players was able to break 70.

This week, however, promises to be very different for a team that ranks first in the league for putting average and third in scrambling. However, close attention will have to be paid to their ball-striking on a course that rewards precise management. The Rippers rank stone-last (13th) this year in driving accuracy and 11th in GIR percentage.

"The course is a very funky course but it's pure," said Smith. "Get on the wrong side of the fairways and you're in the worst spot possible. It is a bit different but it's pure."

While Smith, Marc Leishman and Matt Jones all know Valderrama well, their newest team member - Lucas Herbert - has never visited the venue.

"It's a good course and I think you'll like it," Smith said for Herbert's benefit. Ranked among the top courses in the world, Real Club Valderrama has hosted numerous professional events, including the Ryder Cup in 1997 – when the event was held in Continental Europe for the first time.

Leishman agreed with his captain's assessment of the venue: "Valderrama has great views, in all aspects. It's a pretty cool spot. It's a little bit like a long Hilton Head but with a bit more room."

The Rippers currently occupy fourth spot in the season-long team standings, after celebrating an emotional victory in front of a raucous home crowd in Adelaide and then making it two wins out of two the following week in Singapore.

"I think internally that we're the best team out here, and we're going to be tough to beat when we all have our best stuff," said Leishman. "I think we're going to be tough to beat."

As long as the Rippers can collectively stay tidy when it comes to greens in regulation, Leishman's confident statement could be justified in Spain this week.

"All the boys have played really well," said Smith. "We just keep pushing each other. Herby has been a great addition. He's got that young blood in him, and he wants everyone to do well. He keeps pushing the old boys. It's a really good mix of golfers and we've got a really good mix of personalities. We just gel so well."