Azahara Muñoz is looking forward to teeing up at her home golf course and feeling quietly confident ahead of the Andalucia Costa del Sol Open de España Femenino.
The 29-year-old defending champion from San Pedro Alcántara, Málaga, knows the South Course at Real Club de Golf Guadalmina like the back of her hand, having been a member there for 20 years.
“When I land in Málaga, I get butterflies in my stomach and it’s so nice to be able to play on my course and stay in my house,” she said. “The driving range on the North Course is where I started and it’s so good to come home and play at my club where I feel so comfortable. I grew up here and have been a member since I was nine years old, so I have lots of good memories and great friends here.”
That should mean that the pressure is off, but she is determined to put up a good show, having become the first Spanish winner of the title at nearby Aloha Golf Club 12 months ago.
“It’s always a lot of added pressure and last year at the beginning of the week it was quite tough, I was quite nervous and not feeling good, but when the tournament started I turned it around. I just thought about all the people supporting me and how I wanted to play for them and fight for every shot. I know everyone will be here supporting me and it would mean so much to do well this week.”
Muñoz, a star of three Solheim Cups and a member of two winning sides, from 2011-2015, narrowly missed out on joining the European team last month in Iowa.
She continued: “It was very upsetting because it’s my favourite tournament and I really wanted to be there, but it is what it is and I didn’t play well enough. It is what it is and hopefully I will be there in two years. That is definitely my goal.”
The four-time Ladies European Tour tournament winner, who captured the 2009 Madrid Ladies Masters and the 2013 and 2014 Lacoste Ladies Open de France before her home victory last year, continued: “I had a couple of rough months leading up to The Solheim Cup so that probably didn’t help me to qualify, but the last month-and-a-half have been much better and I’ve been hitting the ball well so I think it will be a good rest of the season. I went back to what I was doing. I tried to make a few swing changes but it was too much and I couldn’t quite not think about it too much on the course.”
Muñoz will be joined by a cast of former Solheim Cup stars including Suzann Pettersen, Florentyna Parker, Georgia Hall and Carlota Ciganda, as well as former winners Lee-Anne Pace and Connie Chen from South Africa for a week of practically guaranteed wall-to-wall blue skies and sunshine.
“I love playing here. If you see the signs on the street, it always says: “Costa del Sol, Costa del Golf,” and I think it’s awesome that we finally have a tournament here, because the guys have played here so much, with Valderrama and Aloha too. It was awesome to have the tournament last year and now here, so hopefully we’ll have it for many more years to come.”