GOLF: Graeme McDowell started his defence of the Andalucia Masters title at Valderrama today admitting he has "a bit of a love-hate relationship" with the Spanish course.
The Ryder Cup hero said: "I love how special a place it is, but hate how tough it can be.
"When the wind is up, well, good luck. But I like that challenge -- it's a grafter's course."
After a 2010 he will never forget -- as well as being Europe's match-winner he won twice on this side of the Atlantic and twice in America, including the US Open -- McDowell has yet to taste success this year.
"Let's see if I can finish 2011 on a high," he added.
This week is the start of a spell that will see the 32-year-old Northern Irishman also compete in China, Singapore, Japan, South Africa and Dubai.
Sergio Garcia tees off as favourite following his remarkable 11-stroke, 27 under par victory in his home Castello Masters last weekend.
But world number six Martin Kaymer and 17th-ranked Justin Rose are also in the field.
Rose is making only his fourth appearance in Europe all season and returns to a club where he has mixed memories.
It was the scene of his Volvo Masters victory four years ago, a win that gave him the European money list title, but 12 months later in the same event he shot 80-81.
Garcia has been a runner-up three times at Valderrama. Indeed no Spanish player has ever won there since the first Volvo Masters was staged in 1988.
Local favourite Miguel Angel Jimenez, who lost a play-off to Tiger Woods in the 1999 world championship, said: "Valderrama is an unforgiving course and you need to hit great shots with all the clubs in the bag."
The winner of the title earns the final place in next week's WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.