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Golf: Martin must be backed for more heroics at tasty 50-1.

SPAIN, on a high after snatching Dunhill Cup victory from the jaws of defeat on Sunday, can salute another triumph this weekend in the Turespana Masters in Madrid.

The Masters tees off a 10-hour Sky golfathon at 1pm tomorrow before the Presidents Cup, the Ryder Cup clone that sees the USA taking on the Internationals, assumes centre stage in the evening.

On home ground and with the sun on their backs, the Spaniards and their Spanish-speaking chums from Argentina, are always hard to beat - Seve Ballesteros led a Spanish

1-2-3 on this week's Campo de Golf course in the 1995 Spanish Open - and the two members of the victorious Dunhill Cup team taking part, the two Miguel Angels, Martin and Jimenez, will have every birdie cheered to the echo.

So, too, will Sergio Garcia, who played in the Spanish Open here as a 16-year-old amateur and made the cut.

At the respective odds, 50-1 chance Martin, only 5ft 6ins tall but "with the heart of a lion", as Jose Maria Olazabal put it after Sunday's heady triumph, makes most appeal.

He lives only 15 minutes from the course and finished 11th to Padraig Harrington in the 1996 Spanish Open, the last time Club de Campo was used on the European Tour.

Before St Andrews, Martin twice finished in the top seven of good-class tournaments and punters look guaranteed a good run provided he does not get carried away by his new role as Spanish hero - a far cry from the 1997 Ryder Cup rumpus which saw Ballesteros bundle his tearful compatriot unceremoniously out of the team on fitness grounds, a move, it has to be said, which proved instrumental in Europe retaining the trophy.

Jimenez, bidding for a Turespana Masters hat-trick following victories at Santa Ponsa and in his native Malaga, almost completed a home treble last year. Always strong in the autumn, he captured the Volvo Masters at Montecastillo before coming within a last-hole par of upsetting the great Tiger Woods at Valderrama.

His performance at St Andrews was only average (three wins out of five) but he was able to cash in on Retief Goosen's desperate putting in the final to post one of Spain's two wins.

At 14-1 Jimenez has as good a chance as any in a field where only Darren Clarke stands out - and the Irishman does not always rise to the occasion in run-of-the-mill events such as this.

True, big Darren has the incentive of regaining top spot in the money list with this week's six-figure winner's cheque. But he did not shine at Wentworth, edging out Nick Faldo in a scrappy affair before finding Vijay Singh too good, and may have his mind more on the recent addition to the family than on finishing top dog.

Garcia and Ignacio Garrido (runner-up here in 1995) are obvious contenders, but I prefer the chances of Eduardo Romero, Phil Price, Harrington, Angel Cabrera and Bernhard Langer.

Romero, winner at Crans and runner-up in Belgium in recent sorties, is playing better golf now than when he won the Spanish Open at Club de Campo nine years ago and has to figure at 25-1.

Price, unbeaten for Wales at St Andrews, has been confidence personified since banking the best part of pounds 300,000 for chasing Tiger home at Firestone and must soon be winning.

His lone Tour triumph, in the 1994 Portuguese Open, came a long time ago but he has form at Club de Campo (eighth to Colin Montgomerie in the 1994 Spanish Open) and is persistently underrated by the bookies.

The 33-1 with Coral and Ladbrokes represents excellent value.

Harrington has immaculate credentials (course winner, ultra-consistent current form), but is hard to win with unless you have accounts with Irish bookies who pay you out even when he gets disqualified.

His 1996 victory here was the Dubliner's Tour breakthrough and it is fairly amazing that it took until a small tournament in Sao Paulo this April for such a gifted golfer to add to that debut success.

Even though he always seems to find one or two too good, Harrington must still have every chance after last month's brace of third places in Belgium and Germany as this looks slightly easier.

Cabrera let slip a huge lead against Olazabal in the crucial match when Argentina went down to Spain in the Dunhill semis, thus leaving hundreds of bookies with huge smiles on their faces, and may be feeling down on himself, but the rejuvenated Langer, sixth in his own tournament in Cologne last time out and fifth in the 1994 Spanish Open on the course, has to be on all short lists at the moment.

Staking Plan

1.25pts each-way martin 50-1 (Bet Direct & Hills)

1pt each-way price 33-1 (Coral & Ladbrokes)

0.75pt each-way romero 25-1 (Coral, Heathorns & S James)

1pt win jimenez 14-1 (Coral, Stan James & Tote)
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Chapman, Jeremy
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Oct 18, 2000
Words:813
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