Spotlight on: European Solheim Cup star Carlota Ciganda’s quest to win the Andalucia Open de Espana

The 31-year-old has a sensational record on home soil, but can she finally land the national championship?

The 2021 Ladies European Tour season draws to a close this week, with the Race to Costa Del Sol reaching its Andalucia destination.

Los Naranjos hosts the Open de Espana where Carlota Ciganda will seek to finally end her quest to claim her national championship.

As we'll discover, her record at home is superb, but this particular gong has so far eluded her.

She's a former winner of the circuit's Order of Merit and this year's title is already in the bag for the brilliant 18-year-old Thai golfer Atthaya Thitikul who has finished top six in 13 of her 16 starts this year, including a pair of wins.

"It is an honour to win the Race to Costa del Sol this year," she said. "Words can't describe how I'm feeling. It is really great to win the title and it is amazing for me."

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Let's take a closer look at Ciganda, who is second favourite at the start of the week.

In Spain since turning pro

Ciganda missed the cut in her first appearance in a professional event in Spain, aged 14, but she was a quick learner and later that year finished T11th and would add tied eighth, tied third and tied ninth before she joined the pro ranks.

Within week of that move she finished runner-up in the Tenerife Match Play, followed by excited local galleries who were convinced they had a special talent on their hands.

Her results have backed that up. She's made nine starts in Spain as a pro, never finished outside the top 10, landed six top fives, with four seconds and victory in the 2019 Estrella Damn Mediterranean Ladies Open.

That triumph is not only her most recent start at home, it also came in the months after she played a full part of Europe's Solheim Cup success - just as this year.

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On resort courses with Bermuda grass on the Ladies European Tour

Such tracks are Ciganda's sweet spot.

In all her starts at such venues (in Spain, Morocco, the Middle East and Asia) her results remain both high quality and incredibly consistent.

She's made 20 starts with 15 top fives, 12 of them top threes including two wins.

High comfort level

Ciganda plays most of her golf on the LPGA Tour and is a solid performer there, but it's also notable how many of her best performances come where she has a degree of comfort.

She's been a runner-up at Wildfire in Arizona (where she spent four years at Arizona State University), she's won and finished second in Mexico (the same language - although she speaks four of those so that might be moot), she's been third at Miramar in Taiwan and Siam in Thailand (resort tracks, grainy grass), and second at Tiburon (another resort track with Bermuda greens).

Form

It's been a solid rather than spectacular year, but the highlights have, yet again, been when she's playing her favourite golf.

She was seventh at Sentosa in Singapore and T13th at Siam in Thailand in the spring, then twice finished tied third in Saudi Arabia earlier this month.

She played the LPGA CME Group Tour Championship, finishing T35th with a third round 67 bettered by only three players in the field.

Raiders

Players who spend most of their time on the LPGA have a strong record when performing in regular LET events (as opposed to the Women's British Open, Evian Championship and Women's Scottish Open).

In these instances, there is often just two, three or four of then, up against a field that plays all its golf this side of the Atlantic.

In recent years the Open de France has been won by Azahara Munoz (twice), Cristie Kerr, Nelly Korda, Caroline Hedwall and Celine Bouttier.

The Dubai Masters was twice won by Annika Sorenstam, Shanshan Feng landed it three times, Lexi Thompson, Pornanong Phatlum and Angel Yin once each.

Chief challengers

Thitikul will be the obvious threat but there are two others worthy of note.

Czech teenager Pia Babnik is part of Niall Horan's management stable and surely has a bright future in the game. She spent the summer of 2020 beating men on the minor tours back home and this year has claimed two wins, most recently two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia.

India's Aditi Ashok has finished top 13 in her last four starts, including a fine tied sixth last week in the LPGA Tour Championship. She's a three-time winner on the LET and has four top 10 finishes in five visits to Spain.

Conclusion

Ciganda is short but more often than not she will place in these circumstances.

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