Quiros hopes Masters boost will aid him in defense of Spanish Open title

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Alvaro Quiros ended up 27th at the Masters, but says the experience of playing well in the opening round at Augusta National will be a great help to him going forward.
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PA Sport

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Alvaro Quiros will this week try for something last achieved by Max Faulkner in 1953 -- a successful defense of the Spanish Open title.

A winner in Seville last May, Europe's biggest hitter lines up at Real Club de Golf El Prat near Barcelona against a field that includes Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal, Miguel Angel Jimenez, 18-year-old Matteo Manassero and also Scotland's Elliot Saltman on his return from a three-month ban.

Quiros captured his fifth European Tour title in Dubai in February, but he rates his 27th-place finish at the Masters last month as a more valuable experience.

"I'm happy that I made the cut for the first time in three attempts and shot 65 the first day -- 10 strokes better than my previous best score," the 28-year-old said. "Now I know I can go low at Augusta and I believe the 65 and making the cut have been better for my game than my win in Dubai.

"My 65 was like Guadiaro (his local soccer team) scoring against Barcelona in the first 15 minutes only to lose 6-1."

Quiros was born in 1983 -- the year that Olazabal and Jimenez both made their first attempts to lift the Spanish Open -- and neither has managed it yet.

World No. 23 Jimenez, now 47, is the top-ranked player in the event and is boosted by his second-place finish to Lee Westwood in Korea on Sunday.

"Miguel Angel is unbelievable -- he doesn't even realize how good he is," stated Quiros.

Montgomerie and Olazabal, Ryder Cup captains past and present, are no longer in the game's top 400, but Manassero stands 33rd and is back in action three weeks after pipping Rory McIlroy to win the Maybank Malaysian Open.

That came two days before the Italian's 18th birthday and was his second Tour victory. He became the circuit's youngest-ever champion down the coast at Castellon last October.

Saltman plays his first Tour event since the Joburg Open in January. Three days after that, he was suspended after an investigation into his ball-marking on the Challenge Tour in Russia last September. The 29-year-old, who came through Q-School along with his brother Lloyd, insists he has never cheated.

English rookie Matthew Nixon and Chilean Mark Tullo are his first two playing partners. It may have been a three-month ban, but he actually missed only one tournament -- the Sicilian Open in March --  because his ranking would not have earned him a place in any more events.