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Jon Rahm’s hopes of Spanish replacement for Sergio Garcia at Ryder Cup dealt blow

Jon Rahm's desire to have Spanish replacement for Sergio Garcia at Ryder Cup handed huge blow - Getty Images/Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Jon Rahm’s desire to have a countryman as his Ryder Cup partner to replace the banned Sergio Garcia has suffered a setback with the revelation that the second-highest Spaniard in the qualification standings is this week beginning a four-tournament ban.

Telegraph Sport has learned that Adrián Otaegui has paid fines totalling roughly $300,000 (£240,000) for appearing in a quartet of LIV Golf events and has also accepted that he cannot tee it up again until after the British Masters at the Belfry at the end of the June.

The highly-rated 30-year-old – who won the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama last year in a record-breaking six shots, and who finished second on Sunday in the Dutch Open – is currently sixth on the European points list and in sight of grabbing one of the half-dozen automatic spots on offer for Rome in September.

But this enforced break, starting with this week’s European Open in Germany, will inevitably cause Otaegui – who has won two matchplay events on Tour – to lose valuable ground in the race which finishes in 13 weeks’ time.

Otaegui is not contracted to the Saudi-funded breakaway, but played in its inaugural event in London last June and then also appeared on an ad hoc basis in the 2022 series, including in the grand finale at Trump Doral in Miami six months ago.

Otaegui pledged his allegiance to the DP World Tour this season – although only after he was overlooked for a permanent LIV position – and sympathy in the locker room will be limited because he has picked up almost £1 million for his exertions with Greg Norman’s rebel tour.

Nevertheless, unlike blue-and-gold legends Sergio García, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Henrik Stenson who resigned from the Tour in the wake of the sanctions, Otaegui remains eligible to play on Luke Donald’s team at the Marco Simone course.

Rahm is a friend of his fellow Basque and in comments earlier this week – in which he insisted that García should be able to play against a US outfit searching for its first away win in 30 years – he stressed his eagerness to have a Spaniard by his side.

“A Spanish duo in the Ryder Cup is embedded into the roots of the Ryder Cup,” he said. “Look what Seve [Ballesteros] and Ollie [José María Olazábal] were able to do throughout their partnership.”

Both the DP World Tour and Otaegui’s management declined to comment.