After the damp and cool conditions at Le Golf National in France, the European Tour boys should expect better weather in this week’s annual visit to the Portugal Masters.
The Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course in Vilamoura – host since 2007 – offers up a sunshine-laden birdie-fest and the last four winners have all fired 20-under or lower.
Tom Lewis won the tournament for the second time last year to continue the fine record of English golfers, who have won six of the 12 editions.
And last year, another Englishman, Oliver Fisher, wrote himself into the record books with the European Tour's first official sub-60 round.
After Portugal, there are just four more events - the WGC-HSBC in China followed by the closing trio of Rolex Series tournaments which conclude with the season-ender in Dubai from November 21-24.
It means this week has an added dimension as, for some, it’s the last-chance saloon to secure playing privileges for next season.
The Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, opened in 2004, is an Arnold Palmer design with wide fairways. It’s set on a flat and exposed piece of land and four lakes come into play on seven holes. The greens are bent/poa, large and undulating. Par is 71 for the 7,191-yard track, the three par 5s coming at 5 (579 yards), 12 (593 yards) and 17 (588 yards).
Past champions, winning scores and stats
2018 Tom Lewis -20 (DD: 12, DA: 69, GIR: 23, Scr: 66, PA: 5, AA: 28)
2017 Lucas Bjerregaard -20 (DD: 15, DA: 16, GIR: 4, Scr: 33, PA: 1, AA: 2)
2016 Padraig Harrington -25 (DD: 25, DA: 49, GIR: 67, Scr: 2, PA: 1, AA: 2)
2015 Andy Sullivan -23 (DD: 11, DA: 9, GIR: 5, Scr: 1, PA: 4, AA: 1)
2014 Alexander Levy -18 (DD: 40, DA: 11, GIR: 46, Scr: 1, PA: 1, AA: 4)
2013 David Lynn -18 (DD: 67, DA: 70, GIR: 22, Scr: 2, PA: 7, AA: 31)
2012 Shane Lowry -14 (DD: 15, DA: 13, GIR: 13, Scr: 40, PA: 1, AA: 1)
2011 Tom Lewis -21 (DD: 4, DA: 40, GIR: 4, Scr: 2, PA: 33, AA: 2)
2010 Richard Green -18 (DD: 43, DA: 14, GIR: 11, Scr: 59, PA: 20, AA: 23)
2009 Lee Westwood -23 (DD: 12, DA: 7, GIR: 2, Scr: 21, PA: 14, AA: 1)
Notes: It’s a bit of a mixed bunch of stats from tee to green but the last seven winners were all ranked in the top seven for Putting Average. As expected with the wide fairways, Driving Distance is more important than Driving Accuracy.
A hugely popular destination for British golfers due to the good weather, Vilamoura should offer its usual quota of sunshine and warm temperatures this week. It’ll be in the high 70s all four days while winds are predicted to be around 7-10mph but possibly gusting to 15mph.
The Leading Contenders
The Englishman, who drives himself mad at the merest hint of anything less than perfection, continues his late-season push to win the Race to Dubai (currently fifth). T7 in the Italian Open last time, Wallace opened with 64 here last year before fading to T44 while he was T39 on debut. He’ll need to keep the putts dropping to stay with the pace here and he’s been missing his share of late although, on the season, he’s 16th in SG: Putting.
Pepperell has been a permanent fixture on the leaderboard in the last two years, finishing third in 2017 and runner-up last year. He also opened with a 64 in 2016. He’s not had his best stuff over the last few months but T15 at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship was achieved with decent putting stats.
The scene of Lewis' first win – on just his third start as a pro – and the Englishman took the title for a second time last year. Inbetween? Five cuts out of six but nothing better than T29. Lewis has had a strange couple of months in terms of consistency. He won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, missed two cuts, took T5 in the Alfred Dunhill Links and then missed another pair of cuts (Vegas and Houston). Has he mentally adjusted to having a PGA TOUR card?
After four missed cuts in five starts, Kaymer went back to one of his favorite venues last week – Le Golf National – and battled away in tough conditions to finish tied fifth. He’s certainly enjoyed past visits to this course too, his 5-for-6 slate including a pair of top tens and T13 although his last appearance was four years ago. The boost of France last week could well carry him to another good finish.
The Dane won here with 20-under in 2017 and his 5-for-5 record includes a run of 9-12-1-20 the last four years. Overall, 14 of his last 15 rounds at Dom Pedro have been in the 60s. By contrast, most of his best form this year has come in big events, his only top 20s since May coming in majors. It’s relevant that he was recently T23 in another tournament he’d won, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. That could persuade gamers that the course horse tendencies will play out well again.
The Spaniard, like many a promising youngster, lacks consistency but he keeps flashing the good stuff. His last ten starts show a pair of second places, a fourth and a sixth but there are four missed cuts in there too. It’s his tournament debut although he did enjoy his last hop over the border from Spain when making the top four in last year’s Open de Portugal.
The strong record of Englishmen in this event bodes well for Smith, who had a first look at the course last year and took tied 27th. As for current form, he dipped badly with a string of five missed cuts but now has a top five and two other top 25s in his last four starts. Only 156th in SG: Putting is a concern and he lost over six strokes on the greens in Paris last week.
The Finn, a winner at May’s China Open, is 43rd on the Race to Dubai after extending his cut streak to nine with T25 at the Italian Open last time. That followed T17 in the Open de Espana so he offers great reliability. If that wasn’t enough, check his record at Dom Pedro: 9-3-46-12 in four visits from 2015-2018. He’s also been in the top 16 for Putting Average in four of his last six starts.
Had a golden chance to win the Open de France last week before wobbling late. That came two starts after a top four at the Open de Espana while between that pair he made the top 25 in the Italian Open. Now up to 56th on the Race to Dubai, he still has work to do to make the top 50 who play the season finale in Dubai. T37 (last year) and T33 in two of his three starts here and 11th in SG: Putting suggests he can go higher on the leaderboard as long as he’s shaken last week’s disappointment off.
Well, he’s English so that’s a good start. As is the fact that Horsfield has made his last nine cuts. He’s had four top 15s in that stretch from mid-August and it continued with tied 14th at the Open de France. He can’t back it up with course form (59-MC) but ranking second for Putting Average at Le Golf National suggests he can be a factor this time.