After back-to-back events in the British Isles, we’re back to continental Europe again for this week’s Portugal Masters.
This is the ninth edition of the tournament which has so far produced eight different winners. Playing host again is the Oceanico Victoria Golf Course at Vilamoura – a popular tourist destination in the Algarve region of Portugal.
After this week, there will be just one more event (the Hong Kong Open) for those on the bubble to finish inside the top 110 and keep their cards for 2016.
Others will be priming themselves for the Race To Dubai’s four-tournament Final Series. Only the top 60 on the Race To Dubai will make it to the concluding event, the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Two-time major winner Martin Kaymer is the headline name in Portugal this week while there are five other players from the world’s top 60 battling it out for the $2m purse.
Past champions, winning scores and stats at Oceanico
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)
2008 Alvaro Quiros -19 (DD: 1, DA: 50, GIR: 26, Scr: 3, PA: 12, AA: 3)
2007 Steve Webster -25 (DD: 11, DA: 30, GIR: 13, Scr: 27, PA: 1, AA: 2)
Note: Despite shooting -18 (63-61), Levy’s win was recorded over just 36 holes due to inclement weather.
Conclusions: This is definitely a good track for bombers. Five of the eight winners finished in the top 15 for Driving Distance while Levy (whose stats are skewed a little due to it being over 36 holes) is also renowned as a grip-it-and-rip-it merchant. Seven of the eight ranked in the top 20 for Putting Average so big hitters with hot putters are favoured. Three of the last four winners have been under 26 so this could be a good opportunity for one of the youngsters to come through.
Oceanico Victoria Golf Club is an Arnold Palmer design so it’s no surprise that he’s set it up to suit bombers. The fairways aren’t overly wide but the rough isn’t punishing so the big hitters can just wind it up and let it go. Four lakes are in play on seven of the holes. It’s a flat and exposed track while the greens are large and undulating. The course, which hosted the World Cup in 2005, measures in at 7,209 yards. The par 71 features three par 5s and a handful of short par 4s.
Last year, poor weather reduced the tournament to just 36 holes. Round three did actually get underway but was abandoned, leaving Levy as the winner by three from another monster hitter, Nicolas Colsaerts. As for this year, rain and T-storms are predicted in the build-up but Thursday and Friday should be sunny. It changes on the weekend, though, with showers on Saturday and a 70% chance of rain on Sunday. Temperatures are fairly stable at just under 75 degrees.
The Leading Contenders
It may not leap out as a tournament that Kaymer would have on his schedule but he’s played five of the eight Portugal Masters and enjoyed some decent success too. He cracked the top 10 in both 2007 and 2011 and was T13 on his last appearance in 2013. The German is still winless in 2015 and let a big chance go when runner-up in Italy last month. He was a disappointing T56 in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on his last start. Currently 15th on the Race To Dubai.
At No.7, Wiesberger is the highest ranked player on the Race To Dubai taking part in Portugal this week. He banked another big cheque when finishing fourth in the Alfred Dunhill Links in Scotland on his most recent start and he’s also made the top four in two of his last three visits to this event (T3rd 2013, 4th 2012). He hits it long (34th in DD) and putts well (17th in PA) so what’s there not to like? A very strong candidate for star player on the European Tour fantasy game this week.
The Englishman arrives in Portugal on the back of two straight top 10s – a T4 at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and a T9 in the British Masters. His last six rounds read 67-69-69-69-65-65. Wood, himself, described his performance at Woburn as “solid” and the stats bear that out as he did everything pretty well. All that bodes well for this week as he’ll be teeing it up on a course he likes. In four starts he has a T7 (2014), a T10 (2008) and a T26 (2013).
This week’s course probably isn’t as good a fit as Woburn but the little Dane is playing well everywhere right now. Form figures in last six events? 2-9-9-MC-12-2. Kjeldsen hit over 90% of greens in regulation in the British Masters, ranking top of that category, and will be frustrated he eventually had to settle for T2. He’s played in all eight editions of this event but has yet to crack the top 10. Overall he’s made five cuts and has a best of T16 in 2008.
After an unexpected summer slump of five missed cuts in six events, Fleetwood has found his mojo again with T13s in his last two starts. The latest came at the British Masters where he charged through the field with weekend rounds of 68-65. He certainly has the length off the tee to flourish here but gamers would want to see his putter heating up. In three previous starts here, he was T12 last year, T26 in 2013 and missed the cut in 2012 so he has some useful course form.
Being declared the winner after just 36 holes and not having to deal with any weekend pressure suggests there was an element of fortune to Levy’s win here last year but he did genuinely look unstoppable after opening 63-61. That was his second win of the season and the course really did play into his hands. It’s not been as good a year in 2015 but he posted a pair of weekend 69s to take T17 at Woburn on Sunday so don’t rule out a big title defense.
Dubuisson could be one to watch this week. He blasts it long off the tee and is a streaky putter so if he finds his touch on the greens a title challenge awaits. The Frenchman has played in the event twice previously and in the most recent he shot three 67s and a 72 to post T17 in 2013. He had middle rounds of 68-67 when T43 at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship a fortnight ago.
On first glance, this looks another good opportunity for Pieters to get another win on the board. He’s a bomber, has taken the trophy on two of his last four European Tour starts and putted superbly in those victories at the Czech Masters and KLM Open. The negatives? He missed the cut here 12 months ago and he’s been poor on the greens in his last two events (MC at Alfred Dunhill Links and T64 at British Masters).
Pepperell has played in two Portugal Masters, closing with a 64 to finish T26 in 2013 and carding 70-69 to post T58 in last year’s weather-wrecked event. Like many youngsters, consistency isn’t his friend right now as shown by three missed cuts in his last six starts. But he also boasts three top fives in his last 12 starts so he can land the big cash. He’ll head to Portugal on the back of a T33 at Woburn last week.
The young Englishman continued his impressive season by posting T13 in the British Masters at Woburn and, like Pepperell, will likely take a bit of inspiration from the win for his compatriot Matt Fitzpatrick. Hatton ranked 5th in greens in regulation last week and he’s now up to a very healthy 32nd on the Race To Dubai. He’s played here just once, finishing T58 (70-69) in the rain-hit tournament 12 months ago.
The Next Rung
After his big win at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, a dip (MC) in last week’s British Masters on a Woburn layout which didn’t really suit him wasn’t a surprise. Olesen may fancy his chances of bouncing back in Portugal though. He was T21 last year and, on his previous visit, T16 in 2012. There’s a lot of missed cuts in his recent form but a win and a T5 in the Czech Masters in his last six starts shows he’s a worthy investment if you can get him on the right course.
The young Frenchman’s return to form continued at last week’s British Masters where he was prominent for much of the week before playing his final 12 holes in 3-over to slip back to T22. That followed a T33 in the Alfred Dunhill Links and a T10 in the Open d’Italia two starts earlier. Adding to his appeal is a fourth place (67-64) in last year’s weather-shortened event and a T26 on his debut in 2013. He’s in the top 25% on tour for Driving Distance this year.
The Scot couldn’t build on an opening 65 at Woburn and eventually had to settle for T33. That means he’s posted four finishes between T30 and T40 in his last five starts so, just for now, he’s struggling to stay consistent for four rounds. He’s 5-for-8 in this event but a best of T21 (in last year’s event played over just 36 holes) is a little disappointing for managers hoping to get him on board.
Judged on course form, Fisher is a worthy pick. He’s 5-for-5 at the Portugal Masters, finishing runner-up in 2012 and T8 in 2013. He’s never finished worse than T33. Current form is a different matter. Although he made the top five in last month’s Porsche European Open, he’s missed the cut in five of his other latest six starts.
After a win (Russian Open) and second place (KLM Open) in back-to-back weeks in September, Slattery put himself in position for another trophy assault when carding a 65 in round one of last week’s British Masters. He couldn’t keep it going although T22 was still a decent knock in a field stronger than this one. He’s made his last three cuts at Oceanico Victoria Golf Club, with best results of T16 in 2012 and T22 in 2013.
Without any fanfare, Wall continues to enjoy a fine season and in the last two weeks the veteran Englishman has hung up a T19 in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and a T9 in the British Masters at Woburn. He’s also made the cut in all eight editions of the Portugal Masters. Four of those were top 20s so it’s a venue where he feels very comfortable.
Make that nine top 25s in the last 14 starts for the consistent Swede after his T17 at the British Masters in England last week. He can give it a decent clout off the tee and his putting is much improved too although gamers will be have their brows furrowed by course form which reads T89-MC-MC.
A two-time winner on the European Tour this year and currently 26th on the Race To Dubai, it’s not hard to envisage Sullivan making a big impact if he has one of those weeks when he puts the pieces together. The Englishman was 8th for DD when missing the cut at the Alfred Dunhill and topped the putting stats at The Memorial when trying his luck on the PGA TOUR. He finished T18 at the KLM Open last month and was going well for 36 holes at Woburn until slipping to T46. In this event he’s 3-for-3 although hasn’t bettered T37.
The Scot is a risky play this week but he could be a gamble worth taking. In theory, he’s a good pick given that he posted a confidence-boosting top 20 in the Alfred Dunhill Links and has impressive course form at Oceanico – T3 in 2013 and T6 in 2012 on his last two visits. The downside is that he pulled out of the British Masters last week after struggling to shake off a virus. “I just feel shattered and lethargic,” he said ahead of his first-round 75.
If you want a local player to make a big impression, look no further than Gouveia, who is currently in second place in the ChallengeTour rankings after a win and nine other top 10s. The latest came via a T6 in last week’s EMC Challenge Open in Italy. He finished T58 on his debut in this event last year.
The South African has two top 25s in his last three European Tour starts and topped the Putting Average stats when T14 at the Open d’Italia last month. He’s 1-for-2 in this event, taking home a modest cheque when T51 in his last appearance in the event two years ago. Currently 53rd in the Race To Dubai so will be keen to protect his top 60 position.
The Belgian bomber has made his last six cuts on the European Tour but still struggles to put four rounds together as highlighted by a closing 78 at Woburn last week. His best finish in those half-dozen events is T20 at the Open d’Italia. If the putts drop, Colsaerts could be a big player though as he was runner-up (over 36 holes) last year and T15 in 2013.
Fancy an outsider who can launch it off the tee (8th in DD) and drain plenty of putts? Then try the Swede. There are downsides such as three missed cuts out of three in this event but they were 2007-2009. He’s also failed to cash in four of his last six events but his other two finishes in that run were second at the Czech Masters and third at the Porsche European Open (1st in Putting Average).
Who’s On The Team?
Bernd Wiesberger has a compelling mix of course and current form and is a must-pick for the 10-man European Tour fantasy game. The only decision is whether to make him star player (double points). I’ll reveal my line-up on Tuesday.
Chris Wood also jumps out as an in-form player who plays this course well.
Last year’s winner, Alexander Levy, may just be returning to form at the right time while those having a bet on players at bigger prices should look to monster-hitting duo Nicolas Colsaerts and Pelle Edberg.
One To Fade
Marc Warren’s modest course form suggests this isn’t the best venue for him to showcase his talents.
2015 Fantasy Race to Dubai
Dave Tindall is our newest contributor, but he’s been a fixture in Europe. In addition to his weekly previews of European Tour events on Mondays, he’ll share his selections and analysis for the Fantasy Race to Dubai at EuropeanTour.com.
Pick 10 golfers. Players accumulate points based on Race to Dubai (R2D) points earned. Star player’s points are doubled. Unlimited team changes and unlimited star player changes are available each week.
A good return at Woburn with winner Matt Fitzpatrick and runners-up Shane Lowry and Soren Kjeldsen all on board. A shame none were star player but a jump of 393 spots nevertheless. Current position: 1,234.
Team Tindall (Team name: YESSIR!)
Star Player: Bernd Wiesberger
Hits it long and putts well. Perfect mix. Austrian was T4 at Alfred Dunhill Links last time and has two top fours at this week’s venue.
- Martin Kaymer: Runner-up in Italy two starts ago and has a pair of top 10s on this course.
- Chris Wood: T4 at Alfred Dunhill Links and T9 at British Masters. Also has two top 10s here.
- Alexander Levy: Defending champ shot 63-61 to win over 36 holes last time. T19 at Woburn on Sunday.
- Romain Wattel: Coming back to form and cracked the top five in this event last year.
- Pelle Edberg: Huge hitter who can get hot on the greens. Two recent top threes.
- Nicolas Colsaerts: Belgian bomber was runner-up last year. Hinting at a breakout week.
- Tommy Fleetwood: Top 15 in last two events so on the up again. T12 here last year.
- Tyrrell Hatton: 5th in greens in reg when T13 at Woburn on Sunday. 32nd on Race To Dubai.
- Eddie Pepperell: Blows hot and cold but three top fives in last 12 starts gives him plenty of appeal.