Portugal Masters – Vilamoura at 11:30 live on Sky Sports 4
Last weeks golf
A dead heat payout courtesy of that man Alex Levy and his T4 meant we broke even last week. Bearing in mind he was never inside the EW payout spots until he was already in the clubhouse after his final hole, plus Richard Bland, Tommy Fleetwood and Peter Hanson had good chances to birdie their 72nd holes, this was a right result.
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I walked the course on Friday having travelled down for the day and followed Levy in the morning. He played really well and was certainly a good pick for the course. All four picks made the cut and big priced outsider Kiradech Aphibarnrat shot a final round 64 to finish T12, just three shots outside the places.
Following on from Levy’s German win, Kjeldsen’s near miss at the Dunhill and now this week, I feel we are close to landing that third winner of the year that will guarantee meaningful profit – currently sitting at +12.7 ROI for 2016.
Tournament History & Field
This will be the tenth staging of the Portugal Masters. Low scoring is the theme on the Oceanico Victoria course, an Arnold Palmer designed layout found in golfing tourist paradise, Vilamoura.
Many outsiders have won this event over the years, including Tom Lewis, Richard Green, David Lynn and Stave Webster. In fact, Englishmen have a fine record on the Algarve set-up, with five out of nine winners being born in England.
This year the field sees returning champion and Ryder Cupper Andy Sullivan head the field alongside other stars of the tour including Thomas Pieters, Alex Noren, and Thongchai Jaidee.
Playing to a par of 71 and a yardage of 7,146, Oceanico Victoria is not a particularly stern test of golf. The last two winners have played somewhat target golf on a damp course, and all of the last four winners have ranked extremely high in the weeks putting stats. Sullivan won by 9 shots last year and recent European Open winner Levy (tipped up on this column) hit a remarkable -18 in a 36 hole rain-reduced event the year previous.
Three of the four par 3’s are lengthily at over 200 yards, whilst the three par 5’s, found at the 5th, 12th and 17th, measure 579, 547 and 589 yards respectively. Many of the par 4’s are shorter than 450 yards (8/12) and what you do on these holes appear crucial in having a low scoring week.
Holes 10-15 is a real scoring section of the course with all these holes – except the 11th – averaging below par in 2015. Even then the 11th averaged 4.04 to a par of 4. Don’t be too disheartened if your golfer gets off to a slower start playing the front nine first, he can make up ground on the back nine!
The par 5’s played the three easiest holes last year – make anything worse than a bogey on these hole and you will be losing ground to the field.
This event has been hit with thunderstorms and lightning threats in recent years. Luckily we are set fair for the first three days, but Sunday looks wet. Thursday AM and Friday AM starters will enjoy little to no winds before the breeze picks up to around the 10mph mark on both of the first two afternoons. At this stage I expect no draw bias.
With the tour moving on to China next week, the organisers will be keen to avoid a Monday finish. If that rain due on Sunday does involve electrical activity, we could yet see another reduced hole affair this year.
Recent Portugal Masters Winners & Key Stats
2015 – Andy Sullivan (-23) – DA 14 DD 11 GIR 5 PPGIR 6 Scrambles 10/12
2014 – Alex Levy (-18)* – DA 10 DD 38 GIR 46 PPGIR 2 Scrambles 8/8 (*36 hole event)
2013 – David Lynn (-18) – DA 70 DD 67 GIR 22 PPGIR 9 Scrambles 14/16
2012 – Shane Lowry (-14) – DA 13 DD 15 GIR 13 PPGIR 1 Scrambles 10/16
2011 – Tom Lewis (-21) – DA 33 DD 4 GIR 3 PPGIR 37 Scrambles 9/10
Clearly what you do off the tee doesn’t matter at all in regards your chances of winning this event. Whilst it helps to hit greens, Levy and Lynn both managed to win their titles despite finishing 46th and 22nd for the weeks GIR stats. They, along with the other winners listed above, all scrambled exceptionally well all week.
What is important is making birdies – and lots of them. For this you naturally need a hot putter to ensure you take advantage of those shorter holes where many will be going in with a wedge or a 9 iron. With limited rough to speak of around the course and the greens, you can putt from off the putting surfaces to help you save those pars, and even hole out for birdies, despite missing the green in the correct number of shots.
Finally, Sullivan’s runaway win was a bit of a rarity here. Many third round leaders have been passed by the eventual champion from some way back. Lynn won from 6 back in 2013 with a round to go whilst Lowry and Lewis bot won from 4 back in the two years before that. Richard Green went even better in 2010, winning by two shots from fully 7 back!
Up until the past three weeks, its been a quiet time for Thailand’s number one golfer. This year he captured one of the tours biggest crowns though – the Open de France – and recent top ten finishes on the Asian Tour coupled in with a T22 at last weeks British Masters leads me to believe that Jaidee is ready to win again. 6th in GIR last week shows that is his ball striking is back on song and that he is creating the birdie chances needed to win here. Course form is OK, with 5/7 finishes yielding T23 or better. I don’t usually like backing shorties (sub 33/1) EW, but with Pieters and Noren looking so strong, Jaidee looks a must EW play.
The 2014 European Masters champion has landed this column two places this year thanks to strong finishes in Denmark and the Czech Republic. A lowly T54 last week at the British Masters followed a MC at the Dunhill links (not his forte) means we get another tasty price this week. This is his first look at the Oceanico layout but that doesn’t concern me – Levy and Lewis both won here on their virgin visit to the Algarve. Recent finishes of T24 in Germany and T16 in Italy suggest his game is still in fine order. Finally, Lipsky is sat just outside the top 60 in the Race to Dubai, so needs a decent cheque this week to guarantee his presence in the end of season jamboree.
It was only three events ago that Nacho finished a T3 at the Italian Open, just 4 shots behind eventual winner Francesco Molinari. Last years three-time Challenge Tour victor certainly knows how to get the job done and was severely unlucky not to register his first European Tour trophy earlier this season when losing in a play-off in Morocco back in May. Elvira shot 67,68 on his way to a T21 in the rain curtailed 2014 edition so has course form to fall back on. Worth a play on price alone.
Prices correct at time of writing.