THE European Tour moves to Portugal this week at the Vilamoura resort in the Algarve.
Most of the golfing community will have all eyes fixed on the Tour Championship across the pond but a relatively strong field has still assembled with the likes of Pieters, Lowry, Sullivan and Knox teeing it up.
Course: Victoria Golf Course (7,146 yards, par 71)
Current Champion: Padraig Harrington
This tournament is going to be a straight up birdie fest. The last two winning scores have been at 23 under while Alex Levy finished the rain-soaked 2014 edition on -18 after just 36 holes. Scott Jamieson, Nicolas Colsaerts,
Andy Sullivan and Alex Levy have all flirted with 59’s around this track in recent years.
Getting low numbers means having the short game dialed in. With average fairways widths and minimal rough, there isn’t as much importance off the tee as there usually would be.
⛳ Portugal Masters Tips ⛳
Naturally, being in the right position on the fairway will always help to attack the green but Padraig Harrington ranked 52nd driving accuracy and 25th driving distance during his win last season.
The Irishman crucially ranked 1st in putts per GIR and putts per round – clinical. David Lynn, back in 2013, ranked 70th for driving distance before he lifted the trophy.
Scrambling, putting and greens in regulation will be the key to victory this week. Another stat column to look out for will be birdie average.
fancy a punt?
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Our first of two South African picks this week. Although a triple European Tour title winner, Coetzee has never actually won on European soil. He comes to Portugal straight off the back of his best finish of the year with a T-3 at the KLM Open. He ranked inside the top 20 for both putting stats and also ranked 1st in driving distance.
It’s his putting ability that really stands him out this week – he ranks 16th putts per GIR and 21st putts per round on the whole Tour. He’s never missed a cut at this tournament and has two top six finishes to his name.
It’s great to see PGA Tour regulars make the trip over to Europe. Along with Russell Knox, the Swede will tee it up in Portgual having failed to make it through to the latter stages of the Fed-Ex Playoffs.
Lingmerth’s putting in America has been very impressive throughout 2017 seeing him rank 17th in strokes-gained putting and 4th putts per round. He is without a strong finish since his T-5 at the Quicken Loans in July but has only missed one cut in his last four starts. Knowing the drop down in quality, the Swede will come in confident of a big week.
The German is without a win in nearly three years now but the past few weeks have brought some of the most consistent golf we’ve seen from him in recent times.
He narrowly lost out in the final of the Paul Lawrie Match Play and followed that up with a T10 in Denmark. He ranked 4th in both putts per round and putts per GIR for the week.
The Portugal Masters has been hit and miss for Siem but he does have a best of T-4 here in 2009, one of his best career finishes to date.
Colsaerts has not enjoyed the 2017 he would have hoped for although a T-3 at the prestigious BMW PGA saw him rise 50 places in the World Rankings earlier in the season.
The Belgian shot one of his career-best rounds at this course in 2014 when he recorded a 60 on day one. He went on to finish 2nd behind Alex Levy in a shortened 36-hole event. That performance is something we haven’t forgotten about and is why we’re going with this instinctive pick. He finished in the top 20 in the years either side of his runner-up finish showing this is a track well-suited to the big hitter.
South African pick number two comes in the shape of Justin Walters. His 2nd place here in 2013 represents the best finish of his career and this will be at the forefront of his mind as he enters the week.
The stars seemed to have aligned as he finished T-3 last week in the Netherlands, also one of the best finishes of his career. He ranked 6th putts per GIR and 4th putts per round on his way to that finish. The mixture of course and current form makes him a tasty outside prospect.
The Scot is a really interesting outsider this week given he was first round leader at this event last year. He finds himself way down in the betting after an abysmal 2017. He has no top 10 finishes to his name.
But there were plenty of positives to take from his recent T-14 finish in Denmark where he ranked 3rd putts per GIR and 4th putts per round. He has made his last three cuts at Vilamoura which is also the number of European Tour titles he has in the locker showing he can get it done if he starts well.