The Madeira Islands Open | Thursday 19 March - Sunday 22 March | Santo da Serra
This week the European Tour heads to Portugal for the Madeira Islands Open, an event which has traditionally been played in May but which has been pushed forward this year. This will come as a relief to the event organisers who have battled tough weather conditions the last few years. Hopefully this time around players get to play more than 36 holes. Santo da Serra hosts the event once again and this short track features plenty of challenges to keep things interesting. Situated on the coast, windy conditions are the norm and the undulating fairways are often difficult to hit. That being said, hitting fairways isn’t everything and rather the course seems to play into the hands of big hitters who leave themselves with short irons into the greens. This was evident two years ago when Peter Uihlein won despite hitting less than 50% of the fairways. As expected, the Madeira Islands Open hasn’t attracted the best field and near the top of the betting you’ll find a lot of names that you’ve never heard mentioned before. Don’t let that put you off though, there are still a handful of players to keep an eye on who are available at decent odds.
To Win Outright
Ricardo Santos 20/1
Justin Walters 22/1
Carlos Pigem 28/1
Kevin Phelan 28/1
Bradley Dredge 30/1
Peter Whiteford (40/1 a win, 88/10 a place)
With the lack of class golfers to bet on in this event it looks like focus has to be on big hitters who fare well in windy conditions and the first player to catch my eye is Peter Whiteford. Having grown up playing in windy conditions in England, this big hitter will know how to handle the stiff breeze that should blow almost constantly and that’s only going to be an asset. He has little current form to speak of and doesn’t seem to have played much golf at all over the past few weeks but this is one of those fields where anything can happen. If he plays his usual game he should be in the running on Sunday.
Jamie McLeary (100/1 a win, 22/1 a place)
I’m not convinced that course experience is going to make much of a difference this week but if it does there aren’t many players who have more of that than Scotsman James McLeary. He’s another relatively big hitter who grew up playing the windy Scottish links courses and won’t struggle on these undulating fairways. He’s desperate for a big finish so will relish the opportunity to play against a field like this and at 100/1 makes a lot of appeal. Each way is the bet for me.
Victor Riu (55/1 a win, 12/1 a place)
Victor Riu isn’t a name most golf punters will be familiar with but after opening at 70/1 he’s found a lot of support and is now widely available at 55/1. There must be a reason punters have backed him and a bit of research shows that he’s managed a two Top 25s in recent weeks. That may not seem like much but compared to the rest of the field he’s in hot form and will be keen to get himself into the Top 5 at least. If all goes to plan he has a real chance of pulling that off so I’m backing him each way.
Scott Henry (66/1 a win, 14/1 a place)
Scott Henry is arguably the only player in this field who ticks every box so it’s a surprise to see him available at 66/1. Last year he was narrowly edged out in a playoff after playing consistently in difficult conditions and with that in mind he’ll fancy his chances this week. Another Scotsman who knows how to play in the wind, he’ll be looking forward to putting his ability to hit the ball long to good use. If he strikes the ball as well as he did last year he should be in the mix come Sunday. Each way on Henry is the best bet of the week for me.