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The Portugal Masters Preview
Our golf writer takes a look at the betting for the Portugal Masters at the Oceanico Victoria Golf Course which gets underway this coming Thursday.
It’s strange how the cosmic forces align. Alex Noren’s remarkable performance at the British Masters saw him win a third title of his European Tour season. And now attention turns to the Portugal Masters, the site of Andy Sullivan’s tearaway nine shot victory last season: that was indeed Sullivan’s third victory of the European Tour season. So there is a sense that a baton has been passed. Last season’s tournament was tormented by howling winds and rain, while 2014’s edition of the tournament was consigned to a 36 hole tournament due to weather.
This week’s forecast seems to be much more amenable. The Arnold Palmer designed Oceanico Victoria Golf Course has earned a reputation for low scoring and this year should prove no different. Flat and exposed, the four lakes that meander through gently through the heart of the course should not deter scoring too much. Expect the big hitters to be in business: six of the past nine winners ranked in the top 15 for driving distance. Speaking of which, the explosive Thomas Pieters returns to action and should give Alex Noren a terrific challenge should both find their game.
This tournament has added significance for the bubble boys sitting on the cusp of that top 110. Securing a tour card for next year will be uppermost in their minds while further up loftier ambitions take root. After the co-sanctioned HSBC event next week, the tour heads to Turkey to kick for the final legs of the Race to Dubai. The top ranked players will be searching for consistency as they aim to solidify their position in the top sixty, thereby guaranteeing a spot at the season closing Tour Finals.
The Portugal Masters | Thursday 20 Oct - Saturday 23 Oct | Oceanico Victoria Golf Course
2015: Andy Sullivan (-23) | 2014: Alexander Levy (-18) | 2013: David Lynn (over 36 holes) | 2012: Shane Lowry (-14) | 2011: Tom Lewis (-21)
Alex Noren (15/2), Thomas Pieters (8/1), Tommy Fleetwood (14/1), Alexander Levy (16/1), Andy Sullivan (18/1)
Alexander Levy To Win (16/1), To Place (7/2)
As the fourth favourite, this one hardly seems to be singing valuable. But I really think that Levy is on the cusp of something. Lest we forget that he won the championship in 2014 - sandwiched between two ignominious cuts. But his current form seems to indicate that this may be the 2014 incarnation of Levy in play. He won the European Masters and picked up a tie for 7th in the Italian Open. More importantly, he finished in a hugely creditable tie for fourth last weekend.
Nicolas Colsaerts To Win (28/1), To Place (6/1)
I have always had a soft spot for the mega-hitting Belgian. With another headlining Belgian equally renowned for prodigious length from the tee, it’s pretty understandable why Colsaerts can be overlooked. Colsaerts has found uncharacteristic consistency this season, with three top three finishes, including a strong showing at the Scottish Open. He also was in contention at the European Open till a late collapse left him in a tie for 13th. There is a history angle to this as well, with Colsaerts finishing as runner-up behind Levy in 2014. His huge driving should suit this course, which should forgive some of his more erratic tendencies.
Thomas Aiken To Win (40/1), To Place (17/2)
This is a slightly left field one. Aiken has had a fairly blank European Tour schedule, having only played in six events. He unsuccessfully tried to crack America and ultimately missed 11 out of 23 cuts. There were, however, some encouraging signs for the South African towards the end of that sordid campaign. A top 25 finish at the Wyndham was followed by two top thirty finishes on the competitive Web.Com Tour. He hits the ball a mile and has a combined total of 54 under par in his last six visits here. He could be a decent bet to place.
The Man to Beat
Thomas Pieters To Win (8/1), To Place (7/4)
The price may not be right, but it’s hard to look past the Belgian’s credentials. The winner in Denmark had a sensational Ryder Cup, recording the best ever tally for a first-time participant at the event. That’s saying something when you look at the pressure cooker environment of that particular event. He also finished second at the Czech Masters after an agonizing 4th place finish at the Olympics. He had some underwhelming performances in the aftermath of the Ryder Cup disappointment, but I expect Pieters to come back this week revitalized and focused on surging up the Race to Dubai rankings.