The European Tour leaves Scotland this week for Portugal’s Algarve and the Portugal Masters at the Oceânico Victoria Golf Club. There’s an incredible 74 players on the start sheet for the Portugal Masters who have previously won on the European Tour, including major champions Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie, Darren Clarke and Jose Maria Olazabal. Here are six things to watch for in Portugal this week.
1. Padraig Harrington has expressed his ambition to re-ignite his career with a view towards competing for Ireland in the 2016 Olympics. The three-time Major winner made a good start to that mission with a solid showing in last week’s Dunhill Links. If he can defrost his putter, which was decidedly chilly in the Dunhill, he might well have a chance this week. He was third in this tournament back in 2009.
2. Victorious European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley also plays in Vilamoura. The diminutive Irishman is enjoying a fabulous few weeks. After guiding Europe to glory at Gleneagles, he was named European Tour Golfer of the Month for September.
3. Last year it was Englishman David Lynn who took the title. He finished with a fabulous final round of 63 to sneak home by a single stroke. Lynn, who made the FedEx Cup playoffs on the 2013 PGA Tour, has not enjoyed such a good year in 2014. He comes into this tournament 108th on the “Race to Dubai” and will need to improve that position by 48 places if he’s to make the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, the top 60 in the standings qualify for that event.
4. €330,000 will go to the winner this week and, with Ian Poulter (currently in 60th spot) on just €420,000 for the season, it’s clear how significant a victory could be for a player further down the money list.
5. Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger will be among the favourites this week. He challenged in this year’s PGA Championship and has been third and fourth in this tournament in the past two seasons. 2006 U.S. Amateur Champion Richie Ramsay comes into the event on the back of a runner’s-up finish in St Andrews and Ireland’s Shane Lowry will be looking to continue his excellent run of form in an event where he was champion in 2012.
6. In last week’s thrilling Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, 2008 European Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson made a remarkable return to the winner’s circle. Having slipped to 792nd on the Official World Ranking and on the verge of another return to Q school, the Englishman came through against a stellar field, including Rory McIlroy, to take his first European Tour title. Wilson will play again in Portugal.