Right time for a change of scenery, change in the weather and playing conditions as the European Tour jet off to the sunny Algarve in Portugal to play the 12th edition of the Portugal Masters.
This long standing event is a firm favorite of the players and a great event to spectate. Obviously much better absorbed whilst soaking up the sun and a bottle of cold beer in hand but still with good coverage planned it should be an enjoyable event to watch from the luxury of your own home especially with the anticipated birdie fest on offer and very interesting field for various reasons
Designed by the late, great Arnold Palmer The Victoria Course is one of five courses at the Vilamoura resort, the Victoria opened in 2004 and just a year later staged the World Cup, won that year by Stephen Dodd and Bradley Dredge of Wales, before the first Portugal Masters was played here in 2007.
Playing to 7,146-yard and a par of 71, the picturesque, often sun-drenched Victoria has generous fairways and gentle rough and therefore puts a premium on close approaches, a solid putting stroke and plentiful birdies.
Despite its easier style of playability, there are a number of hazards strategically lurking across the 90-hectare site for those straying too far off line, with several lakes and bunkers in play and plenty of natural vegetation including carob, olive and almond trees.
Interview with Robert Karlsson (Conducted by European Tour 2017)
“The course has changed a bit over the years,” said Karlsson, who topped the European Tour money-list in 2008. “When we first came here it was a par 72 but since then they have added a few new tees and changed it to a par 71. I remember the first couple of years were really low scoring – and it’s still pretty low scoring now!”
“Like any low scoring golf course, you need to play the par fives well. There are only three of them now but the last two – 11 and 17 – are holes on which you can drop shots, with water on both, or pick up shots.
Greens and putting
“Any time it’s low scoring you need to make a lot of birdies and therefore make a lot of putts,” continued Karlsson. “Staying away from the big numbers is crucial here, too, because it’s tough to keep up with the field if you are making mistakes somewhere like this. So you need to play solid all round but chipping and putting well is key and if you stay on your game then you are going to get a lot of short irons and chances to put some good numbers together.”
The 315-yard par four 15th
“A short par four, you can get really close to the green or sometimes even drive it so this is an important hole to make your birdies – or eagles – on. It’s 315 from the back of the one and only tee so a lot depends on wind direction. With the wet weather we’ve had here in recent years that got a bit tougher but with all the sunshine this week, we’ll be looking to get it close here.”
The 463-yard par four 18th
“There are a couple of really tough par fours out there actually. The third, when it plays into the wind, the seventh and, of course, the 18th. Playing with the normal wind, which is off the left on the tee, makes it tricky with the water down the left. You need a good tee shot and a good approach shot to stay out of trouble and under the pressure of trying to contend to win an event, that’s not always that easy!”
How it’s played in previous years
Low scoring is the name of the game at the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course. The tournament record score to par is Steve Webster in 2007 (25 under on a par 72), while in 2015 Andy Sullivan recorded the lowest total score at 261 (23 under on a par 71).
The average winner here, meanwhile, has made a chunky 25 birdies through four tournament rounds. In 2007 Webster made a record 28 birdies, matched by Mikko Korhonen when he finished tied third last year, while Alexander Levy made 18 in just 36 holes of the weather-curtailed 2014 edition - the 18th most birdies in the first two rounds of any tournament since 1999.
The course average from 2007 to 2016 has been 70.1 (0.9 shots under par) and among other regular European Tour venues, only the Old Course and Castle Stuart have been more favourable to birdie-makers over the last few years. Conversely, bogey-avoidance is less crucial meaning Greens in Regulation are much less important here than normal.
• Most likely to be birdied – 12th hole (52% birdie or better)
• Most likely non-par 5 to be birdied – 15th hole (36% birdie or better)
• Most likely to be bogeyed – Seventh hole (30% bogey or worse)
• Easiest GIR – Fifth hole (87%)
• Toughest GIR – Seventh hole (43%)
• Easiest Fairway to hit – Fifth hole (66%)
• Toughest Fairway to hit – Third hole (50%)
Plenty of household names will be appearing this week including Ryder cup stars in the form of Garcia and Olesen, we also have appearances from multiple past winners of this event and the inclusion of a good few sponsors invites. Looking a little better stacked for options at the top and plenty of bargain price players to grab lower down.
Looking like an absolutely gorgeous week for some low scoring golf, the sun will be out, a steady breeze present and maybe the odd cloud floating by but other than that not much to report. As it stands early Thursday am players might have the best of the scoring conditions but honestly I believe the advantage to be so minimal that its not really worth factoring in to your line ups. Pick the players you like and roll with them if anything changes updates will be posted in time.
Key Stats and Strategy
Very simple one this week as far as looking into what is required to be successful:
Hot with the putter - Going to be low scoring so essential opportunities are converted
Greens in regulation and proximity - Players will have shorter clubs in hand going into the greens on a good number of occasions. So capitalizing with good iron and wedge play will create scoring chances.
Scrambling - Due to low scoring it will be essential that when mistakes are made players aren't moving backwards with silly dropped shots around the green.
Par 4 and Par 5 Scoring - Traditionally par 4 scoring on this track has been the key to going low. The par 5's on offer will also need to be taken advantage of and as mentioned earlier extremely crucial players aren't giving shots back to the field on these potentially awkward holes.
As always form, course fit and course history has been researched and weighted into my picks
My Picks and Plays
Lucas Bjerregaard - $10,700 - You will have to eat some chalk to play last years winner, but with the blistering form he’s currently displaying and back on a course that he knows how to win on its hard not to include him in some line ups this week.
Sergio Garcia - $10,300 - You can be assured that Sergio has been working insanely hard on his game over recent weeks. One of the only super stars within the field and on his day comfortably the best player in the field.. Ignore the form its only a week until he tees it up at the Ryder Cup and his game will be sharp.
$9,000 - $10,000
Eddie Pepperell - $9,800 - Despite missing out on a chance to be in this years Ryder Cup team, Eddie seems to be in that great place right now and backing it up with consistent solid performances. 3rd here last year and 4 top 10’s in his last 6 outings this year on Tour.
Thomas Detry - $9,500 - Playing some great golf at the moment and very much like Bjerregaard so very close to that big win. Placed 20th here last year. 3rd last week, (weeks prior mc,7th,13th,13th) Course fit is fantastic but once again just wish he wouldn't be so chalky.
Padraig Harrington - $9,400 - Picking Paddy the last couple of weeks has been so easy and very profitable thanks to a 2nd and 5th. He plays great golf when he’s back in Europe and even more so when he has some new ‘fangdangled’ quirk in his swing. If he’s swinging weird, play him.
Matt Wallace - $9,200 - 3 time winner on the European Tour but still a bit of a gamble as he is prone to a few too many off weeks. However with that said Matt took last week off to rest up and get ready for Portugal. One things for sure he will go out there trying to win and even if he doesn't, providing he makes his share of putts we can at least expect high draftkings point scoring.
$8,000 - $9,000
Hideto Tanihara - $8,700 - The form is just way to good to ignore, it will be his first visit to this course. However, with the way he is making the game look simple this much easier scoring course in theory should present even more birdie opportunities.
Jordan Smith - $8,600 - Starting to find that gorgeous swing again and posting scores and results we were treated to last year. Trending in the right direction with a 10th place finish last week. Solid par 4 player and very good on the par 5’s.
Alexander Levy - $8,200 - Probably the most aggressive player on tour, you can be sure Alex wont leave anything back and on this resort course will be thinking about racking up birdies in there abundance
$7,500 - $8,000
Tom Lewis - $8,000 - Everything sets up great for Tom this week. Full of confidence after a well deserved win on the Challenge Tour. Played really well in the D+D Czech Masters (6th) and back on a course where winning is familiar.. love this play.
Pablo Larrazabal - $7,900 - Back in the write up for the 3rd week running, served my line ups well for the last couple of weeks but hoping for just a little better and for a top 10 place or better here. Games looking good and Pablo seems confident in his game and himself.
Nacho Elvira - $7,800 - Although he missed the cut last week I wont let that put me off playing a little of him this week. Great course fit and if the putts drop has more than enough game to be a contender.
$7,000 - $7,500
Richard McEvoy - $7,400 - Since going back to back with his Challenge and European Tour wins his game has remained solid and continued to post good scores. probably only a top 20 here but that's all you’ll need if playing cash games.
Sam Horsfield - $7,300 - Gotta be honest this is more of a hunch than an educated selection. Sam was playing insanely good golf this time last year, obliterated the course and the field during tour school to give him the opportunity he has now.
Jon Thomson - $7,200 - Big hitting, birdie making machine. Finished 15th last week but played much better than the end result.. great price if we can get more of the same.
Hunter Stewart - $7,100 - What a bargain, I just have to be careful not to go to heavy with my ownership. Going by the way he played in the Czech Masters this course could provide another great result.
$7,000 or less
Gavin Green - $7,000 - I might have to take back my previous statement about Levy… Super aggressive, hits it miles and when hot pours in birdie putt after birdie putt. Has the firepower to make this course look easy and could be worth a little punt as FRL.
David Lipsky - $6,800 - Had a shocker last Thursday that gave him no chance of even making the cut. Hopefully this will drive ownership right down. I feel his game here is very well suited and backed up by his 5th place finish 2 years ago. Also he has the potential to score incredibly well and this slightly easier layout will hopefully help him avaoid so many mistakes as well.
Alvaro Quiros - $6,400 - So unpredictable and a massive gamble but if he turns up is another player that has won here previously and has the long game to create easier chances than the majority of the field.
Next Up For Me
As soon as that last putt is holed on Sunday afternoon, ill be champing at the bit to get my Ryder Cup week started.
Monday - I’ll be up well before the birds and ready to make the long car and train journey down to Paris. Luckily to break up the day we will be stopping at Belle Dune GC for a round. Ranked 17th in France this is one special course, a blend of styles that has you hitting between tall pines then navigating your way across incredible dunes.
Tuesday - I will be getting my first sight of Le Golf National, off to watch the practice in the morning, scope out the course to find some of the best vantage points ready for tournament play and check out the easiest spots to grab a beer. Then its either hang around in the afternoon to watch the celebrity matches or off to Les Aisses for a late afternoon round.
Wednesday - Were at Fontainbleau GC, regarded as one of Frances very best if not the best in the country. Then into Paris for the afternoon/evening.. guess its only right to check out the Eiffel Tower, even thought me and heights aren't exactly friends.
Thursday - Back to Le Golf National to take in more of the practice sessions. Golf late in the afternoon at Saint Nom La Breteche (Former host of the Lancôme Trophy). Then time to catch up with DB and Pat in the evening.. Its been exactly 2 years since I last had a chance to grab a beer or two with them so most definitely long overdue and eagerly anticipated.
Friday/Saturday/Sunday - The plan is simple for these 3 days… Its Ryder cup and were all gonna be there to see the greatest golfing show to date.. Of course capped off nicely with a win for Europe ;-)
Monday - One last chance to play golf and spend some time with the Tour Junkies, As it stands were booked to play La Boulie at 8am with 4 massive hangovers. Then its that long drive back up to Calais before driving onto the train to get back across the channel to England.
So with all of this going on next week I will be posting loads on twitter about the Ryder Cup experience and my week in France. Also don't forget to check in with Tour Junkies on Instagram and Twitter, no doubt some hilarious videos (mainly containing Pat on planet Titos) will be put up and plenty of insight to come from both the boys as well.
As always best of luck to you all in your line ups and fingers crossed for green screens in there abundance. (Especially for me this week, I cant imagine the beers will be cheap at the Ryder Cup and they need paying for somehow)