Dave Tindall

Across the Pond

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Open de Portugal Preview

Monday, May 08, 2017


Portugal is the destination for the European Tour’s first 72-hole strokeplay event of the season on actual European soil.

 

It’s a low-key start for what should be an intriguing run of events, with notable stops including the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in two weeks’ time and July’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

 

We get the ball rolling gently at Morgado Golf Resort where the Open de Portugal returns after a seven-year absence as a dual-ranked European and Challenge Tour event.

 

The winner secures full European Tour exemption until the end of the 2018 season so it’s a significant prize for those without status.

 

As you can imagine, it’s a field low in quality as highlighted by Trevor Fisher Jr. of South Africa being listed as favorite with the bookmakers.

 

 

The Course

 

The European Tour website says: “The Morgado Golf Course has the typical characteristics of a links course – with flat fairways and Scottish-inspired bunkers – but which, instead of being beside the sea, like a traditional links, is set in an area of parkland.”

Portuguese native Ricardo Gouveia adds: “I’ve played Morgado a lot of times. It used to be a bit short and quite open but I heard they’ve added a few more tees to the course so it’s going to be more challenging, and if the wind blows it’s really going to be a good test for all the golfers.” That could be fairly diplomatic.

The general feeling is that the pros could tear this course apart and shoot the lights out. Get this, the official scorecard says it measures just 6,399 yards which is way shorter than any course we’ve seen at this level although, as Gouveia says, perhaps new tee boxes will extend it. However, could this be the scene for the European Tour’s first sub-60 round? What will make that harder is that it’s a par 73 (an extra par 5) so someone will have to card a 14-under.

 

UPDATE: The European Tour has changed the scorecard on their website. It continues to be a par 73, but it has been stretched to 7,419 yards, in contrast to the figure highlighted earlier in the week and mentioned above. 

 

 

The Weather

 

Not being right by the sea means extra protection from the wind although it can still blow hard in this part of the world. The forecast suggests it could gust at over 20mph throughout the week while there’s a t-storm threat on both Thursday and Friday. Expect plenty of sunshine on the weekend and, with the winds a little lighter, perhaps Saturday is the most likely day for that magic 59.

 

 

The Leading Contenders

 

Trevor Fisher, Jr.

It’s a relatively short hop to Portugal for the South Africans in the field and Fisher looks the most likely to cash in on this weak field. The European Tour regular has been solid this season with T29 or better in four of his last five starts including top 10s at his home South African Open (T5) and his latest outing at the Trophee Hassan II (T5). He likes a birdie-fest too having won his only European Tour event (2015 Africa Open) with 24-under.

 

Ricardo Gouveia

The local man has found some form with 19-26-36 in his last three starts and is looking noticeably leaner after getting in shape for his upcoming wedding. His form in home European Tour events in Portugal is 58-25-31-22 so Gouveia hasn’t quite delighted the locals yet although he doesn’t look far away. He played some really good golf in last week’s GolfSixes so this could come at a good time for him.

 

Paul Lawrie

Former Open champ Lawrie will hope the winds really blow as he’s an expert in such conditions. His website reveals that he joined his son in playing three events on the Portugal pro tour in Lisbon recently. “I played nicely in spells but again putted poorly to finish 9th, 5th and 3rd but it was ideal to get some competitive golf with some sun on our backs,” he wrote in his blog. He generally plays well there and his CV shows 5th in last year’s Portugal Masters and a couple of other second places in Euro Tour events held there. The veteran Scot also won the Dimension Data Pro-Am in South Africa on his last start so if he can hole his share he should be right up there.

 

Max Orrin

Orrin has been mixing his time between the European and Challenge Tours in the last few months with T23 (Joburg) and T27 (Trophee Hassan II) in the former and T16 (Kenya) and T15 (Turkish Airlines) in the latter. The 22-year-old Englishman has yet to make the top 10 in his 20 European Tour starts but this is an obvious chance for him to change that stat.

 

Aaron Rai

In-form Challenge Tour players have to be watched closely this week and Rai tops the Road To Oman standings after winning the Kenya Open (his mum was born there) with 17-under at the end of March. We also saw him play some good golf when T7 in the Joburg Open (first-round 65 in just his third European Tour event) and the Englishman can get hot with the putter so should enjoy this test.

Ricardo Santos

The other home hope this week, Santos thrilled the local Portuguese galleries when landing the previous co-sanctioned event on his own turf, the 2012 Madeira Islands Open. He won that with 22-under after closing with a 63. That helped him win the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award but, despite not kicking on since then and falling to the second tier, he’s found a groove recently with a pair of top 20s in his last two Challenge Tour starts.

 

Marcus Kinhult

The youngster made us sit up when taking the halfway lead at his home Nordea Masters in Sweden in 2015 when still a teenager. At the time he was just the third amateur to lead a European Tour event after 36 holes although he slipped back to T33. Since then, he won his full card at Q-School after turning pro only to find the jump too much but he’ll be back in his comfort zone in this field and has recent Challenge Tour form of 6-4-12-8.

 

Pep Angles

One of the Tour’s longest hitters (averages 319.6 yards off the tee), Angles could really make hay on this tiny layout. The 23-year-old Spaniard has already banked three top 20s in this his rookie season and fired a 64 in his closer at the Hong Kong Open.

 

Jaco Ahlers

Now a six-time winner on the Sunshine Tour after reeling off a hat-trick of wins in 2016, Ahlers is now trying his luck on the European Tour for the first time after coming through Q-School last November. He banked a couple of top 25s on home South African turf and also dropped down to the Challenge Tour to take T9 in the recent Kenya Open. That included an opening 64 so he’s one to consider.

 

Florian Fritsch

The man who won’t fly doesn’t get involved until the Tour reaches his native Europe or nearby Africa so takes October-March off. He ended 2016 in fine style with three top seven finishes in six appearances but MC at the Trophee Hassan II is his only start this year since T44 in last October’s Portugal Masters.

 

 


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Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.
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