Unfortunately we couldn’t match Steve Bamford’s effort last week with his headline selection Justin Thomas easing home in South Korea, despite a promising start from 60/1 shot Ryan Fox who co-led after the first day before falling away. Marcus Kinhult was our best chance heading into Sunday and after making his way into the each-way places following an excellent 3-under front 9, he sadly added yet another double-bogey to his tally – his third in 2 days, plus a triple bogey on Friday – which essentially took him out of the equation.
This week we search for something better as we return to the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course for the 12th consecutive year for the Portugal Masters – a slight change in name to the course over the years shouldn’t put punters off as this is the same event being held on the same Arnold Palmer track as we’ve seen on the European Tour circuit since the tournament began. The course has undergone some renovations since we were last here though in an attempt to toughen it up a little, so it will be fascinating to see how that plays out this week here at Vilamoura.
With the big-money Zozo Championship taking centre stage in Japan this week and other elite players taking a breather before next week’s WGC HSBC Champions, the field here is fairly weak. Matt Wallace heads the betting at 11/1 at the time of writing from Martin Kaymer, Eddie Pepperell, Lucas Bjerregaard, Tom Lewis and Adri Arnaus, all of whom rate as 22/1 shots or shorter. The real narrative this week though will be that this is the final regular season event on the European Tour, meaning that those who need to jump a few spots in the Race To Dubai in order to secure their cards for next year will need to be 100% focussed on their game.
Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, Vilamoura, Portugal. Designer: Arnold Palmer, 2004; Course Type: Resort; Par: 71; Length: 7,191 yards; Fairways: Bermuda; Rough: Bermuda; Greens: L93 Bentgrass/Poa; Stimp: 10.5ft.
Course Overview. The Victoria course tends to be set up to suit the more aggressive players who can handle the fast, undulating bent/poa greens, however a premium still remains on finding the vast majority of greens in regulation to be in position to make a decent enough score to contend on Sunday afternoon.
The slightly extended 7,191 yard, par 71 Arnold Palmer design is pretty flat and exposed with water in play on 7 holes and a number of strategically-placed fairway bunkers to contend with; historically it’s not been overly difficult by today’s standards and a score of 18-under par or better has been required to be in with a sniff coming down the stretch.
The addition of some new trees since we last visited this part of the Algarve is intended to prevent the bombers from cutting corners on a number of holes, plus a new strain of Bermuda rough has been used to help the course become more water-efficient, however the course hasn’t changed fundamentally and with good weather forecast I’d be surprised if it massively changes the task at hand.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Portugal Masters that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2018: Tom Lewis, 50/1; 2017: Lucas Bjerregaard, 66/1; 2016: Padraig Harrington, 100/1; 2015: Andy Sullivan, 50/1; 2014: Alexander Levy, 70/1; 2013: David Lynn, 80/1; 2012: Shane Lowry, 66/1; 2011: Tom Lewis, 100/1; 2010: Richard Green, 50/1.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Vilamoura is here. A settled four days are expected with dry and largely sunny weather and temperatures reaching the high 60s Fahrenheit in the afternoons. The breeze will be generally a light to moderate 5-15mph, plus it does tend to pick up a little in the afternoon here which often isn’t always evident from the forecast.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the last 9 winners of this event gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:
- 2018, Tom Lewis (-22). 311.4 yards (12th), 41.1% fairways (69th), 76.4% greens in regulation (23rd), 41.2% scrambling (66th), 1.62 putts per GIR (5th)
- 2017, Lucas Bjerregaard (-20). 339.1 yards (4th), 60.7% fairways (16th), 81.9% greens in regulation (4th), 53.8% scrambling (33rd), 1.61 putts per GIR (1st)
- 2016, Padraig Harrington (-23). 301.5 yards (25th), 51.8% fairways (49th), 69.4% greens in regulation (67th), 81.8% scrambling (2nd), 1.54 putts per GIR (1st)
- 2015, Andy Sullivan (-23). 310.6 yards (11th), 71.4% fairways (9th), 81.9% greens in regulation (5th), 100% scrambling (1st), 1.66 putts per GIR (4th)
- 2014, Alex Levy (-18). 281.3 yards (40th), 71.4% fairways (11th), 77.8% greens in regulation (46th), 100% scrambling (1st), 1.46 putts per GIR (1st)
- 2013, David Lynn (-18). 268.9 yards (67th), 42.9% fairways (70th), 77.8% greens in regulation (20th), 87.5% scrambling (2nd), 1.64 putts per GIR (7th)
- 2012, Shane Lowry (-14). 302.3 yards (15th), 66.1% fairways (13th), 75.0% greens in regulation (13th), 55.6% scrambling (40th), 1.65 putts per GIR (1st)
- 2011, Tom Lewis (-21). 309.5 yards (4th), 58.9% fairways (40th), 86.1% greens in regulation (4th), 80.0% scrambling (2nd), 1.74 putts per GIR (33rd)
- 2010, Richard Green (-18). 281.3 yards (43rd), 71.4% fairways (14th), 83.3% greens in regulation (11th), 41.7% scrambling (59th), 1.72 putts per GIR (20th)
In lower-scoring years the winner has generally dominated on the par 4s. Lewis was -11 for the par 4s last year, Bjerregaard was -9, Harrington was -14, Sullivan was -13, Levy was -11 over two rounds, Lynn -10, Lewis -7 and Green -9.
With winners like Lynn and Green in the past 9 years, long hitters don’t seemingly hold all the cards here at Vilamoura, instead finding a high number of greens in regulation and performing fantastically on and around the greens seems to be the way forward – although I’d still err a little on the side of power personally.
Incoming Form: 6 of the past 9 winners here had recorded a win (Lewis, Sullivan, Levy) or a runner-up finish (Lynn, Lowry, Green) of some descriptions in that season to date, so had been clearly knocking at the door at various points that year; even Harrington with his pretty non-descript incoming form had finished 13th at the US PGA Championship which was a few levels higher than this:
- 2018, Tom Lewis: 30/MC/26/10/47/MC/3/29/6/65/1/3
- 2017, Lucas Bjerregaard: MC/62/7/59/MC/MC/61/MC/17/28/43/9
- 2016, Padraig Harrington: MC/MC/9/30/21/36/13/64/21/MC/MC/63
- 2015, Andy Sullivan: 17/6/13/MC/6/62/30/MC/MC/18/MC/46
- 2014, Alex Levy: 57/12/25/MC/12/35/21/58/30/67/MC/25
- 2013, David Lynn: MC/MC/MC/17/MC/53/22/MC/19/MC/23/MC
- 2012, Shane Lowry: 68/WD/MC/MC/51/17/11/2/49/MC/13/34
- 2011, Tom Lewis: 59/30/10/70
- 2010, Richard Green: 47/WD/2/MC/32/41/14/5/MC/11/8/29
Event Form: Overly positive form at the Victoria doesn’t look absolutely essential despite Tom Lewis having won this twice, both Padraig Harrington and David Lynn having recorded a 3rd place finish prior to their success and Lucas Bjerregaard arriving with consecutive top-12 finishes here.
Alex Levy and Tom Lewis (the first time around) were both playing here competitively for the first time when they won, and the other 3 winners since 2010 had hardly set the world alight on their previous attempts before lifting the trophy:
- 2018, Tom Lewis: 1/49/38/58/MC/29/39
- 2017, Lucas Bjerregaard: 47/9/12
- 2016, Padraig Harrington: 3/16/16/47/31
- 2015, Andy Sullivan: 37/46/47
- 2014, Alex Levy: Debut
- 2013, David Lynn: 40/14/41/WD/3/MC
- 2012, Shane Lowry: 30/54/16
- 2011, Tom Lewis: Debut
- 2010, Richard Green: 42
Despite the recent changes, this Arnold Palmer design is a resort course first and foremost with wide fairways to encourage the longer hitters to attack.
It’s interesting to note though that both Richard Green and David Lynn aren’t the most aggressive of players and both have prevailed here since 2010, so it’s clear that there’s more than one way to succeed around here. However, in general, I’d favour the more aggressive types who can attack through a combination of strong Total Driving performance coupled with a good week on and around the greens.
There’ll undoubtedly be a lot of focus on those players who are scrapping for their European Tour lives this week and typically 1 or 2 manage to pull the rabbit from the hat when it matters the most, which translates to a fascinating sub-plot for the event. Whether that will impact the eventual winner remains to be seen, however bearing in mind a player’s position on the Race To Dubai is more important this week than others.
My selections are as follows: