Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Portugal Masters Tips 2020

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A brutal week for scoring at Valderrama didn’t reap any rewards for my selections last week, with John Catlin running out the eventual winner despite not making a single birdie in his final round of 75.

This week we search for something better as we return to the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course for the 13th 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 11th hour addition of Tommy Fleetwood to the field meant that a number of early markets were ripped up and rebuilt with the world number 16 quite rightly heading affairs at around the 11/2 mark, despite an indifferent run of form since the resumption of professional golf. That said, incoming form of 35/29/59/44 has all been achieved at a grade far higher than this and he’s the worthy favourite this week given his undoubted class.

Behind Fleetwood there’s a very similar-looking field to that which we saw last week in Spain, with the notable addition of George Coetzee who arrives with Sunshine Tour form of 2/1 over the past fortnight, which in turn makes him the 18/1 second favourite here in the Algarve. Ryan Fox, Jorge Campillo, Joost Luiten and Haotong Li follow at 25/1 or shorter, however this event has consistently provided longer-priced winners than those mentioned thus far – more of which later.

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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 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 prior to last year’s event was 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 still expect high teens under par to be contending for the win on Sunday afternoon, give or take.

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key statistics for this week’s event that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at Vilamoura: Current Form | Course 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.

Course Winners. 2019, Steven Brown, 150/1; 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.

For a summary of winners’ odds on the European Tour for the past 10 years click here.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here. A mainly settled four days are expected with dry and largely sunny weather and temperatures reaching the high 70s Fahrenheit in the afternoons. The breeze will be generally a light to moderate 5-10mph for the first 3 days before a front moves in on Sunday which brings the potential for a breezier end to the tournament.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Analysing the final stats of the last 10 winners of this event gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:

  • 2019, Steven Brown (-17). 286.1 yards (46th). 53.6% fairways (30th), 76.4% greens in regulation (29th), 82.4% scrambling (2nd), 1.65 putts per GIR (1st)
  • 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. Brown was -13 for the par 4s last year; Lewis was -11, 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 Brown, Lynn and Green in the past 10 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.

Incoming Form: 6 of the past 10 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. Last year’s winner Steven Brown had recorded his best finish of an otherwise disappointing season the week before in France:

  • 2019, Steven Brown: 15/MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/15/64/MC/37/MC/11
  • 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

Course 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 4 winners since 2010 had hardly set the world alight on their previous attempts before lifting the trophy:

  • 2019, Steven Brown: 44/MC
  • 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 Steven Brown, Richard Green and David Lynn aren’t the most aggressive of players and each 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.

My selections are as follows:

Guido Migliozzi 2pts EW 50/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Betfred

A refreshed Tommy Fleetwood flying into this event with the majority of this field still reeling from a punishing 4 days at Valderrama creates an interesting dynamic to this week’s event. The addition of the 5-time European Tour winner to this week’s attendees pushed virtually all other prices out from the early shows available when his attendance was confirmed, however I’m still struggling to justify backing any of those at the top of the market given that every winner here since 2010 has been 50/1 or longer. Tommy has an obvious chance but I’ll pass given the skinny price on offer.

A couple of strong Sunshine Tour performances from George Coetzee puts him at a prohibitive price given he’s far from bulletproof at European Tour level when in contention, and the early departure of Haotong Li after a handful of holes last week has to be a concern. Joost Luiten failed to impress on a course that he’s done well in the past on last week and Jorge Campillo disappointed his supporters by following up a strong first day with a round of 78 and of the front runners, Ryan Fox might fare the best having flashed snippets of form over the past month or so.

For me though, I’m hoping that the trend of mid- to long-priced winners here continues and to that end I’m siding with Guido Migliozzi who bounced back to form last week after a poor run of results throughout the UK Swing. Perhaps a return to mainland Europe was the catalyst for the Italian’s form last week or perhaps it was coincidence; either way 6th place on one of the World’s most exacting tests was a major improvement from two missed cuts in his previous attempts and should be duly noted.

Now of course we’re moving to an entirely different test this week on a course that despite having been toughened up a little prior to last year’s renewal, still produces birdies at a far higher rate than Valderrama. For some that change of pace will come as a welcome respite; for others they may see the easing of conditions as a huge opportunity to keep their momentum going and for Migliozzi that should mean more positivity with the flat stick. 100 putts on the week in Andalucia was the best on show of the entire field and keeping that kind of performance going into a week where far more greens are likely to be hit could reap instant rewards.

Twice a winner on European Tour since stepping up from the Alps and Challenge Tours respectively, the 23 year-old is still learning his trade and we’re still learning what kind of tests make him tick. A 16-under victory at the Magical Kenya Open should be a good barometer for this week scoring-wise though given the adjustments to the course and 14th here last year on course debut bodes well given that he ranked 5th for SG Approach and 6th for SG Tee to Green on the week.

Given my comments in the preamble about par-4 scoring, it’s interesting to note that Guido was the only player to play the par-4s under par last week at Valderrama, and all things considered I’m happy to take the top of the market on with him this week. RESULT: T36

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Antoine Rozner 2pts EW 55/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

I seem to have been chasing my tail a little when it comes to backing Antoine Rozner of late, however a backdoor tie for 3rd last week should give him good heart and, like Migliozzi, some confidence to take forward into this week’s task.

A closing round of 70 at Valderrama was beaten by just 3 other players and meant that the talented Frenchman jumped from 12th to 3rd on the final day without ever really being in the heat of battle. Like Migliozzi, it was again the putter that was the catalyst for his performance last week, ranking 8th for putts per GIR and 7th for SG Putting, however 1st for SG Approach also excites on a test like this week where setting up birdie opportunities with quality approach shots is likely to be key.

2nd at the Mauritius Open back in December is the closest that the 27 year-old has come thus far to converting on the European Tour, however two wins on the Challenge Tour last year – achieved by a cumulative 11 strokes over his nearest challengers – suggests that he’s well capable of converting when the opportunity arises and I suspect he’ll get plenty of chances to do just that at this level over the next few months and years.

The fact that those wins came in consecutive weeks gives some hope that he can maintain and potentially improve on the momentum from last week’s effort. Although this is his first competitive attempt at Vilamoura, debutants have done well here in the past and the Parisian’s only other start on Portuguese soil resulted in a runner-up finish on the Challenge Tour a couple of years ago.RESULT: T36

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Alvaro Quiros 1pt EW 100/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Trying to second-guess when Alvaro Quiros will bounce back to form may require a crystal ball rather than eyes, ears and statistics, however there are enough clues for me to take a chance on him here this week at a 3-figure price.

From a practical perspective, the Spaniard lived a stone’s throw from the course and was attached to the course a few years ago and clearly knows the Victoria like the back of his hand, an assertion backed up by his win here back in 2008. Repeat performances are fairly commonplace here with Tom Lewis having won twice around these parts, Andy Sullivan coming within a shot of retaining his trophy in 2016, and Robert Karlsson, Francesco Molinari and Justin Walters all having finished runner-up here twice apiece.

Now the more speculative side of backing the 37 year-old is picking the actual week of his top performances. The consistency of performance that saw the Cadiz man win 6 European Tour events between 2006-11, and reach the dizzy heights of 21st in the World Rankings, deserted him as wrist injuries plagued his performances in the years that followed, however to his credit he did manage a further victory at the 2017 Rocco Forte Open amidst a plethora of missed cuts. The fact that he flashed some brief form the week before at the Open de Portugal when finishing 22nd gives some hope for this week given his similar 17th place finish last week on home soil.

Admittedly local ties to Valderrama gave Quiros a head-start last week on a track that shouldn’t suit his game, however I recall backing him successfully at the 2011 Dubai World Championship following a 7th place finish at another ‘alien’ track in Hong Kong and this week feels similar to me after seeing him feature at various points last week. RESULT: T44

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Robin Sciot-Siegrist 1pt EW 200/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Finally I’ll take another chance on the talented Frenchman Robin Sciot-Siegrist having backed him a week too early following the re-start at the Austrian Open where he missed the cut, only to watch him finish 3rd the week afterwards at the Euram Bank Open.

The 27 year-old earned his place on Tour via Q-School having agonisingly missed out automatically by 1 place in the season-long Challenge Tour rankings, despite finishing 2nd in November’s Grand Final. He seemingly took that form with him into this season, recording an 8th place finish in Mauritius courtesy of a pair of weekend 65s before finishing 3rd at the Vic Open in February.

Scot-Siegrist, who’s half-Irish on his mother’s side, has already tasted success as a professional back in 2017 on the Challenge Tour’s Northern Ireland Open and with his potent combination of long, accurate driving and excellent putting it may be simply a matter of time before he breaks through at the upper level, and Vilamoura would seem to work well for his style of game.

With every passing event we’re learning more about the type of game that Robin possesses, and a 3rd round 61 at the aforementioned Euram Bank Open would seem to contrast sharply with last week’s top-20 finish at Valderrama on debut, meaning perhaps we’ve got a very good, versatile golfer on our hands. This is an altogether more straightforward test and at the price I’ll take a chance on further positive play and improvement. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:50BST 7.9.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.