Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Portugal Masters Tips 2021

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After an enforced week’s break on the European Tour as a result of the WGC HSBC Champions being cancelled for the second successive year, we’re back in action this week as the Race to Dubai heads towards its climax.

This week we return to the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course for the 14th consecutive year for the Portugal Masters, before heading to Dubai for the Aviv Dubai Championship on the Fire Course at Jumeirah; we then hop across to the Earth Course the week after for the Tour’s finale to round off the season.

Needs must at this time of the year and with just 108 players teeing it up this week, many of the field will have a keen eye on their R2D ranking with those around or inside the top 50 looking to bolster or improve their position. Others further down the list will be looking to ensure that they’re inside the top 122, which is the provisional position for retention of playing rights into next season.

Minwoo Lee is the highest ranked player in the field in terms of Race to Dubai points, however it’s Matt Wallace who heads the betting at around 14/1 as he returns to the European Tour having spent much of this year Stateside. Laurie Canter, Beef Johnston, Richard Bland and Thomas Pieters all rate in the 20/1 to 25/1 bracket or thereabouts in what is a decent enough field on a course that we’re all familiar with.

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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; 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 in recent times.

The addition of some new trees prior to the 2019 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. 2020, George Coetzee, 16/1; 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 60s Fahrenheit in the afternoons. The breeze will be generally a moderate 10-15mph throughout.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Analysing the final stats of the last 11 winners of this event gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:

  • 2020, George Coetzee (-16). 297.8 yards (15th). 48.2% fairways (48th), 68.1% greens in regulation (32nd), 69.6% scrambling (13th), 1.59 putts per GIR (2nd)
  • 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; Lewis was -11, Bjerregaard was -9, Harrington was -14, Sullivan was -13, Levy was -11 over two rounds, Lynn -10 and Lewis -7. -16 under from George Coetzee last year was the second-highest winning score in that stretch detailed above and that was reflected in his par-4 scoring of -7.

Strokes Gained: From a Strokes Gained perspective, both Steven Brown and George Coetzee topped SG Putting on their way to victory over the past 2 seasons:

  • 2020: George Coetzee. T: 21st; A: 9th; T2G: 10th; ATG: 45th; P: 1st
  • 2019: Steven Brown. T: 35th; A: 35th; T2G: 33rd; ATG: 37th; P: 1st

A strong approach and tee-to-green game is a viable route to getting into contention here, however the final piece of the jigsaw since Strokes Gained stats have been captured on the European Tour has been an excellent week with the flat stick.

Key: T: SG Off the Tee; A; SG Approach; T2G: SG Tee to Green; ATG: SG Around the Green; P: SG Putting.

Incoming Form: 7 of the past 11 winners here had recorded a win (Coetzee, 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.

2019 winner Steven Brown had recorded his best finish of an otherwise disappointing season the week before in France, whereas George Coetzee arrived in hot form, having finished 2/1 on the Sunshine Tour on his previous 2 starts:

  • 2020, George Coetzee: 24/21/6/MC/MC/2/8/6/7/MC/2/1
  • 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, Lucas Bjerregaard arriving with consecutive top-12 finishes here and George Coetzee having recorded three top-7 finishes around these parts prior to winning last year.

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:

  • 2020, George Coetzee: 3/6/21/31/7/20/14
  • 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:

Matt Wallace 4pts Win 14/1 with bet365

The big prizes are dished out at the Earth Course in a fortnight’s time, however before we get to that point some players need to ensure that they’re on the attendee list in Dubai in the first instance, and to that end Matt Wallace needs to produce the goods this week or next to ensure that he’s teeing it up.

Of course, 82nd in the rankings isn’t a reflection of an average, or in the case of a player of Wallace’s ability, disappointing season; on the contrary, the Englishman has performed well on the PGA Tour, making it as far as the first Play-Off event and finishing 111th overall to given himself another stab at glory in the 2021/22 season.

3rd at the Texas Open and 6th at the Wells Fargo Championship were as close as the 31 year-old came to registering his first PGA Tour title, having previously won 4 times on the European Tour, and those results in themselves elevate him above the vast majority of this field in terms of stature.

The new season has started positively for Matt with a renewed focus on his swing sequence producing finishes of 14th at the Shriners Children’s Open and 4th at the Zozo Championship, and he returns to this lower grade in good spirits and in confident mood.

Portugal was the scene of the Hillingdon man’s breakthrough win on the European Tour when he won the Open de Portugal with a 21-under total in 2017; 4th to halfway here at Vilamoura the following year and 8th overall in 2019 when he got to grips with the putting surfaces is encouraging. If there’s any kind of positivity with the flat stick this week then he’ll take all the beating.

A worthy favourite for this without being prohibitively short in the betting, Matt will also be acutely aware that at 64th in the OWGR he needs to finish off the season in positive fashion if he’s going to earn himself a coveted top-50 position for year-end and the opportunities that brings. RESULT: MC

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Joakim Lagergren – WD Pre-Event

Any event by the coast is a viable opportunity for Joakim Lagergren if you take even the most cursory of glances at his best career finishes, and I’ll give him another chance here this week having produced a tasty each-way return for us at the Dunhill Links at the end of September.

The Swede’s event form at the Dunhill Links will always get him some support from eagle-eyed punters, however his record here at Vilamoura isn’t too shabby either with 17th (2016), 14th (2019) and 3rd (2020) his best efforts alongside 3 further missed cuts. That’s kind of what you tend to get with the 27 year-old, all or nothing.

Wins here and at the Home of Golf by Lucas Bjerregaard in the recent past suggests that form lines can be drawn between the events to a certain degree, and with the putter working nicely of late – 1st, 19th and 15th for SG Putting over his past 3 starts – I can see the 2018 Sicilian Open winner making enough red numbers to contend here. WD Pre-Event

Julien Guerrier 1pt EW 80/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

Similar to Lagergren above, much of Julien Guerrier’s best work has also come with the coast in the near vicinity. The long-hitting Frenchman also ranks 20th on Tour for Driving Distance, which is no bad starting point in an event that lends itself to an aggressive approach, and putting both aspects together makes him an interesting play for this week given that he led this event at the halfway point last year.

Rounds of 62 and 68 here last September weren’t matched by his weekend efforts of 75 and 72, however he clearly enjoys the course having shown a glimpse of what he could do when closing with a 65 on debut 2 years prior.

Progressive Strokes Gained rankings in terms of Putting (13th, 6th) and Off the Tee (12th, 11th) over his last two starts is encouraging, and in that time he’s recorded his best result of the season, finishing 3rd at the Open de Espana, plus 25th at Valderrama which is far from his ideal style of course. His SG Approach game is his main weakness, however even that is improving in relative terms versus where he was entering this event last year. I’m anticipating another strong week from the 36 year-old this week, and at 103rd in the Race To Dubai the pressure should be off. RESULT: MC

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Renato Paratore 1pt EW 66/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfair Sportsbook

Following a run of four straight missed cuts, Renato Paratore‘s form seems to have picked up nicely over the past few weeks.

9th at the Spanish Open was achieved courtesy of a 67/65 weekend and 4th into Sunday at Valderrama was eye-catching given that penal track doesn’t overly suit his aggressive style. He came unstuck with a Sunday 75 in Sotogrande, however 11th on his last start in Mallorca was also noteworthy given he shot a 3rd round 64 and across all three events the flat stick was on fire, ranking 6th, 2nd and 2nd respectively for SG Putting.

Course form here of 57/73/27/21 doesn’t overly excite, however he’s sat inside the top-10 heading into Sunday on his last two attempts and led the SG Putting stats here in 2018.

The 24 year-old’s British Masters win last year – his second on Tour – came after a week’s rest following a top-15 finish and perhaps he’ll repeat that feat here this week. RESULT: MC

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Pep Angles Ros 1pt EW 150/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfair Sportsbook

Finally I’ll take a chance on Pep Angles given the dismissive price on offer, despite his 2nd place finish in Mallorca last time out.

Although officially ranking 55th in terms of Driving Distance for the season, the Spaniard is capable of challenging the longest players on Tour should he go all-out attack and this week’s test will allow him to open his shoulders and potentially build on his 12th place finish here in 2018. After a lacklustre opening round of 70, a pair of 65s put him in 8th position heading into Sunday and with more experience to his name since, including a win on the Challenge Tour last November, I’d expect a better outcome should he find himself in a similar position this year.

2nd on Portuguese soil on the Challenge Tour last September behind Garrick Higgo and ahead of defending champion George Coetzee is interesting form after another slow start, and if he can get out of the blocks a little quicker this Thursday then perhaps he can put himself in position to make a mockery of the odds chalked up about him this week. RESULT: T26

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:55GMT 1.11.21 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.