Portugal Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
IF IT'S the middle of May then it can only possibly mean one thing. The European Tour finally bowls up in...Europe!
After months spent visiting such far-flung destinations as Australia, Qatar, India, Dubai and China, the Tour arrives in its home continent with the return of the Open de Portugal, bring played for the first time since 2010, when it was won by a certain Thomas Bjorn, the current Ryder Cup captain. How things have changed since the tournament was last staged. It was won in 2005 by Paul Broadhurst, who successfully defended the title the following year and has, of course, gone on to achieve big things on the SeniorsTour. The 2007 champion was Pablo Martin, it was won in 2008 by Gregory Bourdy and in 2009 by Ireland's Michael Hoey.
Other former champions include Van Phillips (1999) and Wayne Riley (1996). Phillips, you may remember, used to play in a shirt and tie, and is now making a name for himself as a pundit, while Riley has become the cheeky-chappie who provides hilarious on-course reports for Sky Sports.
This year's instalment will be played at Morgado Golf and Country Club, a par 73 that features wide fairways and seems certain to be set up to encourage some very low scoring. Sadly, the field is hardly one that could be described as stellar but that will take nothing away from the quality of golf we are likely to witness.
And what an opportunity it provides for Ricardo Gouveia to win on home soil. The 25-year-old won three times on the Challenge Tour and finished third at the NedBank Challenge in November last year as he finished the season in superb fashion. Most pundits expected him to kick on in 2017, but it really hasn't happened for him. He missed four successive cuts, but has shown encouraging signs recently, finishing in a tie for 19th, 26th and 36th in his last three starts.
Gouveia is a quality player who benefited from a one-month lay-off from the middle of March. He went away and worked hard on his game and is now beginning to enjoy the fruits of his labour. He goes into his home event in 95th place in the Race to Dubai, but this just might be the week where he turns everything around. He will have tremendous local support and will know that this tournament represents a golden opportunity to secure his playing rights for next season and allow him to be rather more selective with his playing schedule for the rest of 2017.
There will also be a lot of attention focused on the performance of Jose-Filipe Lima, another Portuguese golfer who, at the age of 35, has bounced back and forth between the European and Challenge Tours. He has four Challenge Tour victories to his credit and way back in 2004 won the St Omer Open, a full European Tour event. He has had a shocking season to date, making just one cut, but he will surely be inspired by playing on home soil.
Eddie Pepperell is another who is drinking at the second-chance saloon. It was a huge shock when he lost his card last season, not least to the player himself. He emerged at the same time as Tyrrell Hatton, and while Hatton has gone on to achieve wonderful things, it all went south for Pepperell. To his credit, he picked himself off the floor and went off and won his card back at qualifying school, vowing that he would never again allow himself to be in that position again.
There is a school of thought that perhaps Pepperell found things rather too easy and didn't work as hard on his game as he should have done. His talent is not in question. In 2015 he had four top-five finishes and played in The Open and the US PGA Championship, but the following year he missed 12 cuts. He was in the mix after 36 holes of the Indian Open in March before shooting rounds of 78 and 76 at the weekend. It remains the only cut he has made this season. Pepperell is too good a player to continue struggling like this. He surely just requires one good week to turn his fortunes around.
Ricardo Gouveia. A huge talent
Eddie Pepperell. Deserves a change of fortune
Ricardo Gouveia. First win can't be far away
Eddie Pepperell. Too good to keep struggling
Tom Lewis. Don't write off the Englishman just yet
Robert Dinwiddie. Back from injury
Craig Lee. Hugely underrated player
Oliver Fisher. At his best he can beat anybody
Jose-Filipe Lima. Would relish a big week
Robert Rock. Showing signs of best form again
Paul Peterson. Consistent American left-hander
Tags: european tour
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