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Portugal Masters Preview

By: Golfshake Editor | Sun 16 Oct 2016

Post by Sport Writer Derek Clements

TWELVE months ago, Andy Sullivan won the Portugal Masters to celebrate his third victory of a remarkable season. The Englishman would use it as the springboard to qualify for Darren Clarke's Ryder Cup team that was beaten by the USA at Hazeltine.

Sullivan has continued his remarkable form since then and is well placed in this year's Race to Dubai as the Portugal Masters celebrates its 10th anniversary this year at the Oceanico Victoria Golf Club at Vilamoura. It was won by Alexander Levy in 2014, David Lynn in 2013, Shane Lowry in 2012, Tom Lewis in 2011 and Richard Green in 2010.

And those names perfectly sum up life as a tour professional - Levy and Lowry have made outstanding progress since their successes in this event, while Lynn's victory came from nowhere - and he hasn't looked like repeating it since. Lewis made a sensational start to his professional career but has since been in the doldrums, while Green is desperately battling to keep his card for next season.

One of the star attractions will be Thomas Pieters, the tall, big-hitting Belgium who became the most successful European Ryder Cup rookie in history when he won four points at Hazeltine, and has been walking on air ever since.

He finished in a tie for sixth place 12 months ago, and there is bad news for his rivals: "I absolutely love this place. The course can play quite long, which probably plays into my hands because not everyone can cut the corners or carry the bunkers from the tee. I know the course so well that I can almost play on autopilot, and I’ll be disappointed if I can’t challenge again this time.

"It’ll be my third year in a row, and I also played it once as an amateur, so it’s definitely one of my favourite stops on the Tour. I love the vibe, the course is great, the weather is usually good and the town is also really nice, so it ticks a lot of boxes for me. It’s not a holiday but it does feel like one, especially if the sun is shining, so I’m really looking forward to going back.”

Alvaro Quiros won way back in 2008 and should have secured many, many more than the six titles he has to his name, but he has had more than his share of injury woes. He hasn't won since 2011 but he is only 33, so there is tiome to get things back on track. There have been a few flashes of the old brilliance and, like Pieters, Quiros should love this place because he is also a long hitter. If he can sort out his short game and stay fit then he could still climb back up the rankings.

Keep your eyes on three players - Levy, Alex Noren and Victor Dubuisson. Having won the recent European Open, Levy has regained the confidence he showed in spades in 2014 and I expect him to go from strength to strength now. Noren is Sweden's second-best golfer, behind Henrik Stenson, the Open champion. Just watch his swing at Vilamoura and ask yourself when was the last time you saw one that was better. When he putts well, he is well-nigh unbeatable, and he is capable of some very, very low scores. 

It is impossible to know what to expect from Dubuisson. In full flow, the Frenchman is reminiscent of Seve Ballesteros at his finest, but he has serious issues with his confidence and self-belief. Who knows what it will take to get him fired up again but most people would be thrilled to see him at his best again soon.

There would be no more popular winner than Ricardo Gouveia, of Portugal, who has already done enough to secure his card for next season. The 25-year-old Challenge Tour graduate is right at home at this level, but he is desperate to enter the winner's circle. He will be under intense pressure to deliver the goods on home soil and it would be all too easy to write off his chances, but this guy can play.

To Win: Thomas Pieters. Now a world-class golfer

Each Way: Alex Noren. Having a great season

Each Way: Ricardo Gouveia. Secured his card, time to enjoy his golf

Fantasy Picks:

Thomas Pieters. Just adores this place

Alex Noren. Incredibly consistent

Ricardo Gouveia. Inspired by home support

Victor Dubuisson. Come on Victor, please!

Andy Sullivan. Will have great memories

Alexander Levy. Flying high again

Alvaro Quiros. So much talent

Pablo Larrazabal. Thrives in this part of the world

Marc Warren. In good form

Tommy Fleetwood. Hopefully given a kick up the backside by Tyrrell Hatton's win

Image Credit: Kevin Diss Golf Course Photography

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Tags: Thomas Pieters european tour Andy Sullivan

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