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Portugal Masters Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 01 Nov 2021 | Comments

GEORGE COETZEE held off spirited challenges from Tommy Fleetwood and Laurie Canter to claim a two-stroke victory at the Portugal Masters in 2020. Coetzee was a model of calm and composure throughout the final round in Vilamoura, closing with a bogey-free 66 for a winning score of 16 under par to land his fifth European Tour title.

Fleetwood, Canter and Joakim Lagergren kept the pressure on the leader down the stretch, with Fleetwood and Lagergren sharing the clubhouse lead on 13 under, with Coetzee just a shot ahead with a handful of holes remaining. Canter then jumped into a share of the lead with birdies at 16 and 17, but Coetzee matched those birdies to give himself a comfortable cushion to take down the final hole at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Club.

Coetzee slept on a one-shot overnight lead following his outstanding finish to his third round, and he was content to grind out the pars early on the final day until picking up birdies at the seventh and eighth to retain his place at the summit.

The 34-year-old made it three birdies in four holes at the 11th, while Fleetwood and Lagergren suddenly vaulted into the mix when both covered the inward nine in just 32 blows.

Fleetwood, who had three straight birdies from the second, picked up shots on three of the final four holes to return a 64, matching the low score of the day and ensuring he headed to Winged Foot for the US Open with his game in excellent order.

Lagergren provided an early highlight when he holed his approach to the third for an eagle-two, with the Swede also enjoying a birdie barrage over the final third of his round, and he looked set to close with three straight birdies until missing from six feet on the last green.

Canter also had a flying start and got to 14 under when he broke a frustrating run of ten straight pars with birdies at 16 and 17, and a par at the last snatched the clubhouse lead and meant Fleetwood could head to the airport to board his flight to New York.

But Coetzee stood up to the pressure and matched Canter's birdies at 16 and 17 to vault two strokes clear of the pack, and he ripped his final tee shot down the middle en route to a cast-iron par, and his third 66 of the tournament.

His victory was his first on European soil, and he said: "That was the next step for me really. I have always had a list of things I wanted to achieve in my career as a golfer and originally I never thought I would get as far as winning on the European Tour, so ticking that box a while back was really nice. Then I started to realise that I was a bit comfortable playing back home and I needed to go to the next step and win away from home.

"Some of the events I target are the Qatar Masters and the Portugal Masters because I tend to play really well in those countries and the golf courses really suit me. I was very nervous playing this course and knowing that there are booby traps around the corner every now and then, so stepping on to 18 and hitting the best drive I hit all week, I was shocked!

"My preparation mentally kind of paid off as well, that had been my focus in lockdown. You would be surprised at the stuff I had been working on. I was actually doing keepy-uppies with a football to see how many I could do to test my mental skills because we weren't allowed to do much else.

"I was practicing darts, all sorts of funny things away from golf to work on my mental game, which was really exciting for me and I didn't know what the end result was going to be but I am very happy to see that it is giving me victories."

This year’s Portugal Masters was originally due to take place at the end of April but was postponed due to travel difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was rescheduled and replaces the Volvo China Open.

Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “We are delighted to confirm the rescheduled Portugal Masters. Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course has been a popular venue with our players, and it has produced plenty of drama, so we are very pleased to be able to return for the 15th year in a row. We are grateful to the venue for accommodating us at a busy time of the year and to Turismo de Portugal for their long-term support of this tournament. It was disappointing that we were unable to sanction the Volvo China Open and look forward to that event returning to our schedule in 2022.”

Stefano Saviotti, Chairman of Dom Pedro Hotels & Golf Collection “The Portugal Masters is an incredibly important showcase of golf in The Algarve and we are delighted to once again welcome some of the world’s finest golfers to the Dom Pedro Victoria Course.

“After a difficult period, the European Tour's return to our facilities enables us to demonstrate why Vilamoura and Dom Pedro Hotels & Golf Collection has a reputation as one of Europe’s most sought after golf destinations. We look forward to hosting such a prestigious event and crowning the 2021 champion.”

Luis Araújo, President of Turismo de Portugal, said: "The Portugal Masters is of great importance for the tourism sector in Portugal, providing great media exposure of the whole country. It confirms that Portugal continues to be an excellent destination for all golfers, and an international presence in terms of major sporting events. This is a very prestigious competition, and it will be an important moment to showcase the international prestige of our country.”

This would normally be crunch time for those outside the top 123 in the Race to Dubai but with ongoing travel restrictions, the European Tour has decided to create a safety net for those who have not performed well in 2021 and, for the second year running, there will be no qualifying school. After the Portugal Masters there are just two tournaments to be played in Dubai before the curtain comes down on the 2021 season. To be sure of being able to complete a full schedule next year, players will still want to ensure that they finish this week inside that top 123.

And that means this is still a huge week for players such as Ross Fisher, Scott HendStephen Gallacher, Thorbjorn Olesen, former Portugal Masters champion Lucas Bjerregaard, Eddie Pepperell, and Robert Rock, who are all on the wrong side. 

At the other end of the scale, the top 50 will progress to the lucrative season-ending DP Dubai World Tour Championship, and that means that the likes of Sam Horsfield, Alex LevyAndy Sullivan and Thomas Pieters have it all to do.

The Course 

Dom Pedro Victoria is one of five golf courses within the Dom Pedro Hotels & Golf Collection. It measures 7.191 yards. It was originally designed by the legendary Arnold Palmer and is a parkland course featuring carob, olive and almond trees and several lakes.

Tournament Winners

The Portugal Masters was won in 2015 by Andy Sullivan, in 2016 by Padraig Harrington, in 2017 by Lucas Bjerregaard, in 2018 by Tom Lewis, in 2019 by Steven Brown and last year by George Coetzee. 

Form Guide

Laurie Canter

Laurie Canter has struggled to believe in his own ability but a runner-up finish at the BMW PGA Championship has turned things around, and his outstanding form has continued in Spain. He should have won the Andalucia Masters but a final round of 76 proved very costly, and also played well in Mallorca. Min Woo Lee could be the next big thing to emerge from Australia. He won the Scottish Open in July and finished second at the recent Andalucia Masters. He is a terrific ball striker.

To Win: 

Min Woo Lee. A class act

Each Way:

Laurie Canter. Showing some remarkable consistency

Each Way: 

Rasmus Hojgaard. Looking for a big finish to the season

Five to Follow:

Min Woo Lee. In terrific form

Laurie Canter. Starting to believe in himself

Rasmus Hojgaard. Hugely talented

Victor Perez. Still searching for his best 

Alvaro Quiros. Played superbly in Mallorca

Outsiders to Follow:

Nicolai Hojgaard. Looking to prove he is as good as his twin

Lucas Bjerregaard. Former champion in need of a massive week

Stephen Gallacher. Veteran who can still produce the goods

Sebastian Soderberg. Finally rediscovered his game

Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography

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