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Portugal Masters 2021: Odds & Tips for this week's event on the European Tour

Portugal Masters 2021: Mike Lorenzo-Vera features.
Portugal Masters 2021: Mike Lorenzo-Vera features.

We’re into the final stretch of the European Tour season now and head to Portugal this week for the Portugal Masters. Before two weeks in Dubai to decide the outcome of the Race to Dubai. 

Though there is no relegation from the tour this season, there is still something to play for, for those not challenging for top honours. As players who finish inside the top 110 on the R2D will receive new, improved status on the tour next season. Those falling outside having the exemption lowered.

This week’s venue is the Arnold Palmer designed Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course in Vilamoura, which has been the sole host of the event since its introduction in 2007.

A par 71 measuring 7,191 yards, Victoria is a typical resort course. Exposed with wide fairways and large greens. The main dangers on the course coming in the shape of bunkering and a lot of water in-play on the back 9. Though further difficulties have been found in the last couple of years, as the rough has been allowed to grow a little longer, meaning there’s been more of a penalty for missing the fairways. 

This seems to have halted the ultra-low scoring of previous years, for the time being. As four consecutive years of winning scores in the -20s have been followed by winning scores of -17 & -16 the last two years. The highest winning scores since 2012.

Due to the length of the course, it gives opportunity to shorter hitters but there’s no doubt that with three reasonably lengthy par 5s, the 510 yard par 4 7th and a couple of shorter par 4s that will be drivable over the course of the week, that big hitters do have an advantage. Last year’s winner, George Coetzee, along with 2018 and 2017 champions, Tom Lewis and Lucas Bjerregaard making up three of the last four winners, are all big hitters.

Portugal Masters Tips

Though the scoring hasn’t quite been as low the last couple of years, it’s still a course you have to attack. George Coetzee made 23 birdies and 2 eagles on his way to a two-shot victory last year, thanks to an excellent week in approach play and putting, where he ranked 14th and 3rd respectively.

That type of putting performance not just a George Coetzee thing. Steven Brown was the 2nd best putter in the field when winning in 2019 and Tom Lewis the best putter in the field when winning in 2018. Though Lucas Bjerregaard was only a solid 23rd with the flat stick in 2017, when running out a four-shot winner, runner-up, Marc Warren was the best putter in the field, adding further credence to the notion that you need to putt well to win around here.

Another reason for the tougher scoring last year was a constant tricky wind throughout the week, which looks to be the case again this time around. As there are 10mph+ winds predicted on each of the four days.

As you’d expect for the third last event of the season, we have a solid European Tour field. Matt Wallace the headline act and he’s joined by both Hojgaard twins  and last year’s winner, George Coetzee.

Golf odds
Rasmus Hojgaard E/W 7 places
Odds correct as of 2021-11-02 14:15 Odds subject to change.

Matt Wallace arrives here as a deserving favourite following a couple of strong efforts on the PGA Tour, though looks short enough considering he’s now three years without a win and looking less confident in contention than he did when he first burst onto the scene. 

Laurie Canter comes next, and for all I rate his game highly, he’s finding getting over the line difficult and is never a play for me at 20/1. Something which cannot be said about my first selection this week, considering he’s recorded three wins in under three years on tour, Dane sensation, Rasmus Hojgaard.

We have to go back to 2019 for the first of those victories, when he won the Mauritius Open on just his 5th start in a European Tour event. Heritage Golf Club the host there, an exposed and water-laden venue, similar to this week’s event. The 2nd victory came in the midst of an impressive run of form last year when he followed finishes of 2-6-3 by winning the UK Championship at The Belfry.

Fast forward to just five weeks ago, when he sewed up victory number three at Crans-Sur-Sierre in the European Masters. Since then he’s been over in the States, narrowly missing the cut in the Shriners Open before finishing 63rd in the CJ Cup.

Three weeks have passed since his trip to the U.S and he arrives fresh, here in Vilamoura for his first go at the Victoria Course. A course which I think should suit his aggressive style of play.

Rasmus rates as one of the best ball-strikers on the European Tour, ranking 10th in approach and 30th off-the-tee, where he’s also one of the biggest hitters, ranking 16th for driving distance. He’s a solid enough putter, ranking 83rd and though only 70th in birdie average, I feel will benefit if the more demanding conditions of the last couple of years remain.

He has a couple of performances in the Middle East that add further encouragement, events that have often offered pointers to success in Portugal, due to the generally exposed layouts of a majority of courses there. So any form in that part of the world is a bonus. Earlier this year he finished 9th in the Dubai Desert Classic and followed it with a 6th in the Saudi International. He also possesses a 6th place finish in the Oman Open from last year.

Hopefully he can get himself in the mix on Sunday. If he does, I’d be just about as confident in him being able to finish the job as I would most other players in the field.

Calum Hill E/W 7 places
Odds correct as of 2021-11-02 14:20 Odds subject to change.

Calum Hill has been progressing nicely the last two years or so, finally getting his first European title in August in the Cazoo Classic. Though he missed the cut here on debut last year, I think he has the right type of game to contend in Vilamoura. 

His game is one with few weaknesses. He ranks 37th tee-to-green and is more than adequate in each of the three measured areas associated with T2G performance, also possessing enough distance off the tee. He takes advantage of his solid tee-to-green game by being an excellent putter, ranking 13th on tour, which all equates to him being the 2nd best birdie maker in Europe.

He may have missed the cut here last year but has form in other places that suggests he can contend. Most notably that victory in the Cazoo Classic, played on an equally exposed layout at London Golf Club (Rasmus Hojgaard was 3rd there, adding further encouragement to his chances). Past winner here in Portugal, Alex Levy, was 2nd that week and another past Portugal winner, Andy Sullivan finished 13th. Furthermore, he finished an excellent 4th in the star-studded Saudi International earlier in the year.

Now a European Tour winner, Hill has record four wins in 78 starts as a professional, including three on the Challenge Tour. I expect him to go from strength to strength over the coming years and can dispel bad memories of a missed cut here last year on his second crack at the course.

Renato Paratore E/W 7 places
Odds correct as of 2021-11-02 14:20 Odds subject to change.

I thought Renato Paratore was a little overpriced this week. Despite his young years, he’s a two-time winner on tour, arriving here off the back of three top 25s in a row and has a solid record at Victoria, having never missed a cut here. Also possessing the combination of distance off the tee and the potential for lights-out putting displays that often see you go well around here.

Those three top 25s have come courtesy of a three-week stint in Spain. First finishing 9th in the Open de Espana, he followed with an impressive 25th at the less than suitable Valderrama and then 11th last time out, when we were also on him, in the Mallorca Open. He putted superbly in all three events, no surprise as he’s the 3rd best putter on tour this year, but also showed some improvements with his tee-to-green game, which has been off for most of the year.

He’s played here four times and as mentioned, has made the cut every time. Following finishes of 57th and 73rd in his first two attempts with 27th and 21st place finishes the last twice. Additionally, he owns a good book of form at correlating course.

His first victory on tour in the Nordea Masters back in 2017 took place at the partially exposed Barseback Country Club. To go with that is a 2nd place finish in that Mauritius Open won by Rasmus Hojgaard in 2019, a 4th place finish in Qatar and a 5th place finish in the Czech Masters, again an exposed course that favours aggressive golf and generally bigger hitters.

He’s not afraid to win and looks a danger at a decent price this week if able to continue the recent form he’s been showing. 

Today's golf tips
Mike Lorenzo-Vera E/W 6 places
Odds correct as of 2021-11-02 14:40 Odds subject to change.

A really poor year has gotten a little better in recent weeks for Mike Lorenzo-Vera, another player who enjoyed the three-week run in Spain, picking up a couple of top 25s. His book of correlating form gives further encouragement to this enigmatic Frenchman’s chances this week.

The most promising thing about his performances in Spain, was the marked improvements in his iron play. Putting up good numbers in all three events, including his missed cut last time out in Mallorca. With his usually solid putter also looking like heating up a little more as we approach the end of the season.

He’s only played here twice before but the amount of form that he has which ties in with this event was too much to ignore. He holds 2nd and 4th place finishes in Qatar, a 2nd in the Rocco Forte Open, played on an exposed resort course, an 8th in the Dubai Desert Classic and though often a much tougher test than Portugal, 3rd and 6th place finishes at Le Golf National in the Open de France also seem to work.

He’s a player that, until this year, seems to be able to mix it at a high level and it really is surprising that he’s still without a win since his first back in 2007. If able to continue the enhanced approach play he showed in Spain, he can improve on his two missed cuts here and can go well.

Sami Valimaki E/W 7 Places
Odds correct as of 2021-11-02 14:45 Odds subject to change.

Despite a largely poor year, Sami Valimaki arrives here in Portugal off the back of a solid 25th place finish at Valderrama last time out and I’m hoping that can spark him into life around a course that should play to his strengths.

2021 has been far removed from the quality golf this young Finnish star showed in his debut year on tour in 2020. Winning on just his 5th tour start in the correlating Oman Open last year, Valimaki followed that with five further top 10 finishes, including going close once again when finishing 2nd in the Wales Open.

This in stark contrast to his form this year, where he’s missed 12 cuts in 21 and has just a best finish of 21st to his name, that he picked up in the British Masters back in May.

Though most parts of his game have been off this year, the part that has endured has been the putter, following on from being the 4th ranked player on tour last year, to maintaining a high position this, as the 9th best putter. This was very much the story of his 25th in the Andalucia Masters, where his tee-to-green game was average, but he ranked 4th on the greens. 

The hope is that good performance, his best since May, can spark the rest of his game into life. At his best he’s a solid player tee-to-green, possessing enough distance off-the-tee and makes birdies for fun, shown by his ranking of 25th in birdie average last season. The course should suit if his victory in Oman is anything to go by and I think he’s worth chancing at the price.

Zander Lombard E/W 5 places
Odds correct as of 2021-11-02 14:50 Odds subject to change.
Zander Lombard - Top 20 finish
Odds correct as of 2021-11-02 14:50 Odds subject to change.

Another player that was in the selections in Mallorca last time out was big hitting South African, Zander Lombard and though not getting the rewards, he certainly showed plenty to like with a 26th place finish and is definitely worth another go at a big price.

The most likeable thing about his performance that week was how well he hit his irons, ranking 11th for the week and maintained a good level of performance throughout the week. Also playing well around the greens. 

He’s missed the cut twice here but his best finish to date in Europe is a 2nd place finish in the Rocco Forte Open, a course already mentioned as a decent guide for this Victoria Course. A 5th place finish in the Austrian Open and 11th in the Czech Masters adding more assurance as to his suitability for this event. 

That’s three events in a row he’s shown improved performances. I think he can kick on again this week and show that this is actually a suitable venue for him.

James Du Preez E/W 5 places
Odds correct as of 2021-11-02 14:50 Odds subject to change.
James Du Preez - Top 20 finish
Odds correct as of 2021-11-02 14:55 Odds subject to change.

Finally, a mention for a player at a huge price who will be a new name to some. Getting an invite to the event for his first start on the European Tour outside of South Africa. James Du Preez plies his trade on the Sunshine Tour and is an interesting participant this week. 

He turned pro in 2018 after a solid amateur career and has regularly threatened the top of the leaderboard in his native South Africa. 

The standout part of his game is undoubtedly his length off the tee, where he rates as the biggest hitter in South Africa, possessing even more distance than mega-hitting Wilco Nienaber. Added to this, he’s an excellent putter, ranking 1st on the Sunshine Tour in putts per GIR and is also 11th in birdie average. Showing a player with a game well suited to this Victoria Golf Course.

For obvious reasons it’s hard to see him winning this, though it’s not uncommon for some of the best talents in South Africa to transfer their game to Europe pretty swiftly, of which he is definitely one. So along with a bet for a top 20 finish, it seems silly not to have just a small bit of that monster price of 750/1 that is on offer.

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