Portugal Masters Betting Tips: Thorbjorn Olesen can go well in Vilamoura
We arrive at one of the most important events on the DP World Tour calendar this week, as the Portugal Masters offers one final chance for players to secure their playing rights on the tour for next season; with the final two events of the season – the Nedbank Challenge and DP World Tour Championship – only open to those sat inside the top 60/50 in the Race to Dubai respectively.
The host course, as it has been since the tournament debuted in 2007, is the Arnold Palmer designed Victoria course in Vilamoura. A course which usually provided us with very low scoring events – with -20 or lower winning every year between 2015 & 2018 – though has seen scoring increase in difficulty over recent years.
Steven Brown won with a score of -17 in 2019, following by George Coetzee in 2020 shooting -16; and though Thomas Pieters shot -19 to win last year, -13 was good enough for a top 5 finish, showing the course still retained that added difficulty.
Many high class operators have won here; from Lee Westwood in 2009 and two Irish major champions, Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington, in 2012 and 2016 respectively; whilst Tom Lewis is the only player to win twice, in 2011 and 2018.
Will one of those players desperately in need of a good week be able to handle the pressure to win here this week, or will it fall to one of the guys more comfortable in their current position in the rankings who’s able secure the title?
This Arnold Palmer design opened for play in 2004 and is a par 71 measuring 7191 yards; made up of eleven par 4s, four par 3s and three par 5s.
It is a typically large, wide open resort course; trees are scarce, with a huge amount of bunkering - both aside the fairways and around the big, speedy, undulating greens – along with a substantial amount of water being in-play, particularly on the back nine providing the biggest dangers.
That being said, the more difficult scoring of the last few years is no coincidence; fairways have always been relatively tricky to find here but the necessity to find them was alleviated by rough that wasn’t too troublesome, meaning finding the greens was still pretty easy, regardless of where you were playing from. Though in recent years, not only have the fairways been tougher to find but the rough has been a little thicker, which has meant that greens have also been more difficult to hit. Adding further emphasis to a test that has regularly required strong ball-striking.
It has long been thought of as a test that suits big hitters, this despite not being a particularly long course. The reasons for this - aside from that previous non-penal rough - is that the par 5s are all long enough to present somewhat of a challenge for the shorter hitters – all above 570 yards – when combined with two potentially drivable par 4s and a couple lengthy par 4s have provided seven holes, five of which are the most scorable on the course, to fall perfectly into the wheelhouse of those who possess some distance.
However with that increased penalty for missing fairways in recent years, it’s no longer as straightforward as just smashing it all over the place, you need to combine that power with quality driving in general.
We don’t have to look too far for evidence of that long hitting being beneficial; last year’s leaderboard was brimming was such players, as Thomas Pieters won, followed home by Matthieu Pavon, Nicolai Hojgaard and Lucas Bjerregaard in 2nd, all players who can give it a rip off-the-tee. Though not only that, there all drove it well here last year; each ranking inside the top 18 OTT.
It was a similar story in 2020, as George Coetzee beat Laurie Canter, Joakim Lagergren and Tommy Fleetwood, all players who don’t lack for distance; with other players over the last five years, such as Brandon Stone, Tom Lewis and Lucas Herbert adding further proof.
A strong iron game has also been key; Thomas Pieters ranked 4th in approach when winning last year, whilst the three runners-up ranked no worse than 18th; George Coetzee ranked 9th in 2020, as 3rd place finishers: Tommy Fleetwood and Joakim Lagergren, ranked 1st and 3rd respectively; with further evidence of that strong iron-play coming to the fore found from the likes of Justin Walters, who ranked 1st when he finished 2nd in 2019, Eddie Pepperell and Soomin Lee ranking top 5 when 2nd and 4th respectively in 2019 and Lucas Bjerregaard ranking 5th when winning in 2017, as Eddie Pepperell once again used his irons to fire him to a good finish, ranking 1st in the field in his 3rd place finish.
As for the short-game, a good putting week has proven essential on these tough greens. Coetzee, Brown and Lewis all ranked 1st on the greens when winning, with Pieters last year and Bjerregaard in 2017 ranking 11th and 14th respectively, with leaderboards littered with those who shone with the putter.
Whilst I also think with some breezy conditions, it’s sensible to favour players who are at least solid scramblers.
Key Stats: SG Off-the-Tee, Driving Distance, SG: Approach, SG: Putting, Scrambling
This is one of those events that just seems to correlate with a huge amount of courses, it has a Middle-East feel about it, wide open with plenty of sand and water; some of those attributes also meaning it’s not a surprise to see it possess many form-ties with events on links courses.
I have selected these six courses/events that appealed most:
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
This is the event which produced the most interesting form-ties. The wide open nature of the courses, along with that lessened difficulty for a pro-am event meaning there’s a similar skillset required to go well.
Form-ties are endless; Lucas Bjerregaard has won both events, whilst Joakim Lagergren has multiple top 5s in the Dunhill Links to go with his strong record here. Two-time Portugal winner, Tom Lewis has three top 10s in the ADL, Ross Fisher has two 2nds there to go with a runner-up finish, amongst other strong form here; whilst further form-ties can be found from the likes of Paul Waring, Matthew Jordan, Chris Wood and Marc Warren.
Qatar Masters @ Doha Golf Club
Doha Golf Club is that typical Middle-East course that Portugal is pretty reminiscent of and possesses a plethora of form-ties.
Chris Wood and Eddie Pepperell are both past champions and possess strong records here, whilst George Coetzee has twice finished runner-up in Qatar. Joakim Lagergren has finished 2nd, as has Marc Warren; with Ricardo Gouveia, Matthew Jordan and Jorge Campillo providing added links.
Czech Masters @ Albatross Golf Club
The Czech Masters is played on a similarly open course and like the Victoria Course, has been a place where big-hitters have enjoyed enormous success.
Thomas Pieters is a two-time winner there, Tom Lewis has finishes of 3rd and 6th, whilst Eddie Pepperell has recorded three top 10s. Both Lucas Bjerregaard and Graeme Storm – 1st and 3rd here in 2017 – possess top 10s in the Czech.
Oman Open @ Al Mouj GC
To Oman and like Qatar, we find a wide open course, with large undulating greens that has seen length off-the-tee prove beneficial in the three events staged there between 2018-2020.
Brandon Stone, Chris Wood and Jorge Campillo have all finished 2nd there, whilst Andy Sullivan has finished 3rd. Ross Fisher has recorded a top 10, as has Grant Forrest, who possesses a good record here.
Hero Open @ Fairmont St Andrews
Host of the Scottish Championship in 2020 and then the Hero Open in the last two years, Fairmont St Andrews is an open, modern links course that has got some decent form-ties with this week’s venue and I suspect will develop more in the future.
Eddie Pepperell was 2nd there this year, whilst Grant Forrest won last year. Matthew Jordan, Lucas Bjerregaard, Justin Walters and Andy Sullivan have each finished top 10, in addition to their good records in Portugal.
KLM (Dutch) Open @ The Dutch
I think most Dutch Open venue should correlate with this week’s venue, as they’re usually played on open, “linksy” courses, though in terms of form-ties, The Dutch, host of the event from 2016-2018 looked the best shout.
Chris Wood recorded a 2nd place finish there, whilst George Coetzee, Justin Walters and Eddie Pepperell have each finished 3rd. Soomin Lee, 4th in Portugal in 2018 finished top 10 there, along with Brandon Stone and Joakim Lagergren.
Conditions look good for most of the week in Portugal. Weather will be warm and for the most part a moderate breeze shouldn’t be overly punishing, though it could potentially turn into something a little tougher on Saturday.
Another event in which the reigning champion, Thomas Pieters, doesn’t return to defend. Robert MacIntyre is the top ranked player in the field at #67 in the world and though only joined by Victor Perez from the top 100, it is a field with a reasonable amount of depth; including last week’s Mallorca Open winner, Yannick Paul, England’s Jordan Smith and a trio of classy Danes: Nicolai Hojgaard, Thorbjorn Olesen and Marcus Heligkilde.
Portugal Masters Tips
- Thorbjorn Olesen 25/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 2 pts ew
- Marcel Schneider 35/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1.5 pts ew
- Jorge Campillo 55/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1 pt ew
- Joost Luiten 70/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1 pt ew
- Renato Paratore 75/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1 pt ew
- Sami Valimaki 100/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1 pt ew
Market Leaders (Best price): Robert MacIntyre 14/1, Jordan Smith 16/1, Victor Perez 18/1, Nicolai Hojgaard 20/1, Yannick Paul 22/1, Antoine Rozner 22/1
Each of the market leaders is entitled to respect this week and I was tempted by Nicolai Hojgaard following his 2nd place finish here last year; it’s a course that suits his game but ultimately some of his putting last week was enough to put me off at the price.
Instead I start with a fellow Dane, who has won on tour this year and now hitting the ball better than he has throughout the entirety of 2022, can add another title to his collection this week, Thorbjorn Olesen.
Thorbjorn Olesen 25/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 2 pts ew
Olesen’s victory came back in May at the British Masters, as he finished the tournament eagle-birdie, holing monster 35ft putts on each of the final two greens to capitalise on Richie Ramsay’s mistakes on the 18th hole.
He followed that victory with a few off weeks but came back into form with an 8th place finish in the Irish Open in July and hasn’t looked back. Since then, Olesen has missed just one cut in his next nine starts, collecting a further five top 25s.
Initially, this run of form was orchestrated by the putter, in which he ranks 21st on the DPWT this season, though gradually the ball-striking has started to come together; first with his irons, in which he’s gained strokes in each of his last five starts and ranks 29th on tour this season; followed by some strong driving over his last three starts: in Italy, France and at Valderrama.
Rather inconveniently, the putter had deserted him for a couple of weeks, though it was positive to see him gain strokes in two of his final three rounds at Valderrama, making up for a poor first round and I hope that’s something he’ll continue into this week at a venue in which he has a really solid record.
Olesen first played here in 2011, missing the cut. However since then he’s played a further eight times and not missed another cut, recording a best of 16th in 2012, along with further top 25s, in 2014 and 2018.
His case is strengthened by excellent records in the Dunhill Links, where he’s a past champion and also possesses a runner-up finish; as well as Qatar, where he’s finished 2nd and 3rd, with a 5th in the Czech Masters to boot.
Olesen is a proven winner and knows the course well, now hitting the ball as well as he has all year, this classy player can benefit from a lack of pressure compared to many in the field this week and pick up his 7th success on the DPWT.
Following a slow start to the season, Germany’s Marcel Schneider has gone on to enjoy a strong first full season on the DPWT and can hopefully draw inspiration from compatriot, Yannick Paul’s first success on tour last week, to claim his first title here in Portugal.
Schneider started the year with six missed cuts in a row though sprung into life in Spain in May, finishing 13th in the Catalunya Championship. A missed cut in the British Masters followed but he then ran up his best string of results of the year, finishing 7th in the Soudal Open, 4th in the Dutch Open and 5th in the European Open in consecutive events; with a further seven top 25s, two of them top 10s, collected in his next fourteen starts.
He’s a good all-rounder, ranking 3rd on tour in scrambling, 24th in putting, 37th off-the-tee, where he doesn’t lack for distance and 67th in approach. This has all been on show over the last few months but he hasn’t been able to put it altogether at once, with one area a little subpar from one week to the next, ultimately stopping him turning those top 25s/top 10s into a win.
I’m confident he can do that here, at a course where he finished 44th on debut, bookending his tournament with rounds of 69; with a 6th place finish in the Czech Masters a couple of months ago indicative of a player who should handle the test.
Jorge Campillo has threatened a couple of times in this second part of the year and can count on a strong record here, where he’s twice finished inside the top 10 to get a victory over the line this week.
Campillo has been rock solid all year, missing just five cuts in twenty-seven starts; whilst he recorded some decent finishes in the first part of the year, his best results, where he’s picked up three top 10s, have all come since the start of July, when he finished 7th in the Irish Open; adding to that with a 4th place finish in the European Masters and a 9th in the Italian Open five starts ago.
Though not quite able to replicate that level of form over recent weeks, he’s been decent enough, finishing 27th in the Open de Espana three weeks ago.
Campillo has been solid across the board throughout the season, gaining strokes in each area overall; looking particularly good with the short-game over this second half of the season, with plenty of positives too in approach and I’m pleased to see him rediscover some of that length off the tee that had evaded him the previous two years.
This profile should see him go well here, which was certainly the case when finishing 6th in 2015 and 8th in 2020, whilst he’s recorded just two missed cuts in nine visits. In addition, he’s won in Qatar at Education City, as well as finishing 2nd at Doha in 2019; and I’m further encouraged by his excellent record in Oman, where he’s finished 2nd and 4th.
Joost Luiten won six times on the DPWT between 2011 and 2018, wins which took him to as high as #28 in the world and had him spoken about as a serious Ryder Cup contender. Unfortunately, a couple of subpar years by his standards, where his previously excellent ball-striking has deserted him has culminated in him arriving here in Portugal this week, needing a good week to keep his full playing rights for next year; but I’m taking him to pull out the performance needed to get him over that threshold.
Luiten has struggled with his game all year, achieving just one top 10 in the Steyn City Championship back in March. He’s putted and driven it solidly for most of the year, ranking 44th and 41st respectively but has had serious issues around the greens and perhaps most importantly, with his approach play, an area in which he was an elite DPWT player during his best years.
However, in his 30th place finish in the Mallorca Open last week, Luiten produced his 2nd best approach performance of 2022, which along with a joint-best driving performance of the year, resulted in the Dutchman’s best ball-striking performance of the year.
This drew me to him this week, at a course where strong ball-striking is key. It’s a place he hasn’t always played – he hasn’t needed to – but does have some strong form, in the shape of a runner-up finish in 2010 and was 12th here in 2017, though missed his last two cuts.
His suitability to this test is further evidenced in victories at home in the Dutch Open in 2016 and in Oman in 2018, his latest victory on tour and if able to build on the encouraging ball-striking performance last week, he can find that much needed performance this week in Portugal.
Renato Paratore is another without full playing rights secured for next season. However he’s been in much improved form over recent months, giving himself a great chance of jumping inside the safe zone this week.
After making just three cuts in his first sixteen starts this season, Paratore has improved significantly since the beginning of August. His form turned around with a 3rd place finish in the Cazoo Open, following that with a 4th in the ISPS World Invitational and 13th in the Czech Masters.
A few underwhelming weeks followed but he’s rediscovered some solid form over in Spain in recent weeks, recording finishes of 13th in the Open de Espana, 32nd in the Andalucia Masters and was 23rd in last week’s Mallorca Open.
Paratore’s ball-striking has been off all season, with the short-game doing the heavy lifting, ranking 10th in putting and 31st in scrambling on tour this season. However much like his better performances in August, he’s limiting the damage much more with the ball-striking and as someone who is usually long off-the-tee, he won’t need to find much if continuing to excel with his short-game, to contend this week.
He missed the cut here last year, though that was his first MC in five visits, possessing a best of 21st in 2019; whilst a 4th in Qatar, 5th in the Czech Masters and 7th in the Dunhill Links shows just how this test should suit his game.
Paratore should be confident from his last few weeks' play and I’m taking him to build on that this week, not only to secure his card but to actually threaten the top of the leaderboard in Portugal.
Finally I’m going to finish with Finland’s Sami Valimaki, who has been showing good form in recent months and with the power he possesses off-the-tee, combined with his quality around-the-greens, has the game to take it to the Victoria Course.
He’s another who started the year slowly but has turned things around, hitting the top 25 on five occasions in his last ten starts, including a best of 4th in the BMW International Open.
Valimaki was hitting the ball well around the time of that performance, though has relied more on the short-game over his more recent starts, ranking 10th in scrambling and 51st in putting this season, whilst 34th in driving distance shows how he possesses the length to take it to the most scorable holes on this venue.
He has to be forgiven a poor missed cut on debut here last season, though that is easy enough to do as his form wasn’t as good as it is now; also, his solo tour victory, in the Oman Open in 2020 offers us further hope that this is the type of setup the talented Finn can get the better of and if able to replicate the ball-striking form that took him to some of his best results this year, he can go well this week.