The Portugal Masters 2015 is here and the sense of anticipation and excitement now palpable as fans and players look forward to one of the most prestigious events on the European Tour. While revered for consistently showcasing top quality golf, the Portugal Masters also has a reputation for providing fascinating episodes and unforgettable characters over the years.
In 2009, England’s Lee Westwood ended a two-year title drought when winning the Portugal Masters and also secured the European Number One title for the second time in his career.
True to the Portugal Masters’ reputation for providing memorable moments, an amazing chip from behind trees on the 17th contributed greatly to the Englishman’s victory.
With Italian Francesco Molinari in dogged pursuit, Westwood amazingly holed out from 30 yards. “All I could see was trees and water,” he said afterwards, “it was probably the best shot I hit all week.”
Tom Lewis, the young Walker Cup player, won the silver medal as the top amateur at the 2011 British Open Championship. Only a few months later in only his third appearance as a professional, Lewis produced a magical back nine in the 2011 Portugal Masters to come from four shots back at the start of the round to win by two. Showing a belief that belied his inexperience, Lewis birdied four of the last five holes including a 30-foot putt at the 16th for a fairy tale win.
Once again, the magic of the Portugal Masters had entranced spectators at the Victoria course and across the globe, courtesy of live TV coverage from Sky Sports.
The attraction of the Masters certainly extends far and wide and this was beautifully illustrated once again in 2012. Ireland’s Shane Lowry might have imagined he was on home soil such was his incredible support on the way to victory.
A sizeable Irish contingent, including many Algarve expats and enthusiastic tourists, saw Lowry post a 66 in the final round to finish one shot clear of England’s Ross Fisher. After securing what was his first title as a professional, Lowry praised the unique atmosphere of the Portugal Masters and marvelled at how “it was like playing in Ireland – it was crazy!”
In 2013, the stellar reputation of the Masters very nearly took off into another orbit entirely. The European Tour has never seen a score of 59 but it looked as though it would come in the 2013 Portugal Masters, courtesy of Scotland’s Scott Jamieson.
Eleven birdies in his first 17 holes put Jamieson within a whisker of making history as he just needed to birdie at the last to enter the record books. Crucially, his approach ran out beyond the back of the green leaving a chip from around 15 feet.
As the Glaswegian lined up, legions of hushed fans at the green silently willed him on. A near-perfect chip looked destined to drop but, somehow, just managed to graze the very edge of the hole and stayed out.
Jamieson sank to his knees in disbelief as the elusive sub-60 score remained intact on The European Tour.
With Englishman David Lynn securing a memorable victory in the same year, the Portugal Masters had once again lived up to its reputation for fantastic, unforgettable golfing moments.
Last year’s event was cut to 36 holes due to the freak weather conditions but still provided drama to the last as Frenchman Alexander Levy enhanced his growing reputation even further by conquering the conditions and strong opposition to lift the 2014 trophy.
As the Algarve gets set to welcome the world’s top golfers, the Portugal Masters 2015 features a typically top quality field competing for a share of the €2,000,000 prize fund. A memorable spectacle is again guaranteed and fans can look forward to witnessing one of the very best events on the European Tour.
Tickets are available through www.tickets.europeantour.com
By TOM CALLAN
Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images