This year’s Portugal Masters at Oceânico Victoria Golf Course, Vilamoura, is the 10th edition and top international golfing stars are joining in the anniversary celebrations.
The 2016 Ryder Cup players taking part are record-breaking rookie Thomas Pieters and defending champion Andy Sullivan and three men who formed part of Europe’s backroom team at Hazeltine National, Thomas Bjørn, Padraig Harrington and Paul Lawrie.
Sullivan is aiming to replicate last year’s performance when he stormed to victory by a tournament record nine shots. Ryder Cup team-mate Pieters, the big-hitting Belgian who set a new record by collecting four points from five matches on his debut, finished in a tie for sixth place last year.
Adding to the illustrious line up will be former Portugal Masters champion, Frenchman Alex Levy who recently took his tally of European Tour titles to three with victory in the Porsche European Open.
Other top players in the field include in-form Swede Alex Noren, who has won twice this year and finished in tied 11th place in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last week and big-hitting Spaniard Álvaro Quirós who is attached to Oceânico Victoria and has been an ever-present at the event.
Fellow Spaniard, José Maria Olazábal continues his comeback from injury by again competing in the event this year.
With such a star-studded field, the Portugal Masters is again guaranteed to provide drama and excitement as the action is beamed to a world-wide audience, courtesy of live TV coverage.
Local spectators will as usual attend in great numbers with some – like last year’s winner Andy Sullivan being supported by his “Sulli Army” made up of friends, family and members of his local golf club in Nuneaton, England. The Portuguese charge will be led by Ricardo Gouveia, currently 93rd in the Race to Dubai and virtually guaranteed a place on the European Tour next term.
The Portugal Masters 2016 is certain to do justice to the memory of course architect, the legendary Arnold Palmer who recently passed away aged 87. Also, following the death last year of Chris Stilwell, the CEO of Oceânico Golf – acknowledged as a driving force in the tournament’s development – Peter Adams, Championship Director of the Portugal Masters, has said: “Chris will always be intrinsically linked with the Portugal Masters. His father, John, developed Penina, the Algarve’s first golf course, so he was part of a great golfing dynasty and his passing left a huge void in the region’s golf tourism sector. Chris’ legacy lives on in the Portugal Masters, and we are hugely indebted to him for his contribution to the tournament and the development of golf in the Algarve.”
Luís Correia da Silva, CEO of Oceânico Golf, long-term partner of the Portugal Masters also reflected on the legacy of Arnold Palmer who established Victoria as the first Palmer signature course in Continental Europe and emphasised the importance of paying tribute to Arnold Palmer whom he describes “as one of the game’s greatest ambassadors, an amazing course designer, a true gentleman and a friend we will never forget”.
It is fitting that the 10th edition of this fabulous tournament will not only do justice to the memories of significant figures from the past but also reflect the fantastic work of everyone involved in the planning and maintenance of what is now established as a top event on the European Tour. The Portugal Masters 2016 is greatly anticipated by both players and fans and, as we look forward to this month’s event, there is also the prospect of further success in the years ahead for a truly prestigious tournament that is also a wonderful showcase for Portugal and the beautiful Algarve.
By TOM CALLAN