The 13th Portugal Masters to be staged once again at the fabulous Dom Pedro Golf Victoria Course, Vilamoura, promises to deliver the tournament’s traditional heady mix of first-class golfing action, drama, and excitement. Scheduled for late October, the field is further enhanced by top international golfers vying for points as the prestigious, and highly lucrative, Race to Dubai nears its end-of-season conclusion.
Stefano Saviotti, Dom Pedro Hotel & Golf Collection Chairman, has succinctly articulated the attraction and importance of Portugal’s premier golfing event: “The eyes of the world will fall upon the Algarve … and we again have the opportunity to display the stunning natural beauty of the region, as well as our unrivalled golfing infrastructure, both of which contribute to making this one of Europe’s best-loved golf destinations.”
The 2017 champion, Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard, seeks to emulate last year’s first two-time winner, Tom Lewis, by becoming the only other player to win the event more than once, and create further history by staging the first ever successful defence of the title.
Another former champion, and Portugal Masters ever-present, and the 2020 Ryder Cup Captain, Padraig Harrington is also among the galaxy of international stars competing in the 2019 edition at Vilamoura.
The October dates for this year’s tournament have been welcomed by several top players, including Harrington who was victorious in 2016: “We might be nearing the end of the season, but there’s still a lot for everyone to play for. It should be an exciting week.”
Former World Number 1, Germany’s Martin Kaymer returns to the event for the first time since 2015, and is clearly relishing the prospect of another memorable occasion: “It’s an event I’ve always enjoyed playing. The move to October has given me the opportunity to add it to my schedule again.”
This year’s typically star-studded field also includes four-time European Tour winner Matt Wallace, and who secured his maiden win on the tour at 2017 Portuguese Open. “Portugal is a very special place for me, and there’s still so much to play for in the last few events of the season. I’m really looking forward to it.”
With the 2020 Ryder Cup Captain in the line-up, it’s fitting that last year’s victorious Ryder Cup winning captain, Thomas Bjørn, is also competing in the event’s 13th edition. The Dane, who returns to the event after a four-year absence and led Europe to 2018 Ryder Cup triumph over the United States, in Paris, with a stunning 17.5-10.5 victory, is relishing his return to the Portugal Masters: “I have fond memories of Portugal, including my victory nearly 10 years ago at the 2010 Portuguese Open. I’m looking forward to coming back in October.”
Former World Number One and previous Portugal Masters champion, Lee Westwood, and Andy Sullivan, another past winner of the Portugal Masters, are also vying for the 2019 crown. Westwood makes his first appearance at the event since winning what was his 30th professional title 10 years ago, while Sullivan secured his third European Tour victory at Dom Pedro Victoria in 2015.
In 2009, Westwood’s triumph sparked a rich vein of form which saw him win the Race to Dubai that same season. The following year, he became the first Englishman since Nick Faldo in 1994 to become World Number One, and Westwood’s appreciation of his 2009 victory at Vilamoura is unmistakable: “I have some happy memories of Dom Pedro Victoria after winning there in 2009. A lot of players talk about how this tournament has gone from strength to strength over the last few years; I’m looking forward to coming back and seeing how the tournament has grown.”
In 2016, Andy Sullivan, who was agonisingly denied back-to-back Portugal Masters titles, finishing just one stroke behind Padraig Harrington, retains a healthy respect for Portugal’s premier golf tournament: “It’s an event I always look for when the schedule is released. It’s a great event and it’s always nice to return to a course where you’ve won before. I always bring my family, as they love it as much as I do – and it never hurts to have some extra support whilst competing. I really want to end the season strongly and this event provides the platform for that.”
The field also features top-ranked Portuguese duo, Ricardo Gouveia and Pedro Figueiredo, two-time European Tour winner Eddie Pepperell, defending champion Tom Lewis and history-maker Oliver Fisher, who carded the European Tour’s first 59 at last year’s tournament. With the level of competition stronger than ever for this year’s event, there is the guarantee of yet another fascinating, memorable tournament at the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, Vilamoura.
By TOM CALLAN