*Each-Way 1/4 odds, 5 places
I put up Ricardo Gouveia in this column a month ago at Crans Montana - a disastrous second round 79 saw him go home early that week but I've not been put off and I'm happy to give him another chance at triple figures at his home event. Gouveia sits 95th in the Race to Dubai, in this, his first European Tour season and will surely be looking at this week as a chance to secure his card beyond doubt. The Portuguese youngster's 12 Challenge Tour top 10's from last year are still fresh in the memory; here's hoping he can get in contention again here, in this his fifth Portuguese Masters (3 made cuts).
One of the classiest, yet streakiest, players on the European Tour, Robert Karlsson was showing strong hints of a return to form until two surprisingly bad events. Back at one of his favourite venues, the lanky Swede could now represent a bit of value. Between 2007 and 2010, Karlsson was twice runner-up and also third at Vilamoura - a low-scoring test that perfectly suits this big-hitter's skills-set. He hasn't hit less than 68% of greens in regulation since March and only three weeks ago recorded a stack of birdies to finish third in Germany. If getting the putter going again, he looks bound to contend.
After a few high-class tournaments we're back to more middling fair and I'm afraid my pick falls into the speculative category this week. George Coetzee is my man and while current form is nothing more than average I think there are sound reasons to back him here. The South African is a class act, who has threatened to break into the golfing big time on a few occasions with plenty of major championship and WGC appearances to his name, and the 66/1 looks pretty big given he has two top 10 finishes from three appearances at this tournament. After a promising spring the summer has not been too kind on Coetzee, but a recent 25th at the Alfred Dunhill Links saw him post three consecutive rounds in the 60s and a return to a track that clearly suits could pay dividends for this three-time European Tour winner.
There were just 11 stragglers below Joakim Lagergren on the British Masters leaderboard after round one last week, as he languished in a tie for 105th, following a three-over-par 75. Fresh off of a quite brilliant effort the week before, where he'd finished tied for fourth at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, the slow start was possibly excusable and he bounced back brilliantly in round two, skipping round The Grove in 11 strokes less, before eventually finishing the week tied for 18th. The Portugal Masters is basically a birdie-fest and in his last 25 rounds, Lagergren has averaged an impressive 5.08 birdies per round. Four of the last five winners of the event have been in their 20s and I fancy the 24-year-old Swede is playing well enough to make that five from six.
It's a tricky event this week no doubt, with the top two in the betting fully deserving of their positions and likely to be there or thereabouts come Sunday afternoon. But one player who gets some big ticks in some pivotal boxes is young Italian Renato Paratore. He currently sits 60th in the R2D rankings, and with the top 60 making it to the Final Series he has huge incentive to do well in this last counting event. The 19-year-old has been in consistent form of late too, making nine of his last 10 cuts and finishing inside the top 30 in seven of those outings, including 20th, 7th, and 22nd in the last three weeks in tournaments that required low scoring, similar to what will be needed in Portugal. Paratore has also gone well this season in two of the Desert Swing events that correlate well from a form perspective with the Porrugal Masters, finishing 29th and 26th in the Qatar Masters and Dubai Desert Classic respectively at the start of the year.