EW Terms: 1/5 Odds | 8 Places
There's a definite correlation between strong links form and success at the Portugal Masters. Take the last three winners of this event - Tom Lewis, Lucas Bjerregaard and Padraig Harrington. Lewis first made his name by leading the Open Championship as an amateur, Harrington is a two-time Open winner and the Irishman, along with Bjerregaard, has won the Alfred Dunhill Links. It's Harrington I like here at the prices. The triple major champion also owns a third and three other top 25s at this week's course in Portugal while, before exiting the Italian Open at halfway (on the back of a Friday 69), he'd been on a run of 12-15-46-26 in September. That included T26 at the Alfred Dunhill Links.
As the battle to finish top-110 on the Race to Dubai and secure playing rights for next season takes centre stage, it could pay to follow a Euro Tour rookie who is making an excellent late bid. Hugo Leon moved up to 120th place with an excellent seventh in France last week - his third top-ten and fifth top-20 finish in eight starts. Although making his debut at Oceanico Victoria, there is much to think the Chilean will appreciate this annual birdie fest. Power off the tee is a big advantage here - Leon averages in excess of 300 yards and his long game is excellent - he ranks fourth for strokes gained: tee to green. He also averages a very competitive four birdies per round over the past three months.
Half of the 12 winners to date of the Portugal Masters have been English so I'm more than happy to play Newcastle's Chris Paisley at an industry-best 35/1 with eight places up for grabs. Paisley has finished fifth and 12th in each of the last two editions and he arrives in the Algarve in tip-top form after an eighth place finish in Paris, where he tweeted on Sunday that he played "Some of the best golf I've played in a while". Paisley's excellent scrambling skills will be a big asset this week if the results of recent renewals are anything to go by. Last year's winner, Tom Lewis, ranked sixth for Scrambling and five of the seven winners before him ranked first or second for that stat.
Like Paul I am keen on playing one who needs a good week to ensure Race to Dubai safety and I have settled on the man sat 100th in the standings - Dean Burmester. The big-hitting South African's only look at the course brought about a finish for seventh in 2017 to once again underline what an advantage those with power have this week. That year was Burmester's best on tour, with his only tournament victory and numerous top tens and he hasn't quite been able to match that level since, hence the relatively lowly R2D ranking. However, a tie for third at the Scandinavian Invitation back in August was his best for some time and while he missed three straight cuts thereafter it's been consistent across the last three tournaments with a trio of cuts made. Hopefully that is building towards another good tournament and a guarantee of European Tour golf in 2020.
I'm sticking with Jamie Donaldson this week after last week's valiant effort in France. The one negative is that he's just 45/1 compared to 80/1 seven days ago, but that is offset by the fact that this week's field is slightly weaker than the one in Paris, and after a good showing around Le Golf National he was always going to be a shorter price here. And the main reason for that is because Donaldson has some decent form at this venue, finishing 8-6-6 in his three visits immediately before last year's missed cut, and he's been playing quite well of late. That decent form continued in France last week where the Welshman played his way into the final group on Sunday, only to shoot a quintuple bogey eight on his second hole. A T23 finish was a more than respectively finish therefore. Donaldson moved up to 129 on the money list after last week's performance, meaning he has huge incentive to play well in Portugal as just those inside the top 110 secure their playing rights for next season. A top eight finish is likely to seal that deal then, but that's the minimum I'm expecting from the former Ryder Cup star.