This will be the 6th staging of the Portugal Masters.
Oceânico Victoria Golf Course, Vilamoura, Portugal
Par 72, 7231 yards
Stroke index in 2011 - 69.85
Designed by Arnold Palmer and opened in 2004, Oceânico Victoria has been the tournament's venue from day one. It's an exposed course with water in play on seven holes. The well-bunkered fairways are of average width and the greens are very large and undulating. The rough is minimal and big-hitters have prospered.
Live on Sky all four days, 11.30am and 4.30pm on Thursday and Friday and 2.00pm on Saturday and Sunday.
First Five Winners
2011 - Tom Lewis -21
2010 - Richard Green -18
2009 - Lee Westwood -23
2008 - Alvaro Quiros -19
2007 - Steve Webster -25
What will it take to win the Portugal Masters?
Given the course hasn't yet matured and that the rough has been lenient in past renewals, length off the tee has been far more important than accuracy - though with large undulating greens, finding the pins with approach shots is also important and accurate types like Richard Green and Francesco Molinari have also prospered.
Whether you bomb it off the tee or pepper the pins with your irons, you're going to have to make lots of birdies and putting will in all probability, be the key stat. It's effectively another birdie-fest.
Is there an angle in?
There might be a correlation between this course and one or two others. The first four winners of this event all have decent form at Doha, home of the Qatar Masters and I even thought there might be a link between here and Leopard Creek - home of the Alfred Dunhill Championship. Alvaro won there on his only appearance and Pablo Martin, who won the Dunhill back-to-back, should have won this event two years ago. He was clear on the back nine and hit a low of [1.28] before losing the plot (just one of many painful memories!).
Looking at previous results, a couple of things surprise me. The first three winners were up with the early pace, as you'd expect in a low-scoring event, but the last two were miles back after the first round. Richard Green and Tom Lewis both opened up with rounds of 70 to find themselves six off the lead so don't panic if your picks start slowly. If they're in front before day four you may need to worry though...
Quiros is the only third round leader to convert at Oceânico Victoria so far and it's perfectly possible to make up a lot of ground on a Sunday. Webster only trailed by one after round three in the inaugural event but Westwood came from three back, Lewis four, and Richard Green seven!
Francesco Molinari heads the market and given he's finished runner-up a couple of times here already, that's no surprise. I won't be playing him before the off as he's not a great front-runner but given the above stat re off the pace winners, if he trails by five or six after round three he'll be well worth siding with. He sure can finish with a late rattle and he'll be a better price five back on Sunday morning than he is now.
Second favourite, Martin Kaymer, has looked as though he's been going in the right direction for a few weeks now but I haven't seen enough to want to side with him here at just [20.0] and Thorbjorn Olesen looks too short also.
He has to lift himself after the disappointment of finishing second last week and although he really ought to have the game for the gaff, he missed the cut here last year on his only appearance to date.
Having backed both Quiros at [85.0] and Lewis at [160.0] before the off, this event has been kind to me so far and I was really looking forward to getting my nose in the form book but after much leg-work, nobody has got my juices flowing.
Alex Noren, Pablo Larrazabal, Danny Willett, Victor Dubuisson and Freddie Andersson-Hed all made the shortlist but none of them quite made the portfolio and I'm pretty sure my first pick shouldn't have done either!
Quite what I'm doing taking just [26.0] about South African maiden, George Coetzee, I don't know - especially as I backed him at [90.0] last year, but that's what I've done.
He didn't just show his hand on Sunday with a 62 at St Andrews, he got out of his seat and stuffed his cards in everyone's faces. It was at the bleeding obvious end of the eye-catching scale, as was his third placed finish here last year on debut, after only just making the cut.
George is a colossal talent, tailor-made for Oceânico Victoria. I know he's found it hard to win to date and I know I've taken too short a price about him but it's surely just a matter of time before he makes his breakthrough and this looks like a golden opportunity for him to do so.
Thomas Bjorn hasn't been at his best for a while but he's a former winner at Doha, he's won in Portugal before having won the Estoril Open de Portugal two years ago, and he has form here too. He entered last year's final round just two off the lead before a lacklustre 71 saw him slip to a tie for 8th. It's a massive contradiction I know, given my first pick, but as a rule, I prefer to back multiple winners out of form than in-form non-winners and I felt [50.0] was fair.
Big-hitting Austrian, Berndt Wiesberger, led the field after day one last year so the course must fit his game. Although he didn't fare well on the Scottish links last week, he's already won twice this year and I'm more than happy to take a chance on him again at [65.0].
After that, I've thrown a few quid at four massive outsiders in Lee Slattery, Ricardo Gonzalez, Kristoffer Broberg and Gary Boyd.
I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog.