Madeira Islands Open preview

The European Tour heads south and west into the Atlantic this week for the Madeira Islands Open at Santo de Serra Golf Club. This will be the 20th running of the tournament.

Santo de Serra (Getty Images)

Lowdown: The European Tour heads south and west into the Atlantic this week for the Madeira Islands Open at Santo de Serra Golf Club. This will be the 20th running of the tournament. This season sees the 20th hosting of the Madeira Islands Open on the European Tour. The first event was contested in 1993 when Mark James triumphed by three shots over Gordon J Brand and Paul Broadhurst. Last year, Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey took the title. He finished two clear of Englishmen Jamie Elson and Chris Gane to secure his second European Tour win. Hoey used the victory in this lower-ranked European Tour event as a springboard to go on to achieve greater successes over the following months. He took the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last October, then the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco earlier this year. With the majority of the European Tour's leading players in the US for the Players Championship, this event provides an opportunity for a lower ranked golfer to step up a level. A number of Challenge Tour players are in the field, as are players who narrowly missed out on making it into the top-30 at European Tour Q-school last December. Set in the foothills of the towering mountains that span Madeira, Santa do Serra first welcomed golfers in the 1930s. At that time play was over a rough and ready nine-hole course. It wasn't until 1991 that Robert Trent Jones Sr laid out two of the three nine-hole loops currently in play at Santo de Serra. The Trent Jones loops, Machico and Desertas, are those used when the club has played host to the Madeira Islands Open. The event was contested at Santo de Serra between 1998 and 2008 with winners including Niclas Fasth, Bradley Dredge and Jean Van de Velde. The tournament heads back to Santo de Serra after a three-year absence.

Venue: Santo de Serra, Madeira, Portugal Date: May 10-13 Course stats: par 72, 6,825 yards Purse: €675,000 Winner: €112,500 Defending Champion: Michael Hoey (-10)

Player Watch: Markus Brier - The experienced Austrian produced an excellent finish at last week's Spanish Open to end the tournament in seventh place. He was also seventh in this event last year and finished in the top-15 when the Madeira Islands Open was last held over this course back in 2008.

Tommy Fleetwood - A sensation on the Challenge Tour last year, Fleetwood has so far failed to live up to expectations on the main circuit. But in this event, he might return somewhere near his Challenge Tour comfort zone and he could well use the event as a confidence booster.

Carlos Del Moral - The Spaniard played well last week in Seville and could move on from that performance here. He's a good ball striker so if the wind gets up, it will suit him. He's struggled a little on the greens so far this year but if he can find some form with the flat-stick, could be a realistic challenger. Key hole: 16th. A par-5 of 556 yards, it will be reachable in two for most of the field, depending on the direction and strength of the wind. The wind can play a significant factor at Santo de Serra though so if it's playing into here, it will require three good shots.

Skills required: Taking chances. This is a tournament that will offer many players an opportunity to step up a level in their career. With sufficient drive and determination, this event could act as an important stepping-stone towards future success.

Where next? PGA Tour - The Players Championship preview

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?