Portugal Masters preview

The European Tour is on the Algarve this week for the Portugal Masters at the Oceânico Victoria course in Vilamoura. England’s Tom Lewis is the defending champion and a strong field has assembled.

Tom Lewis defends Portugal Masters (Getty Images)

Lowdown: The European Tour is on the Algarve this week for the Portugal Masters at the Oceânico Victoria course in Vilamoura. England's Tom Lewis is the defending champion and a strong field has assembled.

As the Race to Dubai heats up, a number of Europe's top players will be in Portugal trying to improve their positions on the ranking. Some with a view towards finishing as high as possible after the Dubai World Championship, others to make the top-60 and qualify to play in the Dubai World Championship.

Ryder Cup stars Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari will tee it up, as will their captain from Medinah Jose Maria Olazabal, and his vice captains Thomas Bjorn, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Padraig Harrington will also make a start and he's looking forward to returning to a venue where he has contended in the past. He's been under par in each of the eight competitive rounds he's played over the Oceânico Victoria Course.

"I was in contention in 2009 when Lee (Westwood) won, and hopefully I will be again this year," he said. "Portugal is always a great place to play golf."

This will be the sixth hosting of the Portugal Masters and the list of winners to this point is impressive. Steve Webster took the inaugural title in 2007 and Alvaro Quiros, Lee Westwood, Richard Green and Tom Lewis have been victorious since then.

The Victoria in Vilamoura is part of Oceânico's impressive portfolio of courses. Opened for play in 2000, it was designed by Arnold Palmer. It's an American-style track with generous fairways and large, rolling greens. In 2005 the course hosted the World Cup, won by Wales.

Venue: Oceânico Victoria Course, Vilamoura, Portugal Date: October 11-14 Course stats: par 72, 7,231 yards Purse: €2,250,000 Defending Champion: Tom Lewis (-21)

TV Coverage: Thursday 11 - Live on Sky Sports 2 from 11.30am Friday 12 - Live on Sky Sports 2 from 11.30am Saturday 13 - Live on Sky Sports 3 from 2pm Sunday 14 - Live on Sky Sports 3 from 2pm

Player Watch: Rafa Cabrera Bello - The Spaniard played poorly in the Dunhill Links but finished in the top-10 in his two European Tour starts before that event. He was second in this tournament last year.

Branden Grace - Last week's winner, he's now up to third on the Race to Dubai. He's taken four titles this year and he's missed only four cuts. He's won back-to-back already this season and he could do it again.

Alex Noren - The Swede finished strongly at St Andrews to end the week in third. He also has a strong record in this tournament: He's never missed the cut.

Key Hole: 18th. At 463 yards this is a fabulous finishing hole. Water waits all the way up the left side from the tee and it continues to play a part in the approach. Anything coming up short or straying left will end up wet. A par here is a tough ask, particularly if you have a one-shot lead on Sunday afternoon. Where next? PGA Tour - Frys.com Open 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?