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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Gorgeous George can gallop to Portugal glory

Coetzee drops huge hint in Holland

George Coetzee's superb putting should stand him in good stead
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Tournament starts 8am Thursday
Live on Sky Sports Golf from 11.30am 

Palmer's top tip
George Coetzee 33-1
Thomas Pieters left his backers fuming with two lacklustre performances as favourite for the Made In Denmark and Czech Masters, and punters may be reluctant to support the Belgian for the Portugal Masters.

Pieters has more than doubled in price as a result of his flop in Prague, where a final-round 83 left him in 66th place, and the 14-1 is tempting. Matthew Fitzpatrick demonstrated at Crans-sur-Sierre the week before last how the best players can shrug off poor runs to deliver a sudden trophy. Form is temporary, class is permanent.

Given how easy the Dom Pedro Victoria course plays, though, and how many of the field in Portugal will fancy their chances of making countless birdies, Pieters can be left out of the staking plan. The straightforward set-up makes this a wide-open tournament.

Pieters and 20-1 chance Thorbjorn Olesen are the most attractive options among the market principals, but five runners going off at bigger prices are recommended instead. The best value of all may be the 33-1 about George Coetzee.

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Portugal Masters match betting

Tour Championship preview

Eight weeks off allowed Coetzee time to get his body and mind ready for a strong end to the year, and the South African shed some weight in his late-summer training, as well as honing his swing.

A missed cut at Crans was no surprise on his return – that course is too tight for him – but four rounds in the 60s for a share of third place in the KLM Open last week was extremely encouraging.

Coetzee, blessed with natural power and touch, loves a straightforward assignment where birdies are freely available, ideally with the sun on his back. The Victoria is made for him and his form figures there are 3-6-21-31. Expect this flat-track bully to threaten a fourth European Tour title in perfect conditions.

Next best
Haydn Porteous 40-1
A South African one-two is entirely feasible, with Hadyn Porteous likely to build on his Czech Masters triumph. Porteous is a player of great potential and his Prague success meant two European Tour victories are under his belt at the age of 23.

The way Porteous finished off the Czech Masters bodes well for his future. He almost holed in one at the 16th in the final round, seeing off Lee Slattery by two shots in an epic duel, and the Joburg boy has impressed in contention throughout his short career.

Improved putting was the key for Porteous in Prague – he was second in the putting statistics – and that flat-stick form is combined with power-packed ball-striking. He has been excellent over the last month and 37th place at Crans was a decent result on an unsuitable layout.

Porteous tinkered with his swing last year, missing the cut at Victoria during a barren spell, but he reverted to his old technique at the start of this season and is looking formidable once again.

Other selections
Nacho Elvira 80-1
Lucas Bjerregaard 55-1
Sam Horsfield 350-1
Complete your staking plan with three maidens. Four-time Challenge Tour champion Nacho Elvira can hop over the Spanish border with plenty of self-belief, having posted a top-20 finish in four of his last five ET events, and he was ninth at Victoria last year.

A Nike-sponsored 26-year-old landed an overdue breakthrough in Holland on Sunday and Lucas Bjerregaard could follow Romain Wattel into the winner's enclosure. A share of ninth place at tight, fiddly Crans last time out was a strong hint that Bjerregaard has rediscovered his A-game. With much more freedom to unleash his power at Victoria, expect great things. He was ninth there in 2015 and closed with a 63 for 12th place last year.

Half of the ten Portugal Masters have been won by an Englishman, and four of the last six winners have been in their 20s. Manchester-born Sam Horsfield, 21 next month, turned pro this summer and could follow in the footsteps of Tom Lewis in landing this title in his first few weeks as a pro.

Horsfield, a Florida resident since the age of five, enjoyed an excellent Stateside college career and will appreciate Florida-like weather in Portugal this week. Some ridiculously low rounds were a feature of the teenage Horsfield – he has twice shot in the 50s at his local track – and this young powerhouse could tear up the Victoria.

Others to note
Shane Lowry
The Irishman won his first professional title at this track in 2012. Unlikely to hole enough putts to justify his lofty perch in the betting.

Andy Sullivan
The Midlander has course form figures of 1-2, so is bound to be popular, but there has been little to like about his recent performances.

Haotong Li
The Chinese whizzkid makes his first European Tour appearance since finishing third in the Open. He possesses the short-game skills to go well on his Victoria debut.

Chris Paisley
The Englishman was fifth last year and third in the Made In Denmark last month. Another decent chance to shed his maiden tag.

Adrian Otaegui
The Spaniard finished 12th at Victoria in 2014 and seems likely to put himself in the mix again after a bright summer.

Thomas Detry
The Belgian youngster is a birdie machine who should enjoy the challenge of Victoria. A debutant to be respected.

Staking plan
G Coetzee
2pts each-way 33-1 Coral
H Porteous
1.5pts each-way 40-1 Coral
N Elvira
1pt each-way 80-1 Ladbrokes
L Bjerregaard
1pt each-way 55-1 Betfair, Paddy Power
S Horsfield
0.5pt each-way 350-1 bet365

Portugal Masters
Course Dom Pedro Victoria, Victoria Clube de Golfe, Vilamoura, Portugal

Prize money €2m (€333,330 to the winner)
Length 7,146 yards Par 71 Field 126

Course records – 72 holes 261 Andy Sullivan (2015), Padraig Harrington (2016) 18 holes 60 Scott Jamieson (2013), Nicolas Colsaerts (2014).

Course winners taking part Steve Webster, Alvaro Quiros, Richard Green, Tom Lewis, Shane Lowry, Alexander Levy, Andy Sullivan, Padraig Harrington

When to bet By 8am Thursday

Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 11.30am Thursday

Last week – KLM Open 1 R Wattel (175-1), 2 A Connelly (150-1), T3 G Coetzee (100-1), S Heisele (250-1), E Pepperell (50-1), J Stalter (250-1), J Walters (250-1), L Westwood (25-1)

Course overview This venue has hosted the tournament since 2007. An investment of €18m in 2004 created the track, designed by Arnold Palmer, with a view to staging professional events.

The 2005 World Cup also took place there. It is a long, flat, exposed course which has been ludicrously straightforward for the last two winners, who both reached 23 under par. The 481-yard third, the 510-yard seventh and the 463-yard 18th are the three most difficult par-fours.

There are numerous water hazards and huge, undulating greens, but the fairways are wide, and players can get away with loose driving. Changes were made to the track in 2012, with the third becoming a stiff par-four (from an easy five), and there have been only three par-fives since (the fifth, 12th and 17th).

They, along with the 315-yard, water-free, driveable par-four 15th, are fantastic birdie opportunities

Story of last year Padraig Harrington edged defending champion Andy Sullivan by a shot, the Irishman ending an eight-year European Tour victory drought

Weather forecast Set fair, with hot, sunny, calm conditions for all four days

Type of player suited to challenge Length has always been an advantage at Victoria, with plenty of enforced carries from the tee and many holes setting up well for big-hitters. The driveable 15th is an easy birdie for the bombers. Power, plus the touch to hole enough putts to reach the super-low annual winning score, are the ingredients for success

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Expect this flat-track bully to threaten a fourth European Tour title in perfect conditions
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