Gouveia the man to beat on home turf he knows intimately
European Tour heads to new venue
Starts 7am Thursday
Palmer's top tip
Ricardo Gouveia 16-1
The Portugal Open returns to the European Tour schedule with one of the poorest fields ever assembled on the circuit, but home hero Ricardo Gouveia should have no problem motivating himself for the low-key Algarve gathering.
Gouveia will be teeing up at a course he has played many times before and the crowd favourite has shown enough form of late to suggest he will give his army of supporters plenty to cheer. The Lisbon-born swinger looks the man to beat and the early-week gamble on him looks entirely justified.
Gouveia dominated the Challenge Tour in 2015 and has three victories under his belt in the lower grade. A solid if unspectacular European Tour rookie campaign yielded three top-tens, including third place in the Nedbank Challenge and a spot in the DP World Tour Championship.
This year did not start well, but some good golf in Morocco, China and St Albans in his most recent outings has restored self-belief and he tweeted about his “game going in right direction”. The 25-year-old could boss this tournament if anything close to top form.
Tom Lewis 66-1
Portugal is the perfect place for Tom Lewis to revive a flagging career. The 26-year-old still has plenty of time to fulfil the enormous potential he showed when first bursting on to the professional scene in 2011. The Hertfordshire boy won the Portugal Masters that year, having made waves as an amateur at the Open, and he looked set for big things.
A links-style track in Portugal could reignite Lewis this week. Driving inaccuracy has been the main reason for his fall from grace, but the fairways at Morgado are extremely generous.
Some bright efforts around the turn of the year – 15th place at Q-School, tenth spot in the Australian PGA Championship and 18th in the SA Open – hinted at a return to form and it may not be long before this underachiever starts climbing back up the world rankings.
Clement Sordet 60-1
Alvaro Quiros 200-1
Clement Sordet looked a player to follow after he finished second in the 2015 Thailand Golf Championship, appearing entirely comfortable jostling with Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and other star names for that title. The Frenchman has won twice on the Challenge Tour and seems more than capable of European Tour success.
Sordet warmed up for Portugal with fifth place in the Turkish Airlines Challenge and the stylish 24-year-old may have peaked at the perfect time for a European Tour breakthrough.
Complete your staking plan with a speculative investment on Alvaro Quiros, a six-time European Tour champion who is still only 34. The 2008 Portugal Masters winner has been in miserable form, but what better place to stop the rot than Morgado?
Quiros lives on the Algarve, so knows the course, and it is ideal for his style of play. The wide fairways will allow him to unleash his notorious power with freedom and many holes on this layout play into the hands of big-hitters. He has five par-fives to attack and some par-fours are in range off the tee in the right breeze.
Motivation has been an issue for Quiros over the last few years – he is a financially secure and happy man – but he is eager to reclaim a European Tour card. He has committed to a full Challenge Tour schedule this season, but the Portugal Open is a golden chance to pocket ET playing rights in one fell swoop. Three firms go 200-1 Quiros, but Coral are offering seven places.
Others to note
Julien Guerrier The power-packed Frenchman was third in the Turkish Airlines Challenge last time out and could take a shine to Morgado. He has decent Portugal form from the Madeira Islands Open
Marcus Kinhult The promising Swedish youngster is getting his act together again after a poor 2016. His last four Challenge Tour outings have yielded form of 6-4-12-8.
Michael Hoey The Northern Irishman has been in a slump, but he has won five European Tour titles, two of which came in Portugal.
Bradley Neil The 21-year-old Scot finished 11th in the Turkish Airlines Open last time out and may be ready to start doing himself justice in the professional ranks.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout The South African youngster possesses a classic swing and bundles of potential. He is yet to make an impact outside of his homeland, but this is an opportunity in weak company.
Pep Angles The Spanish powerhouse could make mincemeat of the five par-fives at Morgado. Has some decent European Tour form in the book this season.
3pts each-way 16-1 general
1pt each-way 66-1 general
1pt each-way 60-1 Betfred
0.5pt each-way 200-1 Coral
Course Morgado Golf and Country Club, Portimao, Portugal
Prize money €500,000 (€83,330 to the winner)
Length 7,419 yards Par 73 Field 156
When to bet By 7am Thursday
Course overview The Portugal Open returns to the European Tour schedule for the first time since 2010. Morgado CC, designed by Russell Talley and opened in 2003, is making its debut as host course. It is a resort track with long, wide fairways. The front nine is flat and wide open, while the back is more undulating and tree-lined. It is located in a valley in the inland Algarve. It is a parkland layout with some of the characteristics of a links, not least Scottish-style bunkering.
Weather forecast Strong breezes, heavy rain and bursts of hail are expected today, then heavy rain and thunderstorms for the first day of competition. Light rain and light breezes for Friday, before a sunny and calm weekend.
Type of player suited to challenge Type of player suited to challenge Powerhouses will be licking their lips at the five par-fives and two potentially driveable par-fours. This course could be a slog for the shorter hitters.
Key attribute Power