Portugal Masters preview

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Martin Kaymer, who along with fellow big guns Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald did not make himself available for last week’s Seve Trophy, is the favourite to win this week’s Portugal Masters.

The bookmakers have installed the German, a former US PGA Champion and Ryder Cup regular, as their No 1 favourite at odds of around 12/1.

However, with at least a dozen Seve Trophy competitors in this week’s field, including Italy’s Francesco Molinari, the man who sealed Europe’s long-sought-after 15-13 Seve Trophy triumph over Great Britain and Ireland at St-Nom-La-Bretèche in Paris on Sunday, Kaymer is going to have to bring his A game to Portugal’s highly-rated par-71 Oceânico Victoria Golf Club in Vilamoura, host for every edition of this week’s event since its inception in 2007.

Molinari, who earned Europe’s decisive final point with victory over England’s lanky Chris Wood in the closing singles match in Paris, may be especially difficult to beat this week, for not only will he be arriving at Victoria with some valuable momentum after something of a stuttering season, he will also be teeing off on Thursday with a score to settle.

In both 2009 and 2010 he got within a whisker of carrying off the Portugal Masters Trophy, but on each occasion he had to settle for second and consequently has set his sights on making a third-time-lucky charge this time around.

His 2010 campaign was full of drama as he offset two brilliant 62s in the second and fourth rounds by two 74s in the first and third rounds which, in the end, left him two shots off the 18-under par winning total of Australian Richard Green.

Mind you, he too won’t be without some stiff competition – as the bookies clearly feel.

On Tuesday they had him as their joint 6th favourite with England’s Ross Fisher at 22/1 behind Kaymer (14/1), Austrian young gun Bernd Wiesberger (16/1), Seve Trophy team mates Joost Luiten of the Netherlands and Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium at 18/1 and Ireland’s Shane Lowry, the defending champion at 20/1.

Behind them, the bookies next seven best bets all played in the Seve Trophy – these being veteran Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez (28/1), Welshman Jamie Donaldson (33/1), Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Italian Matteo Manassero (both at 33/1), England’s hot young prospect Tommy Fleetwood (35/1), fellow Brit Chris Wood (40/1) and Danish veteran Thomas Bjorn at 35/1 with England’s Simon Dyson.

Along with the chubby Lowry, who closed with a sizzling 66 when he won the Portugal Masters last year, other former champions in this week’s field are Green, young gun Tom Lewis, fellow Englishman Steve Webster and the Spaniard Alvaro Quiros.

With this week’s tournament being one of the last few in the Race to Dubai which will end with only the top 60 on the European Tour qualifying for the big-money, season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in mid-November, finishing in the money is going to be important for those players currently hovering around on the inside and outside edges of the top 60 bubble.

One of these is home favourite Ricardo Santos, who last season was named the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year.

Santos will likely lead the home charge as he attempts to seal his place in the Dubai Bonanza.

“I’ve put myself in position to play in Dubai,” Santos, currently positioned at No 55 in the Race to Dubai standings, told the media this week.

“So yes, I want to have a good week in Portugal to make sure I’m there.

“The Portugal Masters is always a special event for me because it’s my home country and my home club. I know the course better than the other players and I always have a big crowd supporting me, including my family and many friends.

“I live two minutes from the course and my wife is the marketing manager there. It’s an exciting week for me and all the Portuguese players.”

In these circumstances Santos might well make a good place bet. He is at 150/1 to win with a good few of the bookies.

Players with even more to win or lose than Santos in Vilamoura this week are Irishman Peter Lawrie (111th), Scot Chris Doak (112th) and Italian Lorenzo Gagli (113th).

It’s the start of an end-of-the-season ‘Desperation Stakes’ race for this trio and others in their position, who will each need to finish among the top 110 in the race to Dubai to qualify for their Tour Cards next year.

THE BOOKIES TOP 20 FAVOURITES

Here were the top 20 favourites being quoted by Bet365 on Tuesday morning. For all the bookmakers odds you should go to Oddschecker.com

Martin Kaymer 12/1
Bernd Wiesberger 16/1
Joost Luiten 18/1
Nicolas Colsaerts 18/1
Shane Lowry 20/1
Ross Fisher 22/1
Francesco Molinari 22/1
Miguel Angel Jimenez 28/1
Jamie Donaldson 33/1
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano 33/1
Matteo Manassero 33/1
Tommy Fleetwood 35/1
Thomas Bjorn 35/1
Simon Dyson 35/1
Chris Wood 40/1
Paul Lawrie 40/1
Danny Willett 40/1
Alex Noren 45/1
Alvaro Quiros 45/1
Victor Dubuisson 50/1

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