Ahead of tomorrow’s Open de Portugal at Morgado Golf Resort, we profile five European Challenge Tour players who could make an impact in Portimao.
Laporta will be looking to prove a point in the Algarve this week. After making a fast start on the 2017 Road to Oman – he finished tied third in the season-opening Barclays Kenya Open - the Italian will now be targeting an immediate return to the European Tour after failing to keep his card during his rookie season.
The 26 year old was in contention twice in 2016 on both the European and Challenge Tours, taking the halfway lead at the Trophée Hassan II and Challenge de Madrid before losing momentum over the weekend.
But after a closing seven under par round of 64 in Nairobi, Laporta will be confident he can put four good rounds together in the only dual-ranking event of the season.
Laporta is also going into this week on a high after nailing our Top Tier Challenge…
While still only 20 years old it seems Kinhult is already on the comeback trail. The young Swede, who became the first amateur in six years to claim the halfway lead at a European Tour event during the 2015 Nordea Masters, struggled during his first European Tour campaign – but has started 2017 brightly.
The former Junior Ryder Cup star finished 2016 strongly with top-ten finishes in the Hainan Open and Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge, and after claiming tied 12th in his first start of the season at the Barclays Kenya Open, Kinhult also impressed in Turkey before a difficult final day restricted him to eighth place.
Much was hoped of Kinhult after the teenager earned a European Tour card via Qualifying School two years ago, and he will be looking to recapture the initial excitement surrounding him with another headline-grabbing performance this week.
Another player heading to Morgado G&CC in fine form is Virto. The Spaniard, who triumphed twice on the Challenge Tour in 2015, shared 12th place with Kinhult in Kenya and bettered that result at the next opportunity with a top-five finish at the Turkish Airlines Challenge.
Having previously been in contention in the Race to Dubai - he took a share of ninth place at last year’s Volvo China Open - the 26 year old can return to the European Tour at the first opportunity with victory in the first dual-ranking event for two seasons.
Santos will not just have home advantage this week, but he will be teeing it up knowing he has won on the European Tour before.
The experienced Portuguese triumphed on home soil at the dual-ranking Madeira Islands Open, where he carded four rounds in the 60s – including a phenomenal closing 63 – to finish four shots clear of the field during a memorable week for the 34 year old in 2012.
Now back in Portugal, and motivated by a positive start to 2017, the former Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year will be optimistic of rediscovering his golden touch on a course he knows well.
After a record-breaking 2016 – where he won six times in one season on the satellite Alps Tour –Wallace is looking to make his name at the very highest level.
The Englishman nearly triumphed at the first opportunity in Kenya, holding the 54-hole lead before eventually finishing third as compatriot Aaron Rai stole the show on the final day.
Having also already caught the eye on the European Tour when he was in contention at the halfway stage of the 2016 Nordea Masters, the 26 year old looks well placed to continue his sharp rise up the Official World Golf Ranking with another strong showing this week.