Ian Woosnam, the 1991 Masters champion, heads a strong field for the first tournament to be played on European soil in 2000 following six co-sanctioned events in Taiwan, South Africa, Australia and Malaysia which further enhance the international schedule of the European Tour.
Woosnam returns to the fray after some promising performances in South Africa while Costantino Rocca of Italy is in the line-up along with a past Volvo Order of Merit winner, Ronan Rafferty of Northern Ireland.
Rafferty, the 1992 Portuguese champion, has suffered from a thumb injury for the best part of two years and underwent surgery in 1999. He returns to the Tour this season on a medical exemption and makes his first start since the English Open in 1998.
Apart from Rafferty, the tournament also sees a welcome return to the European Tour for Frenchman Olivier Edmond, the 1998 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year winner - appropriately over the course which the great former Open champion designed - who fell ill midway through last season but has completed a long road back to good health.
England's Van Phillips will defend his title over the testing course which Sir Henry built back in the 1960s. Last year, after a dramatic battle for supremacy, Phillips prevailed over John Bickerton at the first hole of a play-off.
Other past winners include Peter Mitchell, Michael Jonzon, Wayne Riley, Phillip Price and Tony Johnstone.
Le Meridien Penina is a wonderful creation of Cotton, who proved to be an outstanding golf course architect as well as one of Britain's greatest champions. He carved out the championship course on the Algarve coast between Portimao and Lagos in 1966.
The course is set in its own 360 acre estate and is undoubtedly a magnificent test of golf with woods and water coming into play at almost every hole. The nature of the lay-out calls for precise shot-making and with five par fives, those long holes have tended to hold the key to past tournaments.
One significant change which comes into force this week is that the number of players to make the 36-hole cut will be increased from 65 and ties to 70 and ties.