Eight Ryder Cup players and Dubai Desert Classic champion Robert-Jan Derksen are included in the field assembled on the exotic island of Madeira this week where Spain's Diego Borrego will attempt to become the first player to successfully retain the Madeira Island Open title over the spectacular Santo da Serra course.
Twelve months ago Borrego captured his second European Tour title when he finished a stroke ahead of compatriot Ivo Giner and Maarten Lafeber of The Netherlands with a seven under par total of 281 but if he is to repeat that feat he must first overcome a starting line up that includes eight past and present Ryder Cup players and 28 European Tour champions.
Derksen returns to action for the first time since his victory over the reigning Open Champion and World Number Two Ernie Els in the Dubai Desert Classic. Derksen's fairytale victory at The Emirates Golf Club highlighted the strength in depth on The European Tour as he closed with a spectacular 65 to win the title by a shot and become the fifth first-time winner on The 2003 European Tour International Schedule.
Ryder Cup players in the starting line up include Peter Baker, Seve Ballesteros, Gordon Brand Jnr, Paul Broadhurst, Andrew Coltart, Mark James, Jarmo Sandelin and Philip Walton, as well 2001 Volvo PGA Champion Andrew Oldcorn.
Santo da Serra Golf Club is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque settings on the current schedule. Opened in 1991, the steeply undulating course with its challenging greens is perched 2,300 feet above sea level and the beauty of the surroundings, including the pine, mimosa and eucalyptus trees and exotic flowering shrubs, is enhanced by many spectacular views over the Atlantic Ocean.
The tournament too has quickly established itself as one of the favourites thanks largely to the excellence of the layout, redesigned by Robert Trent Jones Senior on the site where the original nine-hole course has existed since 1937, and the propensity for enthralling golf and exciting finishes.