Grégory Bourdy will face an impressive field including The 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie and former winners Paul Broadhurst and Pablo Martin when he defends his Estoril Open de Portugal title this week.
The Frenchman returns to Oitavos Dunes, in Estoril, where he captured his second European Tour title last year, defeating Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth and England’s David Howell in a play-off after the trio tied on 18 under par 266 in regulation play.
Both Forsyth, who finished fifth in last week’s Open de Andalucia de Golfe 09, and Howell are again included in the field for the 53rd edition of the tournament, along with Forsyth’s compatriot Lawrie who this season celebrates the tenth anniversary of his most famous win when he memorably defeated Bourdy’s compatriot Jean Van De Velde and Justin Leonard of the USA in a play-off at Carnoustie to win the Claret Jug.
They will be joined in Estoril by Estanislao Goya and Anders Hansen, two players who have already tasted success on The 2009 European Tour International Schedule
Argentine Goya will be looking for his second victory in Portugal in three weeks having captured his maiden European Tour title in the Madeira Islands Open BPI-Portugal two weeks ago.
The 20 year old survived a late birdie blitz from Scotland’s Callum Macaulay at Porto Santo Golfe to win in just his sixth start on The European Tour.
Meanwhile Dane Hansen, winner of the BMW PGA Championship in 2002 and 2007, will be chasing his fourth European Tour title having already triumphed in the Joburg Open at the start of January.
There will also be a strong Spanish contingent led by Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño and Pablo Larrazabal, both of whom won European Tour titles in 2008.
Fernandez-Castaño finished fifth in the 2008 Estoril Open de Portugal before going on to capture his fourth European Tour crown when he defeated Lee Westwood in a play-off to win the Quinn Insurance British Masters at The Belfry.
His compatriot Larrazabal, the 2008 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, completed one of the great sporting stories of 2008 when he held off a field including Angel Cabrera and Colin Montgomerie to win the Open de France ALSTOM after progressing through the 36 hole pre-qualifying tournament.
His stunning victory rekindled memories of fellow countryman Martin’s own remarkable performance in the 2007 Estoril Open de Portgual when he became the first amateur to win a European Tour event.
Martin finished one stroke clear of Frenchman Raphaёl Jacquelin to make history two years ago and the 22 year old returns to Oitavos Dunes where he set a new course record 63 (-8) in the first round last year, a feat which Bourdy then subsequently matched for a share of the opening day lead.
Another former Estoril Open de Portugal champion included in the field is Englishman Broadhurst, whose victories in 2005 and 2006 make him the only player other than Scotland’s Sam Torrance (1982 and 1983) to win back-to-back titles since the tournament became part of The European Tour International Schedule.
Irish Ryder Cup player Paul McGinley, a four time European Tour winner, will also tee up in Estoril along with compatriot Damien McGrane, winner of the Volvo China Open last year, who finished in a tie for third behind Goya in Madeira.
Nine-time European Tour champion Thomas Björn of Denmark, another former Ryder Cup player, is also in the field, as is Europe’s 2002 Ryder Cup winning Captain Torrance, winner of the DGM Barbados Open on the European Senior Tour earlier this month and making a rare outing on The European Tour with the opportunity to add to his record 704 appearances.
The Portuguese challenge will be led by José-Filipe Lima, winner of the 2004 Aa St Omer Open, who chipped in at the last to finish third in the Estoril Open de Portugal in 2005.