Michael Hoey’s excellent record in Portugal will give him added confidence when he tees off at the Madeira Islands Open – BPI Portugal this week.
The Northern Irishman finished sixth at Porto Santo Golfe 12 months ago and two weeks later won the Estoril Open de Portugal for his first European Tour title. Now he is back in the country, albeit on the tiny island of Porto Santo a few miles off the coast of Madeira, and ready to claim European Tour victory number two.
With the spotlight trained firmly on the Masters Tournament on the other side of the Atlantic, and all but one of the top 30 in The Race to Dubai absent from the field, Hoey sees the Madeira Islands Open – BPI Portugal as the perfect chance for glory.
“I’ve not been very well the last couple of weeks and I think that’s mostly because of the terrible weather we’ve been having in Northern Ireland, so it’s really nice to get out here into some sunshine and get away from the cold back home,” he said. “I’m feeling so much better already and can’t wait to get going.”
Despite the recent heavy rains in the region, Porto Santo Golfe looks spectacular, with two holes on the back nine bordered by sheer drops down to the sea and an ocean view stretching for miles.
“The course is looking great,” said Hoey. “It’s a fantastic layout and how it plays will really depend on how strong the wind blows. It’s very exposed on some of the holes, particularly on the back nine, and if it’s really windy, as it is supposed to be on Friday, it’ll be tough.
“This is a huge week because it’s a great chance for a younger player or a player further down the rankings to win. It’s the first European Tour event for a few guys and they will want to do well. The chance for a one-year exemption is massive and I want to win it as much as anyone out here.
“I said earlier in the season I was happy with how my year was going and I’m still feeling that way. I’ve been pretty consistent which was my aim so I’m happy with how it’s going. I’m ready to push on from here.”
The events at Augusta National will still be followed with interest, however, and Hoey added: “Fortunately the hotel has got BBC so I’ll be watching the Masters every night, as will a lot of others I’m sure.”
Richie Ramsay is the highest-ranked player in the field at 29th in The Race to Dubai, and he will be looking for his second victory of the season following his triumph in the South African Open Championship in December.
José-Filipe Lima is the main home hope, but a number of other Portuguese players will attempt to prove their credentials in a European Tour event, knowing that the champion earns a one-year exemption and therefore a guaranteed card until the end of the 2011 season.