The European Tour moves to Portimão this week as the Open de Portugal returns after a seven year absence, this time as a dual ranking event with the European Challenge Tour.
The Open de Portugal last featured on the European Tour International Schedule back in 2010, when current European Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjørn recorded a comprehensive five-shot victory over Richard Green at Penha Longa Golf Club in Estoril.
The Dane, who had gone four years without a European Tour title, returned to winning ways in style, seeing off a fine challenge from Green with a closing 68 for a 23 under par aggregate total of 265.
The Australian left-hander chipped away at Bjørn’s three shot overnight lead from the outset of the final day. He got within one before a decisive swing in Bjørn’s direction at the 14th and 15th gave the then 39 year old his tenth European Tour title.
Former Dubai Desert Classic winner Green bogeyed the par four 14th as his playing partner birdied and when Bjørn's tee shot went within five feet at the par three next, Green could only respond by hitting his into a bunker and dropping another shot
First played back in 1953, the Open de Portugal became part of the European Tour International Schedule 20 years later when it was hosted at Penina Golf Club on the Algarve.
Since then, the tournament has been played at 12 different courses around the country, with Morgado Golf Resort becoming number 13 as it plays host to a European Tour event for the first time.
When Bjørn took the title in 2010, he added his name to a list of winners that includes such golfing luminaries as Miguel Angel Jiménez, Colin Montgomerie, Sam Torrance and current Senior Open Champion, Paul Broadhurst.
There is a different feel to the field this week, as the Open de Portugal becomes the first Challenge Tour dual ranking event since the 2015 Madeira Islands Open.
Fittingly, the local charge is led by two players with Challenge Tour pedigree who are fresh from leading Portugal to a quarter-final place at the inaugural GolfSixes event last week.
Home favourite Ricardo Gouveia, who topped the Road to Oman Rankings following a record-breaking 2015 campaign, will tee it up at Morgado Golf Resort alongside José-Filipe Lima, who graduated to the European Tour last season.
Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, winner of The Open Championship in 1999, and Mike Weir of Canada, who claimed the Green Jacket in Augusta in 2003, bring Major Tournament pedigree to the tournament.
In an interesting twist, one of two amateurs invited to participate this year is Tomas Melo Gouveia – brother of Ricardo.
Located in a valley in the inland Algarve between Portimão and Monchique, the Morgado Golf Course is a challenging par 73 course, with generous fairways that accentuate its length.
Morgado has the typical characteristics of a links course – with flat fairways and Scottish-inspired bunkers – but instead of being beside the sea, is set in an area of parkland, surrounded by the Algarve region’s traditional trees.
Did You Know?
· The Open de Portugal is making a return to the European Tour International Schedule for the first time since 2010 when the 2018 European Ryder Cup Captain, Thomas Bjørn claimed the title.
· The 2017 Open de Portugal is being dual-ranked with the European Challenge Tour for the first time. Other tournaments that have had this status are the North West of Ireland Open, Madeira Islands Open, Saint Omer Open and NH Collection Open.
· Michael Hoey is bidding to become a multiple winner of the event, having claimed his maiden European Tour victory back in 2009.
· Michael Hoey is one of five players in the field to have won a European Tour event in Portugal. The other four are, Steve Webster (2007 Portugal Masters), Alvaro Quiros (2008 Portugal Masters), Richard Green (2010 Portugal Masters) and Tom Lewis (2011 Portugal Masters).
· The Morgado Golf Resort is playing host to a European Tour event for the first time. Since the event became part of the European Tour in 1973 the venue is the 13th different course to host Portugal’s national open.
· Since the event became part of the European Tour International Schedule in 1973, it has seen many players claim their maiden European Tour title. They include: Jamie Benito (1973), Hal Underwood (1975), Salvador Balbuena (1976), Manuel Ramos (1977), Howard Clark (1978), Tony Johnstone (1984), Warren Humphreys (1985), Mike Harwood (1988), Colin Montgomerie (1989), Mike McLean (1990), Phillip Price (1994), Adam Hunter (1995), Michael Jonzon (1997), Van Phillips (1999), Gary Orr (2000) , Carl Pettersson (2002), Pablo Martin Benavides (2007) and Michael Hoey (2009).
· Pablo Martin Benavides made European Tour history when he became the first amateur to win, claiming the Open de Portugal in 2007. His performance beat the previous best by an amateur in an official European Tour event of tied third by Nick Flanagan at the 2004 ANZ Championship. Since the Spanish player’s triumph two more amateurs have WON. They are: Danny Lee (2009 Johnnie Walker Classic) and Shane Lowry (2009 Irish Open).
· On his way to victory in the 1987 Open de Portugal, staged at Estoril Golf Club, Robert Lee created European Tour history by becoming the first and only player to have shot 27 twice. The magic figure occurred in round one en route to a 61. The Englishman compiled his first 27 in the 1985 Monte Carlo Open. Other golfers to achieve the feat are: José Maria Cañizares (1978 Swiss Open), Joakim Haeggman (1997 Alfred Dunhill Cup), Simon Khan (2004 Celtic Manor Wales Open), Andrew Coltart (2007 KLM Open) and Sergio Garcia (2014 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational).