Ryder Cup hero Phillip Price will attempt to rewind the years along with the video recording of his first European Tour success when he competes in the Estoril Open de Portugal at Penha Longa Golf Club this week.
It was 16 years ago at Penha Longa that Price led from start to finish to join the elite group of Tour champions, and every now and again the Welshman takes a sneak peek at the old video tape of that wire-to-wire success.
The delicious memories of that victory make Price smile even now but he admitted: “Looking back at the tape it all seems incredibly easy, but it was the complete opposite. In truth, leading from start to finish felt like the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. It was a long, long week!
“It still generates a feeling of excitement when I watch the replay. It changed so many things for me. I had struggled for the previous three years but the win and the two year exemption gave me so much confidence to push on.
“I’ve always loved this tournament, having come within a shot of winning against Gary Orr in 2000 and then succeeding for a second time the following year. I can’t put my finger on why it’s been good to me. It’s just one of those things.”
The Penha Longa course, set in the beautiful area of Sintra, close to the capital of Lisbon, has the potential to play long and tough due to the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.
Price, who beat Phil Mickelson in The 2002 Ryder Cup singles, continued: “There are big changes in elevation and the wind can blow really hard off the sea. If you put that combination together, Penha Longa can be both physically demanding and make club selection very tricky.
“However, it is going to be very pleasant to get back and familiarise myself with the course and the area again after quite a few years.”
Sadly, Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey is unable to defend his title as he recovers from illness, but a number of past champions are in the field this week, including England’s Van Phillips (1999) and Paul Broadhurst (2005 and 2006) along with Frenchman Grégory Bourdy, who captured the second of his three European Tour titles in Estoril in 2008.
Bourdy has already done his homework before setting out on his quest to regain the Estoril Open de Portugal crown. He explained: “I knew that my fellow Frenchman, Jean-Francois Remesy, had won a tournament at Penha Longa in 1999 so I’ve learned something of the golf course from him. The main things I’ve discovered is that if it’s windy, it will play tough and that it is very hilly.”
The 28 year old from Bordeaux won the title two years ago and he recalled: “I remember putting together a great back nine after a slow start and ended up in a play-off with Alastair Forsyth and David Howell. It would have been nice to win in 72 holes but it was certainly dramatic.”
Unfortunately Bourdy missed the traditional enthusiastic champagne dousing reserved for French winners from their fellow countrymen. He laughed: “The play-off ended on the 17th and I think my colleagues felt it was too far from the clubhouse to get the champagne out there!”
A host of European Tour winners and Ryder Cup players are in the field at Penha Longa, including Peter Baker, Thomas Björn, Broadhurst, Darren Clarke, Andrew Coltart , Ignacio Garrido, Price and Jarmo Sandelin.
Home hopes will be carried by European Tour champion José-Filipe Lima, who regained his full playing privileges last year through the Challenge Tour Rankings and is always a threat on Portuguese soil with the backing of the local crowds.