Santos leads strong home challenge in Portugal

9/24/2012 11:01:13 AM
Ricardo Santos   (Getty Images)
Ricardo Santos (Getty Images)
A hero’s welcome awaits European Tour champion Ricardo Santos when he leads the home challenge in the Portugal Masters at Oceânico Victoria Golf Course, the club where he learned to play the game.

Santos will spearhead a strong Portuguese contingent which includes his older brother Hugo – alongside whom he competed in last year’s Omega Mission Hills World Cup – and fellow European Tour champion José-Filipe Lima, who played under the French flag when he won the 2004 SAINT-OMER Open presented by Neuflize OBC.   

Since winning the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal in May, becoming the first Portuguese European Tour champion since Daniel Silva won the Jersey European Airways Open in 1992, Santos has set his sights on becoming the first ever home champion at the sixth edition of the Portugal Masters, which returns to Oceânico Victoria Golf Course from October 11-14.

Despite having grown up playing the 7,231 yards, par 72 course, which is situated five minutes from his home in Vilamoura, the 29 year has a relatively modest record in the €2.25million event.

His best performance came two years ago when, thanks chiefly to a third round of 65, he went into the final day in a tie for sixth place – only for a closing round of 75 to dash his hopes of securing the €500,000 first prize.

But with a European Tour title to his name thanks to his superb performance in Madeira, where he closed with a stunning round of 63 to take the title by four strokes, Santos is confident of staging a bold bid to succeed England’s Tom Lewis as champion.

He said: “I grew up next to Victoria Golf Course, so I obviously know the course very well. I once shot a 63 round there in a PGA of Portugal tournament, so it’d be nice to do that on the first day of the Portugal Masters! There will probably be a lot more attention and pressure on me after my win in Madeira, but I’m very happy with that.

“I haven’t played as well as I would’ve liked since winning in Madeira, but hopefully I can find some form for the Portugal Masters. I’m sure lots of friends and family will come along to watch me, so it should be a really good week. Unfortunately my daughter [Victoria] wasn’t with me in Madeira, but I’m sure she will come to the Portugal Masters. I always look forward to the tournament anyway, but after my win it should be extra special.”    

Hugo Santos, who is three years older than brother Ricardo, currently leads the PGA Portugal Order of Merit. The brothers finished in a tie for 20th place behind the triumphant American team at the Mission Hills Resort last year.   

The Portuguese line-up will be completed by amateur star Pedro Figueiredo – bidding to improve on his tied 23rd finish on his debut last year – Tiago Cruz, Nuno Henriques and António Rosado, who will be making his fourth appearance at Oceânico Victoria Golf Course.  

Rosado, who is from the Algarve, recently won the Montebelo Open and is currently second behind Santos on the PGA Portugal Order of Merit.

Portugal Masters debutant Henriques, the Madeira native who turned professional last year after graduating from the University of Central Florida, is currently tenth on the EPD Tour Order of Merit, with seven top ten finishes so far this season.