Ricardo Santos (Getty Images)
Ricardo Santos is hoping to make a triumphant return to the venue of his remarkable home victory when he defends the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal – BPI title at Clube de Golf do Santo da Serra this week.
Santos produced one of the most memorable victories in the tournament’s 20 year history last year when he showed nerves of steel in front of the expectant home crowds, carding a stunning final round 63 to soar to a four shot win.
His final score of 22 under par was a record low total for the event and the 30 year old went on to receive the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award for 2012 – the first Portuguese to do so.
“This week is going to be an exciting one for me and for Portugal too,” said the two-time Challenge Tour winner. “I hope I can do well again there but I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself either so I will go out there and just enjoy the week and see how it goes.
“That win was good for the tournament, great for Portugal and definitely good for me. The tournament is really important for everybody in Portuguese golf and especially for the young kids and players on the Challenge Tour and European Tour.”
Santos has been in superb form this season, notching three top five finishes and a further two top tens in ten appearances, and will be hoping the memories of last year’s victory can spur him on to glory again on the testing course at Clube de Golf do Santo da Serra.
“I have some great memories from the last round last year but the one that stands out for me most is the big putt that I holed at the 17th,” said Santos, who is currently 24th in The Race to Dubai. “Those memories are still really fresh.
“You have to really precise with your irons and distance control is key. Of course, putting is so important no matter what course you play, but if you control your approach shots and the distances you will have a really good chance of shooting a low score there.
“You have to trust your caddie and the strokesaver because there are a lot of big slopes, both uphill and downhill, on the greens.
“You have to be patient and you also have to be fit because it’s a tough walk in the altitude, so that can be a key factor in Madeira.”
Santos is one of nine former champions present this week, joining Tano Goya (2009), Alastair Forsyth (2008), Daniel Vancsik (2007), Robert-Jan Derksen (2005), Bradley Dredge (2003), Niclas Fasth (2000), Jarmo Sandelin (1996) and Santiago Luna (1995).
Former Ryder Cup players in the field include Frenchman Thomas Level, Denmark’s Soren Hansen and Oliver Wilson of England, while multiple European Tour winners Simon Khan, Robert Rock and Grégory Bourdy will also feature.
Tom Lewis, meanwhile, returns to the country where he claimed his maiden European Tour victory, the 2011 Portugal Masters.