Francesco Molinari (Getty Images)
Francesco Molinari will head to this week’s Portugal Masters on a high after securing Continental Europe’s first Seve Trophy victory for 13 years on Sunday.
The Italian’s point against Chris Wood in the final singles match sealed a 15-13 triumph over Great Britain and Ireland at St-Nom-La-Bretèche in Paris, their first since the inaugural event in 2000 at Sunningdale.
Now the 31 year old will turn his attentions back to stroke play, and will be focused on going one better at Oceânico Victoria Golf Course in Vilamoura, where he has twice finished runner-up, in 2009 and 2010.
In 2010 he shot 62 in both the second and fourth rounds, but the elation of those ten under par scores was tempered by a pair of 74s in the first and third rounds, and that inconsistency left him two shots off the 18 under par winning total of Australian Richard Green.
Molinari is joined by all but three of his victorious Continental Europe team-mates in Portugal – Grégory Bourdy, Mikko Ilonen and Thorbjørn Olesen are resting after their exertions in Paris – plus their captain, José María Olazábal, as well as German Ryder Cup star Martin Kaymer.
Irishman Shane Lowry will defend the title he won in style last year with a final round 66, and other former champions in the field include Englishmen Tom Lewis and Steve Webster, Spaniard Alvaro Quiros and Green.
Ricardo Santos, who last season was named the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, leads the home charge and will be hoping for a strong performance to cement his place in the lucrative season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai for which only the top 60 in The Race to Dubai qualify.
“I’ve put myself in position to play in Dubai,” said Santos, who is currently 55th. “I want to have a good week in Portugal to make sure I’m there.
“The Portugal Masters is always a special event for me because it’s my home country and my home club. I know the course better than the other players and I always have a big crowd supporting me, including my family and many friends.
“I live two minutes from the course and my wife is the marketing manager there. It’s an exciting week for me and all the Portuguese players.”
The €2million Portugal Masters is the penultimate tournament on the International Schedule before the Final Series, so will be crucial for those players on the cusp of the top 110 in The Race to Dubai who keep their playing rights for 2014.
Irishman Peter Lawrie (111th), Scot Chris Doak (112th) and Italian Lorenzo Gagli (113th) are among those needing a good showing to retain their cards.
The 7,209 yards, par 71 Oceânico Victoria Golf Course has hosted the event every year since the first edition in 2007.