Last year’s Champion Shane Lowry will begin his Portugal Masters defence alongside home hero Ricardo Santos and former Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal from the tenth tee at 8.20am on Thursday morning.
This will be the first in a run of marquee three balls to hit the 7,192 yard Oceânico Victoria Golf Course during round one, with two time runner up Francesco Molinari next to tee off.
The Italian has come within a whisker of this title on two occasions in consecutive years from 2009, and fresh off securing the winning point at last week’s Seve Trophy by Golf+ he will no doubt be brimming with confidence. Molinari will have fellow Continental Europe team members Nicolas Colsaerts and Joost Luiten for company at 8.30am, both of which showed great form at Saint-Nom-La-Bretèche en route to their team’s first victory in 13 years.
Next off, at 8.40am, will be an all British trio including Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles winner Tommy Fleetwood. He will play the first 36 holes alongside one of the men he beat in the play-off for that maiden title, Stephen Gallacher, as well as Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who won for the second time on Tour earlier in the year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Former Champion Alvaro Quiros, who won this title in 2008, is next off alongside Thomas Aiken and David Lynn, while Alex Noren, Marcel Siem and Chris Wood are all out one group later at 9am.
After the excitement of the morning’s play, there will also be plenty for the galleries to follow in the afternoon half of the draw on day one.
Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley will begin his week from the first at 12.40pm alongside two players who will hope to be in the Irishman’s team come Gleneagles next September, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Danny Willett.
They will be swiftly followed by Omega European Masters winner Thomas Björn, former World Number One Martin Kaymer and BMW PGA Champion Matteo Manassero, all of which will be looking to add to their trophy haul in the Algarve.
The latest stroke play champion on The European Tour, David Howell, won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship a fortnight ago to end a seven year victory drought. He is off at 1pm alongside Paul Lawrie and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
While one group later is Ross Fisher, who three putted the 18th green to hand Shane Lowry the title 12 months ago. He will tee it up alongside last year’s 54 hole leader here, Bernd Wiesberger, and Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño. They will be followed by Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, 70° OPEN D'ITALIA LINDT winner Julien Quesne, and two time European Tour winner Pablo Larrazabal at 1.20pm.
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