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2016 Portugal Masters

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The Portugal Masters has become little more than a birdie fest in recent years. Even when weather forced the event cut short in 2014, Alex Lévy still managed -18 for two rounds. The average winning score at Vilamoura is almost -20 and that tells us all we need to know really.

8 of the 9 event champions are previous European Tour winners. Only Tom Lewis had no previous wins when he went -21 as a 20-year-old rookie in 2011. 7 of those 8 winners had won events at -16 or better proving their pedigree in low scoring events.

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The Oceânico Victoria Golf Course on Portugal’s southern coast has seen some seriously poor weather in the last two years. The Arnold Palmer design should be a better host this year. With a little luck, we should be delay-free this year. The forecast suggests that we’ll see some wind and rain on the weekend but not too much.

Alex Norén and Thomas Pieters both have great claims for favouritism. The Swede entered the OWGR Top 20 with his third win in eight starts at The Grove on Sunday. The Belgian hasn’t been great since his sensational Ryder Cup performance but in this field, he should definitely contend.

Past those two, there isn’t much to look at. Tommy Fleetwood has been impressive of late but when he’s third favourite in a field, you know there isn’t much on offer. Andy Sullivan, Thongchai Jaidee and Nicolas Colsaerts are the only other three in the field shorter than 33/1.

I did briefly consider Alex Norén at 15/2 but decided better of it. My four selections are all between 50-100/1 and I could’ve had a few more in that range. Nacho Elvira, Matteo Manassero, Jean Hugo and Gary Stal all caught my eye at big prices but not enough to warrant backing.

First up is Scott Jamieson at 90/1. The Scot has finished in the Top 15 at Vilamoura in three of the last four years. If recent results at the Open d’Italia and KLM Open are anything to go by then Jamieson is playing some quality golf right now. A T28 last week is better than it looks.

The only European Tour victory to his name was a bit of a weird one. Jamieson shot 66-57 to win the 2012 Nelson Mandela Championship on a Par 65 course. Not exactly the most legitimate win ever. Perhaps he can make this his first proper European Tour win.

Never thought I’d be saying this again but Stephen Gallacher is next at 50/1 with 7 Places on offer. Another Scot with great course form. Top 10s in his last three starts at Oceânico Victoria, Gallacher has averaged just over 68 for his last twelve rounds at the course.

The 2014 Ryder Cup member has been in dire form for the last couple of years but seems to have turned it around in recent weeks. After a strong start at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, a late bogey or two and a poor 2nd Round took him out of contention. Since then he’s gone 68-68-70-67-70-67 in his last six rounds. On a course that suits, Gallacher looks primed to contend.

Marcel Siem is next on the list at 80/1 with 7 Places on offer. The German is another player that has struggled for form in recent years but is more than capable of winning in this field. An 11th place finish at the British Masters suggests he’s gotten past the injury that forced him to withdraw from the Scottish Open in July.

The 36-year-old has four European Tour victories to his name and only a poor final round kept him from contending last week. Sixteen birdies in his first 54 holes at The Grove show what he’s capable of when firing on all cylinders.

Last but not least is Romain Wattel at 80/1. The Frenchman has played twelve rounds at the course and has averaged 68.67. The 25-year-old probably should’ve won on the European Tour by now but with the pressure off on a course that suits, there’s every chance that he could get it done this week.