Defending Portugal Masters champion Tom Lewis could complete a hat-trick this week as he tees it up at Dom Pedro Victoria in the Algarve.
The Englishman won his second Portugal Masters crown last season, finishing three strokes ahead of Lucas Herbert and Eddie Pepperell – his first victory since winning the same event seven years prior.
Lewis produced the largest 54-hole comeback of the 2018 season, sitting nine strokes behind Herbert after a level par first round. He then carded rounds of 63-61-66 to reach 22 under par for his second European Tour title.
“I got off to a slow start but had a really good Friday-Saturday and a great day on the last day. Hopefully I can get off to a faster start and not put too much pressure on myself, like I did on that Friday. The course suits me and the greens are really good. They’re firmer and faster – hopefully I can hole as many putts as I did last year.
“I feel like I know where the lines are, I’m confident where I know I can hit it and where my bad shots can go. There are a few changes out there, with a few more trees that have been planted, but they don’t come into play that much. You’d have to be very unlucky for those to come into play. If I hit it well and hole putts, I feel comfortable on this golf course.”
Last year, Dom Pedro Victoria witnessed history as Oliver Fisher carded the first 59 on the European Tour. In 46 years and over 690,000 rounds of golf, no one had recorded a sub-60 score before Fisher’s 12 under par round on the par-71 Victoria Course.
“It’s always a course I like to come back to, we come back every year, it’s a nice week. The hotel is on site and everyone is in a good mood. It’s the end of the year. Last year I had a great round on the Friday, but a mixed week apart from that. The previous years have been similar to this year – I need a decent-enough week to secure my playing rights for next year. There’s a bit of an added pressure on it which means a lot.
“There are mixed feelings in terms of what to expect and my own goals this week. It’s nice to come back to a place where people are talking about something I’ve done before. It’s nice to walk around and think I’ve hit some good shots around here and had some good rounds.”
Matt Wallace, the highest-ranked player on the Official World Golf Ranking in the field this week in 29th place, will draw on fond memories as he prepares for this week’s Portugal Masters, returning to the country where he won his first European Tour title three years ago.
“It’s playing a little differently this year. This morning was windy, which it can get around here. The greens are fabulous. They are fast and true. I know they’ve spent quite a bit of money on the course – it’s in great nick. The rough is down, but you can get some fliers. If you can hit the fairways, people will still go low. With Oli shooting 59 last year, people can go low. But it’s about getting it in play and hitting lots of greens– I’d expect some long putts going in this week.”
The Englishman, who has since won three further titles after his Open de Portugal success in 2016, is currently fifth on the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex and is hoping for a strong finish to the 2019 season, with just five events left to play.
Also teeing it up at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course this week are former Portugal Masters Champions Lucas Bjerregaard and 2020 Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington.
Bjerregaard won his first European Tour title in Vilamoura in 2017, one year after Harrington secured his first victory in Europe in eight years when he emerged victorious in 2016.
“I’ve played well here a couple of times and won a couple of years ago, so it’s nice to be back here,” said Bjerregaard. “It’s a place I’ve come for six years now, with the family. They’ve enjoyed it every time we’ve been here. It’s nice to be back.
“It plays different this year. The greens are rapid, I don’t think I’ve played on greens this quick all year. I played nine this morning and they were super quick. The course is beautiful, it’s in amazing shape. The rough isn’t that thick, but you get a lot of fliers out of it. It’ll be tough to control your approach shots from there. It’ll be fun to see if scoring will be different with greens this quick – I thought it wasn’t as easy getting up and down as it has been in previous years. The greens are firmer too. If the wind picks up, it’ll be interesting.”