The European Tour heads to Madeira this week for the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal – BPI. There’s an opportunity for one of the circuit’s lesser-lights to shine at Clube de Golf do Santo da Serra.

Lowdown:
The European Tour heads to Madeira this week for the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal – BPI. There’s an opportunity for one of the circuit’s lesser-lights to shine at Clube de Golf do Santo da Serra.

With many of the European Tour’s top golfers taking a break this week, or competing in the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, this event provides a great chance for a player who’s further down the rankings, or currently plying their trade on the Challenge Tour, to take a step up.

This is a counting event on both the European and Challenge Tours. There are 45 regular Challenge Tour players in the field this week.

Set in the foothills of the towering mountains that span Madeira, Santo da Serra first welcomed golfers in the 1930s. At that time play was over a rough and ready nine-hole course. It wasn’t until 1991 that Robert Trent Jones Snr laid out two of the three nine-hole loops currently in play at Santo da Serra.

The Trent Jones loops, Machico and Desertas, are those used when the club has played host to the Madeira Islands Open. It’s a famously tricky track demanding accuracy and a precise short game.

This event was first contested in 1993 when Mark James triumphed by three shots over Gordon J Brand and Paul Broadhurst. Since then 10 players have claimed their first European Tour title in this event. Past champions include Niclas Fasth, Jean Van de Velde and Michael Hoey.

Last year Daniel Brooks of England took his maiden European Tour victory, coming through a playoff against Scotland’s Scott Henry. The competition was shortened to 36 holes because of adverse weather conditions. The event was also overshadowed by the untimely death of Alastair Forsyth’s caddie Iain McGregor during the final day’s play.

The weather forecast for this week is pretty dire, with rain and gusting winds predicted on all four tournament days. Don’t be surprised if this one gets delayed, even reduced like last year.

Venue: Clube de Golf do Santo de Serra, Madeira, Portugal
Date: Mar 19-22
Course stats: par 72, 6,826 yards
Purse: €600,000 Winner: €100,000
Defending Champion: Daniel Brooks (-9)

Player Watch:
Ricardo Santos – The winner of this event in 2012, Santos will be looking to recapture the form he showed in the couple of seasons following that triumph. He hasn’t done anything spectacular so far in 2015 but has produced some solid golf.

Renato Paratore – This is a tournament renowned for seeing breakthrough performances. It could be a big week for the talented 18-year-old.

Estanislao Goya – The Argentinian has struggled to produce his best golf recently, but he’s a former winner of this tournament and he’ll look to feed off that this week. He’s a great player and has been away from the top level of the European Tour for too long.

Key hole: 16th. A par-5 of 556 yards, it will be reachable in two for much of the field, depending on the direction and strength of the wind. The wind can play a significant factor at Santo de Serra though so if it’s playing into here, it will require three good shots.

Skills required: Taking chances. This is a tournament that will offer many players an opportunity to step up a level in their career. With sufficient drive and determination, this event could act as an important stepping-stone towards future success.