Vastly sunnier climes await European Tour regulars this week, as the Race to Dubai leaves wet and windy Britain behind for a trio of events in Portugal and Spain. These three events represent the last chance for many players to achieve their money-list targets, whether that be retaining their card by making the top 115 or qualifying for the Dubai finale by making the top 60. Lee Westwood won this Portugal Masters title en route to winning the Race to Dubai last year, but sadly misses the chance to defend and reach world number one, due to that niggling calf injury.

Previous results at Vilamoura strongly recommend following obvious candidates near the head of the betting. All three winners were pickable, and while some outsiders have made the frame, the leaderboards have tended to be predictable. Four of last year’s top five made the Ryder Cup side.

Course and stats

The stats suggest driving distance offers more of an advantage around Oceanico Victoria GC, Vilamoura than any other course on either main tour’s calendar. Unless the wind is much livelier than currently predicted, this is a tame par 72 by usual standards. The rough is barely punishing, and the four par 5s play further to the strengths of long hitters. The three winning totals here have ranged from -19 to -25, so a hot putter will also be required. In order of importance, the key stats to follow are driving distance, par-5 performance, putting and birdie average.

Betting selections

3pts ew ALVARO QUIROS @ 16/1 (GENERAL)

Having announced his return to form with fifth in the Dunhill Links, 2008 champion Quiros is hard to ignore around what must be his ideal course. Nobody hits it further, and nobody scores better on par 5s. Last year’s 16th was his worst result at Oceanico, and if memory serves owed much to a strangely cold putter.

2.5pts ew CHARL SCHWARTZEL @ 20/1 (BET365, SPORTINGBET)

Schwartzel is strongly fancied to notch a deserved third win of 2010 during the next month. A year that begin with consecutive victories has been easily his best to date, establishing himself on the PGA Tour with top threes in elite events at Doral and Redstone, plus top 30s in all four Majors. Schwartzel is an improving player, and ideally suited to this sort of target golf, as illustrated by two previous top sevens at Oceanico.

1pt ew JOHAN EDFORS @ 45/1 (TOTE, BOYLESPORTS)

After two good performances at 80/1, the price is shortening, but I’m retaining Edfors for one more week on a course where he was sixth last year. His big-hitting, sometimes wild, attacking style suits this easy layout perfectly, and clearly he’s in good form.

1pt ew CHRIS WOOD @ 50/1 (GENERAL, 60/1 SKYBET)

Still one of the best players yet to win at this level, Wood is drifting out to an attractive price level once again. Earlier this summer he was in contention virtually every week, and tenth on last year’s debut suggests he has the tools for this course.

0.5pt ew NICOLAS COLSAERTS @ 90/1 (BOYLESPORTS, STAN JAMES)

Given the emphasis on driving distance, the second longest hitter in the field could represent a bit of value to bounce back from a couple of missed cuts. Previously he’d been pretty consistent, registering nine top 25s from 15 starts. Currently 66th on the money list, Colsaerts is one good week away from booking a lucrative ticket to Dubai.

0.5pt ew DANIEL VANCSIK @ 200/1 (GENERAL, 225/1 BET365)

Another long hitter at a massive price, Vancsik could be the most interesting of those currently below 115th on the money list. He’s twice won before in southern Europe, and finished third on this course in 2007. Prior to the Dunhill Links, where he was never likely to thrive, he’d made two top 25s from three.