The line-up for this week’s Euro Tour event is probably the clearest illustration yet of the transformative effect of the new ‘Race to Dubai‘. In previous years, we’ve seen a reasonable turnout for these end-of-season affairs around the Mediterranean region, without the tournaments ever moving beyond ‘middle-ranking’ status. Now though, the lure of an increased prize fund gives this tournament a more pivotal status, and has managed to attract all the main money list candidates. Or at least all of those that are fit with, depressingly, Paul Casey the notable absentee.
It would be dangerous, however, to assume the big names will dominate. Indeed punters must decide whether any of the ‘big-4’ represent value. After all, Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Ross Fisher have just one win between them this season, and there are many serious alternative candidates.
We can expect a similar story to last week’s birdie fest in Madrid. So long as the bunkers and water hazards are avoided, and the calm weather forecast is correct, very low scoring is available at Oceanico Victoria GC. The two winning totals here so far were -25 and -19, with a clear advantage to long-hitters on both occasions.
Fergus Bisset: Portugal Masters preview
I’m not wholly convinced this is ideal for either of the co-favourites Harrington and McIlroy, though obviously neither can be written off. Lee Westwood, now two years without a win, looks a better bet in my view at 16/1 having finished third here in 2007. The main place in this week’s staking plan was between him, and my long-running letdown pick Fisher at 20/1. This really was a tough decision to make, with the latter preferred for three reasons.
Firstly, he’s a slightly bigger price. Secondly, I remain of the view that whereas Westwood’s extraordinary run of near-misses do owe something to his own temperamental failings when in contention, Ross’ failures owe more to bad luck. Thirdly, this course really is ideal for Fisher, who has finished seventh and third in the past two years. On the first occasion, he started as a 100/1 chance, and holed nothing on the final day.