The European Tour reaches a landmark this week at the Madeira Islands Open. It will be the 1,500th official event to be contested on the circuit.

The European Tour reaches a landmark this week at the Madeira Islands Open. It will be the 1,500th official event to be contested on the circuit.

With the majority of the European Tour’s leading players in the US for the Players Championship, this event provides an opportunity for a lower ranked golfer to step up a level.

A number of Challenge Tour players are in the field, as are players who narrowly missed out on making it into the top-30 at European Tour Q-school last December.

Challenge Tour rankings leader Jordi Garcia Pinto will tee it up, so will 2013 Amateur Champion Garrick Porteous who is making his second European Tour start as a professional.

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.

The first event was contested in 1993 when Mark James triumphed by three shots over Gordon J Brand and Paul Broadhurst. Since then nine 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 Peter Uihlein was the winner. He went on to be the European Tour’s rookie of the year.

Venue: Clube de Golf do Santo da Serra
Date: May 8-11
Course stats: par 72, 6,826 yards
Purse: €600,000 Winner: €100,000
Defending Champion: Peter Uihlein (-15)

Player Watch:
Ricardo Santos – Winner of this event in 2012, Santos will be the favourite this week. He’s shown signs of good form in recent weeks with a tied 10th at the NH Collection Open and a closing round of 66 in the Volvo China Open. He could use this event as a springboard for his season.

Jordi Garcia Pinto – The 24-year-old Spaniard heads the Challenge Tour rankings. He was tied second in the NH Collection Open and should have the game to deal with this tight and testing layout.

Peter Lawrie – He’d been enduring a horrible season until last week in Singapore where he strung four solid rounds together to finish in a tie for 20th. He’s been a consistent performer on the European Tour for a number of years and his experience could be a factor this week.

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 da 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.