The European Tour returns to the continent of Europe this week for the Madeira Islands Open BPI – Portugal.
The 17th edition of the tournament, it will be contested this year over the spectacular, Seve Ballesteros designed, Porto Santo Golfe.
Constructed on the tiny island of Porto Santo, just off Madeira, this is an incredible setting for golf and the pros are set to be tested by some exceptionally dramatic holes on the basalt cliffs high above the Atlantic Ocean.
It may not attract the strongest field on the European Tour circuit but a number of top players will head for the Portuguese archipelago just off the African coast. Former Ryder Cup player Niclas Fasth will be joined by fellow Swede Jarmo Sandelin, Welshman Bradley Dredge and 1999 Open runner-up Jean Van de Velde. The Frenchman was an emotional winner of this tournament back in 2006.
Venue: Porto Santo Golfe, Madeira, Portugal
Date: Mar 19 – 22
Course stats: par 72, 7,036 yards
Purse: €700,000 Winner: €116,660
Defending champion: Alastair Forsyth (-15)
Thomas Aiken – Fresh off the back of a superb finish in the WGC – CA Championship, the young South African will be looking to build on that success.
Bradley Dredge – A former winner of this tournament, the Welshman will be hoping for a return to the winner’s circle. When he won back in 2003, he fired an incredible third round of 60.
Niclas Fasth – The Swede has shown signs of returning to the kind of form that earned him a fifth place finish on the 2007 Order of Merit. A victory here may give him a foothold from which to step back to the top level.
Key hole: 13th. A 200 yard par-3 where the players must fire from the cliff-tops across a gaping gorge with the sea waiting some 500 feet below.
Skills required: Shot-making. As you would expect from a course designed by the master shot-maker Seve Ballesteros, Porto Santo Golfe will demand creative play from the pros this week. The man who wins will be able to shape the ball both ways, keep the ball low under the wind and have good imagination around the greens. This is not a one-dimensional test.