Enduring triumph for Portuguese golf-Reflecting on a dazzling decade for the Portugal Masters

 In October 2007 the first Portugal Masters was played at the Oceânico Victoria Golf Club, Vilamoura and now celebrates its tenth anniversary. First class facilities on a wonderful golf course ensure that the world’s top professionals regularly grace what is now one of the European Tour’s most prestigious events. The first name on the Portugal Masters trophy in 2007 was England’s Steve Webster and the subsequent roll of honour is as follows: 2008 – Álvaro Quirós (Spain), 2009 – Lee Westwood (England), 2010 – Richard Green (Australia), 2011 – Tom Lewis (England), 2012 – Shane Lowry (Ireland), 2013 – David Lynn (England), 2014 – Alexander Lévy (France), 2015 – Andy Sullivan (England). Such a star-studded list of winners reflects the event’s international status and this year’s 10th edition will again host many of the world’s top golfers.

Steve Webster, the first winner of the tournament in 2007, had already served notice of his talent in 1995 Open Championship at St Andrews when he won the low amateur silver medal ahead of a certain Tiger Woods and last year achieved the milestone of his 500th European Tour event. Webster was the first of no fewer than five – so far – English winners of the Portugal Masters although players from other nations have also claimed the title including in 2008 Spain’s Álvaro Quirós who then promptly decided to live in the beautiful Algarve. Quirós followed his 2008 triumph with further notable successes including the Dubai World Championship in 2011 and remains a formidable competitor on the European Tour.

Lee Westwood claimed the Portugal Masters title in 2009 at a time when his status as a golfing great was assured. During that same year he also tied for 3rd place in both the Open at St Andrews and the PGA Championship and in 2010 was runner-up in the US Masters (a position achieved again in 2016). The Portugal Masters has a reputation for drama and this was illustrated in 2010 when Australian Richard Green was victorious. No fewer than four players tied in second place behind the Melbourne man who eventually overcame the chasing pack by 2 strokes. More recently Green narrowly missed winning the 2014 Open de España when losing out in a play-off to Spain’s Miguel Ángel Jiménez.

England’s dominance of the Portugal Masters was emerging in 2011 when Hertfordshire’s Tom Lewis took the crown following his award only months earlier of the prestigious Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year prize (a title won by Portugal’s Ricardo Santos in 2012). Ireland’s Shane Lowry clinched the Portugal Masters title in 2012 before further successes including victory in the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio, USA and runner-up to Dustin Johnson in the 2016 US Open at Oakmont, Pennsylvania. In 2013 England returned to the winner’s podium at the Portugal Masters when David Lynn secured 1st place to add to a previous KLM Open victory on the European Tour. French national Alexander Lévy celebrated a memorable year in 2014 when his Portugal Masters victory was sandwiched between first place at the Volvo China Open and runner-up spot in the BMW Masters.

Last year’s Portugal Masters proved yet another highlight of 2015 for Nuneaton’s Andy Sullivan who triumphed with an emphatic winning margin of 9 strokes to achieve a record-breaking third win on the European Tour for the year. Still only 29 years old, future success is guaranteed for Sullivan who has the 2016 edition of the Portugal Masters firmly in his sights.

The Portugal Masters is set to provide many more years of quality competition and congratulations are due to the individuals and organisations – too numerous to mention – involved in what is now a major event on the European Tour. However, special tribute can be paid to Oceânico Victoria Golf Club, Vilamoura which with the fantastic support it receives has been a wonderful host to the Portugal Masters over what has been a truly memorable, dazzling decade