With the 2019/20 PGA Tour season now over and the second Major of the year on the horizon next week, the Portugal Masters takes centre stage on the European Tour this week.

A solid field has been assembled and it promises to be an exciting event at Vilamoura with plenty of birdies on the cards.

Stone ready to rock

Although a surprising late entrant here, Tommy Fleetwood is the rightful favourite at 11/2. On his day, he’s by far the best in the field this week, but he hasn’t been quite as good as we know he can be recently, and on that basis, he looks plenty short enough.

His place in the tournament means there is a nice open feel to it and the one who looks most interesting is BRANDON STONE at 45/1. The three-time European Tour winner missed the cut in Spain last week, but didn’t play too badly in Wales the week before and finished in a tie for sixth at the English Championship. Both those performances show the game is in pretty good shape and he’ll be looking forward to coming back to a course which, based on last year, suits his eye.

He was right in the mix entering the back-nine in 2019 before a poor final few holes cost him any chance of winning. He was only beaten by one that day and although that was hugely disappointing given the position he found himself in, it backed up the point he’s a player who is much more at home when birdies and not pars are the norm.

He finished 16 under last year and all three of his European Tour wins have come when the winning score has been considerably under par. His maiden victory in South Africa was won with him finishing on 14 under, while he won the Alfred Dunhill Championship on 22 under and the Scottish Open on 20 under, where he shot a final round 60. In short, he’s much happier being aggressive, and given that in seven of the previous 13 editions of the Portugal Masters the winner has reached 20-under or better, he should be confident of going well again in 2020.

Haotong chanced to rediscover top form

Another player who looks likely to take to Vilamoura is HAOTONG LI and he gets the second vote at 22/1.

In terms of natural talent, the Chinese player is right up there with the best in the world as shown by his brilliant victory at the Dubai Desert Classic two years ago where he valiantly held off a surging Rory McIlroy.

However, as talented as Li is, he has a tendency to throw in a horror story every so often, making him incredibly frustrating and somewhat hard to predict. He withdrew in Spain last week, which is obviously a slight concern, but Valderrama isn’t a course you’d expect him to go well at, and back on a considerably easier layout in Vilamoura, he can be expected to fare much better.

Like Stone, his European Tour victories have come when making birdies and eagles is the key, and he hasn’t fared too badly at this event previously with a tie for 25th in 2017 and a tie for 27th the following year. If he can eradicate those mistakes, he’s a danger to all – and Vilamoura might just be where that happens.

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