Portugal Masters betting preview and tips from golf expert Ben Coley

Check out Ben Coley's tips for the Portugal Masters
Check out Ben Coley's tips for the Portugal Masters

Ben Coley fancies a pair of South Africans to shine at the Portugal Masters, the final European Tour event before next week's Ryder Cup.

Recommended bets

2.5pts e.w. Charl Schwartzel at 20/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. George Coetzee at 50/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Nicolas Colsaerts at 80/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Marc Warren at 150/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

0.5pt e.w. Colsaerts to lead after R1 at 100/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record

It's a decade since the European Tour event immediately prior to the Ryder Cup was won by a member of the team but that fact alone isn't enough to keep Thorbjorn Olesen from the head of the market for the Portugal Masters.

The Dane has been among the stars of the summer, playing his way into Thomas Bjorn's side with a run of consistency seldom seen from him in the past, but he'll have to defy history - including his own at this course, where he's yet to finish inside the top 10 - if he's to add to the title he won in Italy back in May.

Now known as Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, this layout is a familiar one to most and presents a straightforward test, the like of which shouldn't knock Olesen off his stride prior to Paris and should, in theory, provide debut visitor Sergio Garcia with the platform to build some confidence after he was handed a wild card.

Garcia's form issues have probably been overblown and there were definite positives from his performance at the Wyndham Championship last time, but while a shootout at a course which isn't at all penal off the tee eases the pressure to some extent, it wouldn't appear to present him with an obvious chance to win. The Spaniard is much more effective when his brilliant driving is rewarded and can be overlooked at 20/1, especially as he's sure to be using this as a final tune-up.

With Chris Wood having to deal with a third runner-up finish of the year and this one by far the most painful, Lucas Bjerregaard defending for the first time and former champion Shane Lowry absent for over a month, this looks like a fantastic opportunity for Charl Schwartzel to return to winning form and he gets the headline vote.

Schwartzel hasn't played this course since 2010, but in four previous visits he's bagged three top-10 finishes including when opening 65-65 in 2009, a performance which can be upgraded as his clubs had been lost in transit, which meant Nike had to quickly knock up a replacement set which included a brand new putter.

The subsequent Masters champion led the field in greens hit a year later, having ranked third in that statistic on debut, and it makes sense that this long but occasionally erratic driver would be suited by a course which really doesn't offer a great deal of punishment from the tee.

Conditions not dissimilar to those found in his native South Africa should also help, and there's a definite link between this event and the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek, where Schwartzel rules the roost with four wins and a series of top-five finishes.

Look back through the roll-of-honour here and you'll see that Alvaro Quiros, Steve Webster, Lee Westwood, Lowry, David Lynn, Andy Sullivan and Bjerregaard have all either won or gone close at Leopard Creek and with the Portugal Masters little more than a decade old, that's a revealing correlation and one that would've been enhanced further had Pablo Martin not blown it on the 72nd hole in 2010.

Having been eighth last time in Switzerland, an event he was also playing for the first time in eight years, and ninth in Germany earlier this summer, Schwartzel is going for his third top-10 in succession in Europe and is entitled to be favourite here given Olesen's modest record at the course and the potential for his mind to wander.

Remember, Schwartzel generally plies his trade on the PGA Tour, unlike the majority of this field, and his results should be upgraded as a consequence. Shooting 63 at Firestone and again the following week at the PGA Championship tells you he's close and there was much to like about eighth place in Crans last time out.

Schwartzel's two wins in mainland Europe have come across the border in Spain and, now returned to a suitable venue, he's a strong fancy to contend.

George Coetzee is no less suited to the course and also rates a big fancy at 50/1, a price which is generous when maidens Nacho Elvira and Ryan Fox are shorter despite having missed the cut at the KLM Open last week.

The truth is all three have the right sort of game for this, but Coetzee is by far the pick of them on the greens, remains the most decorated and while yet to win outside of Africa, he's been unfortunate on several occasions and will one day change that fact.

Portugal seems as good a place as any, with so many South African players having spoken of their comfort levels here in the past, and with form figures of 3-6-21-31-7 at the course it's clear that Coetzee is one of those who finds the layout to his liking.

Last year he in fact led the field in greens hit but was unable to capitalise and his weakness, chipping and bunker play, just isn't questioned at Victoria as it can be elsewhere.

Since returning from a mid-summer break, he's finished 35th and 44th and while those performances don't scream winner-in-waiting, neither came on a course which rewards his strengths like this one. Coetzee is essentially a big-hitting putting machine and that's the ideal formula here in Portugal.

A third-round 76 in last week's KLM Open further disguises some good work which has seen him break par in his other seven rounds since a couple of months off and at 66th in the Race To Dubai rankings, he's one good week away from securing his place in the lucrative DP World Tour Championship which rounds off the season.

Coetzee is already a winner this year, having dominated the Tshwane Open on home soil when sent off favourite, and he's been overlooked far too readily here, presumably on the grounds that the last fortnight suggests he's not playing well enough. I wholeheartedly disagree.

George Coetzee - 12/1 winner for Ben Coley
George Coetzee landed us a winner earlier in the year and is fancied again

Jordan Smith is creeping back into form and should take to the place on debut, but he's the same price as big George and that can't be right, a comment which also applies to Jorge Campillo who caught the eye in Switzerland and built on that last week. He's likely to play well, but remains without a European Tour win and this is a strong field in which to break through.

Haydn Porteous' Czech Masters win this time last year looks a good pointer, as the Albatross Resort is similarly forgiving off the tee and has thrown up Portugal ties already, but he's yet to perform well here and of greater interest is Justin Walters. Both are only just inside the Race To Dubai top 10 and the latter, a runner-up here on debut, should play well.

Thomas Detry's weekend effort in the Netherlands, Leopard Creek form and solid debut here make him a likeable contender but he's awfully short and I prefer compatriot Nicolas Colsaerts, another whose short-game woes can be overcome at this course.

Colsaerts averages an astonishing 82.79% greens in regulation in seven visits here, evidence that his bombs-away approach pays dividends, and he was a little unfortunate to see the 2014 renewal reduced to 36 holes, meaning he had to settle for second after an opening 60.

Since then, he's opened with a round of 64 in 2015, gone a shot lower in a stunning 63 in the third round of the 2016 edition and again sparkled on Saturday last year with another 64, and there's no better course for him on the European Tour right now.

"I have a pretty good record in this place," he confirmed three years back after taking the early lead. "I've played well in the past. I feel comfortable. I've played well here before.

"(Length is) a pretty big advantage. There's a couple of holes where I can take shortcuts. It doesn't really matter if I hit it on the fairway or rough."

A modest year means he's down at 102nd in the Race To Dubai standings but he's had excuses, including adjusting to fatherhood, and there have been signs of improvement lately with a couple of top-30 finishes prior to another cut made last week.

At 100/1 for the first-round lead, something he's held here twice before, he looks worth backing in two markets with a third European Tour title within his compass if able to again set up something in the region of 15 birdie chances per round.

Colsaerts averages 66.57 in the first round here and 66.60 in round three, so he's halfway to going very close and at prices in the 80/1 mark I'm backing him to do so.

Nicolas Colsaerts in action on day two
Nicolas Colsaerts loves it in Portugal

It is that time of year when those outside the top 110 on the Race To Dubai know they need to produce, and one man who has threatened to do so twice lately is big-hitting Jonathan Thomson, who has tasted the pressure of the final group in both Denmark and the Netherlands.

He's respected having played well on an invite here last year, but it's the proven card-saving credentials of Marc Warren which I prefer.

The Scot is in poor form, having missed four cuts in as many starts since I put him up in Sweden, where he played nicely but made too many mistakes on his way to 17th place.

Still, that's fairly recent, tangible evidence that his game isn't in total disarray and as an erratic driver who putts beautifully, this course is a very good fit for his game as we saw when he finished second to Bjerregaard last year.

Interestingly, if we rewind 12 months, Warren's form read MC-MC-59 yet he contended all week here to bag the big cheque he needed, a performance which provided the platform for 15th in the British Masters, fourth in the Dunhill Links, 10th in Italy and, ultimately, a place in the DP World Tour Championship.

Back in 2016, Warren had missed four cuts in succession up to and including the KLM Open, then finished 20th in Italy, fifth in the Dunhill and 12th here, and this ability to conjure something out of nothing can be traced right back to 2011 when he finished fifth in the Dunhill at a time when he was relying on invites.

Further back, he won the 2007 Johnnie Walker Championship after a run of MC-72-MC-MC and the previous year's Scandinavian Masters after four missed cuts in a row, so at 149th in the Race To Dubai he looks an obvious candidate to return to form over the coming weeks.

Having contended here in 2016, where he led after 18 and 36 holes, and finished fourth for greens in regulation in 2017 despite hitting very few fairways, the evidence that Victoria is ideal for Warren is strong and he's worth chancing at three-figure prices after another Scottish winner on the Challenge Tour last week.

As with Colsaerts, Warren is also tempting in the first-round leader market but he's short enough on balance so I'll back him to secure a place, one which could again see him salvage his playing rights.

Another useful connection with the Portugal Masters comes courtesy of the Dubai Desert Classic, so Hao-tong Li is interesting after victory for his compatriot Ashun Wu on Sunday, while Callum Shinkwin contended here on debut and is closing in on his best which makes him another to consider.

Finally, keep an eye on Renato Paratore if he makes the cut - in-play punters would be wise to respect the Italian from off the pace at the weekend - while Richard Bland struck the ball as well as he has all year in the KLM Open, likes it here, needs a big week and is considered at 250/1 given the recent heroics of fellow journeymen.

Posted at 1200 BST on 18/09/18.

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