Austin Connelly is aiming to continue a memorable few days with a positive performance in the Portuguese sunshine, after recording his best finish of the season on Sunday and celebrating his 21st birthday yesterday.
The young Canadian’s second place finish at the KLM Open last week took him to 71st place in the Race to Dubai Rankings. Now he is hoping for more of the same when he tees it up at the Portugal Masters at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course this week.
Connelly has impressed in his debut season on the European Tour after securing his status through Qualifying School. So far he has recorded three top tens, and caught the eye in his first appearance at a Major, finishing in tied 14th place at The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
He joins a field including defending champion and three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington, Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters and 2016 Masters Tournament champion Danny Willett.
2015 winner Andy Sullivan – who finished in second place behind Harrington last year – is keen to repeat his form of the past few years in Vilamoura.
“It was an unbelievable way to start my 21st birthday, and I’m just very blessed to have had that opportunity. This year I got into a lot of tournaments last minute, I didn’t know where I was playing. I just couldn’t be happier with the result.
“I really like this course. It’s in tremendous shape, the greens are firm, we have beautiful weather. It couldn’t be any better compared to the weather we’ve had the last few weeks. This is just a real treat. I’m really looking forward to the week.
“Each week my goal is to make the cut and move up the leader board. I was successful in doing that last week and the goal is not going to change. I’ll just try to make good decisions, hit the best golf shots I can and hopefully a few putts go in.”
“I feel like it’s somewhere where I’ve come and played some good golf. After a bit of a slow year, hopefully I can come and pick some form up here again and try to pick another win up.
“I was disappointed not to get four rounds in last week (at the KLM Open), but the game felt in good shape and I made a lot of birdies. That feels good coming into this week when you know you’ve definitely got to come around here and make a lot of birdies.
“It’s one of those courses where if you do get off to a good start it takes the pressure off and you feel like you can go out there and get it around a little bit easier. Last year I shot four under in the first round and then ten in the second. This course does offer a lot of birdies but if you chase it, it can catch you out.”