Tommy Fleetwood is teeing it up at the Portugal Masters for the first time since 2016, and the Ryder Cup star is excited to be back at a regular European Tour event after the four month hiatus due to coronavirus.
Fleetwood played every edition of this event between 2012 and 2016, and the world number 16 will be looking to become the third Englishman in succession to lift the trophy at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, following compatriots Tom Lewis and Steven Brown, before heading to the U.S. Open at Winged Foot next week.
Brown is also in the field this week alongside fellow former winners Lucas Bjerregaard of Denmark, Frenchman Alex Levy and Spain’s Alvaro Quiros, and he enters the week in a much more relaxed mindset after capturing his maiden European Tour title in Vilamoura last season. He could not have been under more pressure then, requiring at least a fifth-place finish to secure his card, and ultimately taking the title.
The newest European Tour winner is also teeing it up in the 14th edition of the Portugal Masters, with American John Catlin already aiming to add to the title he won last week at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucia Masters.
This week is the second of three tournaments in the “Iberian Swing” as the European Tour continues the practice of grouping tournaments in regional clusters where possible, and follows two dual ranking events in Austria and the six-event “UK Swing” since the resumption of the 2020 Race to Dubai.
This week also sees the continuation of the European Tour’s #GolfForGood initiative, with Vilamoura World and the European Tour teaming up to donate €200 for every birdie and €500 for every eagle scored on the par five 17th at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course to be split between two local charities – Existir and APEXA – and EDGA (formerly the European Disabled Golf Association).
Tommy Fleetwood: “It’s great coming back and seeing everybody that you have played with for a long, long time. The European Tour definitely, for us that have grown up on the Tour, it has a beautiful atmosphere to it. Obviously, we are in a bubble right now but as soon as you come back it has a feel about it that is really, really nice.
“The Portugal Masters was an ideal opportunity to get some competitive golf in and come back on the European Tour. I have never had a run at the tournament, but I have always enjoyed coming here. I think the hotel is great, the course is different this year – there is a bit of rough up – so it is a tougher test, but I just think it was the perfect scenario for me.
“I haven’t played particularly great for a few weeks and I have gone back and worked on a few things. I have always preferred getting to Majors early but this year clearly things are very different and things change and get thrown out the window. I have never ever been to a tournament where I haven’t wanted to win and this week is exactly that, I want to go out this week and compete absolutely but I think you gain from certain shots you hit, and you only figure those things out by playing competitively.”
Steven Brown: “It’s nice to be back and see my picture up on the wall with the other previous champions. This season is very different with different feelings from last year when I was in a tough spot trying to keep my card. I feel a lot more chilled than last time – hopefully I can produce the same sort of stuff.
“I did a lot of work in the off-season and then the second off-season during lockdown and it’s starting to pay-off. My putting has been up and down, which is why my results have been the same. But my ball-striking is consistent. I had a week off before The Belfry, I’m always a bit rusty the first week, but played really well in tough conditions last week at Valderrama. I feel like I’m in a good spot coming here.”
Lucas Bjerregaard: “I think this is the first time since I’ve been on Tour that my wife isn’t here with me, so it’s a bit strange, but I’ve always enjoyed coming here. I got the win in 2017 and a couple of decent results.
“Normally there is not a lot of rough around here, which suits me. That’s changed a bit this year. That will be fun, it will be a different course to what we have seen the last few years. The wind is up today and if it stays like that I think we’ll see some different scores than what we are used to. It’s just a great vibe here. The weather is nice, great food. It’s not a bad place at all to come.”
John Catlin: “I’ve won many times as a pro, but winning that one is the biggest win for me for sure. Playing with some of the best players, like Martin Kaymer, a former World Number One, all the way down the stretch to the last hole. Being able to hold him off is something I’ll always remember.
“My goal now is multiple wins, we’re always trying to win. Once you win one, you want to win two. It was the same for me on the Asian Tour, I won one and I wanted to win two, then I won two and I wanted to win three. I guess you become a little bit greedy in a sense. That’s my next goal, to win again.”