The winner: Thomas Pieters

With many of Europe’s big stars sitting at home, it is the Belgian Ryder Cup hero Thomas Pieters who is bringing a touch of stardust to the Portugal Open.

Arguably the in-form player on the planet before jetting off to Hazeltine, his reputation was only enhanced across the pond and there’s an expectation now whenever the 24-year-old tees it up.

He edged back into action with an uneventful four days at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and is joint favourite at the Oceanico Victoria this week along with the red-hot Alex Noren.

While the Swede’s best form at this tournament comes in the previous decade, Pieters finished tied 6th a year ago – only his second appearance – and was well in contention until a third round 72 blunted his progress.

I’m expecting a strong week.

The each-way back: Anthony Wall

The Englishman won the Paul Lawrie Matchplay at Archerfields at the start of August and has played steadily since, including a top 20 at the British Masters.


Only a third round 74 prevented him posting a very big week but there was enough in his other three rounds – 68, 65 and 68 – to suggest he’s still bang in form.

Tied 3rd in this last year, Wall has recorded a further four top 20s in Vilamoura. Just the sort of form I want to see at odds of 40/1.

The dark horse: Stephen Gallacher

It’s been a hard campaign for the Scot, who hasn’t really done a great deal since qualifying for Paul McGinley’s European outfit at Gleneagles two years ago – his career interrupted by injury and indifferent form.


So it was interesting to see him record his best finish of the year – tied 12th – at the British Masters last week.

He’s as big as 50/1 for the Portugal Masters and, if he can reproduce his week’s work at The Grove, he could definitely be in the mix.

It’s a tournament he likes. One of his few successes last year was tied 9th in this event and he can also look back on 3rd and 6th place finishes in 2013 and 12 months earlier.

Four of his last six rounds have been in the 60s and, at the price, I’m prepared to take the chance that he is on the up once again.