Round 1 of the Portugal Masters saw eight players battle it out for the lead.
Hennie Otto, Felipe Aguilar, Maximilian Kieffer, Graeme Storm, Jamie Donaldson, David Lynn, Alvaro Quiros and Simon Thornton sat on six under par after the first day's play.
With places on next season’s European Tour up for grabs, an excellent showing in the Algarve would promote an outsider into one of the final spots. Who will battle it out for a place in the top 10 at the Oceanico Victoria course?
Here we predict who will finish the weekend at the top of the leaderboard:
Analysing the Predicted Top Three
Sitting on five under before the start of the second day, Bernd Wiesberger looks set to pounce on a competitive field in Portugal. The 27-year-old—who recently won his sixth professional tournament at the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters—sunk five birdies during Round 1 and is poised to continue improving upon a fine run of form.
The world No. 56 achieved par or better throughout his opening 18 holes and doesn’t need to perform spectacularly in order to compete for the prize. He is in an ideal position to take advantage of any slip-ups at the top, as acknowledged by the Austrian on Twitter:
Great Britain and Ireland’s defeat in the Seve Trophy—the first since the tournament’s inauguration in 2000—didn’t play on Donaldson’s mind during Round 1 of the Portuguese contest.
The Welshman was among the pack sat on six under at the first day’s conclusion, having sunk seven birdies and 10 pars during his first stint on the course. A bogey on the eighth threatened to halt his progress, but in true Donaldson style, he kept his cool in order to maintain pace with the front-runners.
As reported by BBC Sport, his ability to come back from difficult situations is what inspired the 37-year-old’s Abu Dhabi Championship win in January. Donaldson managed to overhaul Justin Rose’s two-shot lead that day, ensuring he should be confident enough to take up residency near the top of the Portugal Masters leaderboard, even if he cedes ground during one of the remaining days.
Donaldson is under pressure to perform—certainly on the back of GB and Ireland’s Seve Trophy failure. He has the ability and character to respond, but is prone to the odd blip in concentration—as outlined by his careless bogey at the eighth—which will ultimately cost him the trophy.
Certainly an outside bet to win the Portugal Masters, Quiros’ excellent start should force his peers to take notice of a player who is currently ranked at a lowly No. 232 in the world rankings.
It would be foolish to underestimate the man who has six European Tour victories to his name, especially after his terrific run of four consecutive birdies on day one.
Quiros hit a total of eight birdies during his first stint on this year’s course and, despite bogeys on holes No. 13 and 14, has the quality to finish higher than those ranked above him.
With the likes of Martin Kaymer, David Lynn and Nicolas Colsaerts struggling to keep up, lack of expectation surrounding Quiros gives the Spaniard the right environment to launch his assault.
Currently the third-longest hitter on the European Tour, per the official website, Quiros only needs to find some accuracy in order to light up the course.
Who will sit atop the leaderboard once play concludes in the Portuguese Masters? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.