Eight great moments in the history of the European Tour’s Portugal Masters

An ever-present tournament on the circuit since 2007 the host course Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course in Vilamoura has witnessed plenty of drama.

This week's Portugal Masters is the penultimate event of the regular European Tour season and, as such, it represents a vital opportunity for players outside the top 110 in the Race to Dubai rankings to seal their card for the 2022 season.

For others, there is simply the chance to freewheel on a low-scoring resort course in their quest for a win.

The tournament will celebrating its 15th edition and down the years there have been high quality winners and sensational rounds of golf, plus plenty of both agony and ecstasy.

Here are eight highlights from the back catalogue of the Portugal Masters.

Lee Westwood breaks his drought

The 2008 and 2009 seasons were strong for the Englishman. He landed a top 10 in exactly half his 50 starts around the world and three times finished third in the Major Championships.

At the same time, however, he was struggling to win and arriving in Portugal he hadn't lifted a trophy in over two years. He changed that at Dom Pedro, overhauling a quality group of contenders in the final round and he rode the wave.

He hit top spot in the Race to Dubai, by the end of the year he had won the first DP World Tour Championship, and he would add another four top three Major finishes in his next eight starts in them.

"You always doubt yourself in the back of your mind and to be number one again feels great," he said in Portugal. Winning is a habit and I've got out of it."

Shane Lowry's first winner's cheque

The first time that the Irishman won on the European Tour he didn't cash the winning cheque - Robert Rock did instead owing to the fact that Lowry was still an amateur when he claimed the Irish Open.

He immediately turned pro and, although he proved himself at the top level in the following two and a half years, the second win had proved difficult to land. Until, that is, a final round 66 saw him not only lift the Portugal Masters trophy, but also cash the winner's cheque.

Oli Fisher's 59

Eighteen players had carded a 60 in European Tour history ahead of the 2018 event. But the magical 59, registered on multiple occasions on the PGA Tour and also by Annika Sorenstam on the LPGA, had never been recorded.

When Fisher hit the 18th green on Friday he left himself with an outside shot at a 58, but admitted afterwards: "I'm just pleased I two-putted from 40-feet on the final green."

He had started the second round needing a low score just to make the cut, but in registering 10 birdies and an eagle in his 12-under 59 he ended the lap tied for the lead.

Padraig Harrington's 31st worldwide win

Even though the Irishman won the 1996 Open de Espana in just his 10th start on the European Tour, he had a reputation throughout the rest of the 1990s as something of a nearly man.

That changed shortly after the dawning of the new century. Victories ticked along at more or less a win a year in Europe, while he also collected wins in Asia and in 2005 lifted two trophies on the PGA Tour.

Momentum built, he landed three Major Championships in 2007 and 2008, whereupon victories became hard to find anywhere. There was little to suggest that would change at Dom Pedro in 2016 - he arrived off the back of three missed cuts - but he went low in all four laps of the course and held off a charging Andy Sullivan in the final round to claim what was his final win before hitting the senior ranks this summer.

The breakthrough of Tom Lewis

2011 was a golden year for the Englishman who started it emboldened by having lost a play-off in the previous year's New South Wales Open on the Australasian Tour while still an amateur.

He won the St Andrew's Trophy, qualified for the Open, led the championship after 18 holes, competed in the Walker Cup, turned pro, finished T10th on debut and then, in just his third start in the paid ranks, won at Dom Pedro by two strokes.

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The media response was rhapsodic. "A Eurostar is born," wrote Global Golf Post. The Independent suggested his arrival eclipsed Rory McIlroy's. The Telegraph excitedly noted he had won in the pro ranks faster than Tiger Woods.

But troubles followed and it was a full seven years before he confirmed a return to form by winning the event for a second time.

Eddie Pepperell's nightmare

Ahead of the 2016 event the Englishman needed a superb week to save his tour card - and his record at the track offer limited hope (T26th-T58th). However, an opening lap of 64 left him tied second and in sight of the required finish.

On a blustery Friday it all went wrong. A double bogey at his final hole not only put the tin lid on a sad 76, it also sealed a missed cut and a lost card.

The good news is that he bounced back. He regained his playing rights, became a winner, and he always performed well at the course since (third-second-sixth). He needs to repeat that sort of result again this week with his card again under threat.

Justin Walters' inspiration

The South African's debut in 2013 was a difficult one to approach. He was grieving for his mother and needed a superb performance to save his card. In courageous fashion, he finished second to both honour his mum's memory and also complete his golfing task.

"I don't know if I can talk much right now," he said afterwards. "Coming into the week I really didn't have any goals or ambitions, I just wanted to play and make my mum proud."

Seven years later he teed it up needing more of the same because he was now in mourning for his father. For a second time he was inspired and landed another runner-up spot.

Andy Sullivan thrashes the field

In his first three visits to the course the Englishman enjoyed plenty of support (the Sully Army has always travelled to Portugal) but, although he always made the cut, the lack of a top 30 didn't suggest quite how sensationally he would play in 2015.

He hit 82% of the greens in regulation (to rank fifth), never failed to save par when he needed to, and ranked fourth for Putting Average. That recipe saw him share the lead after 18 holes, lead by three after 36, by five after 54 and win the event by a slightly ludicrous nine shots on Sunday.

READ MORE: 3-2-1: European Tour's seasonal finale and card chase begins at this week's Portugal Masters

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