Karlsson should keep up impressive start

DANNY WILLETT, one of the bestbacked players in the field for

the Portugal

Masters in Vilamoura, withdrew prior

to his round yesterday morning with a rib problem, so punters who

supported the in-form Englishman ante-post will get their stake

money back.

Willett, an RPSPORT selection at 22-1 on the back of his

runnerup effort in last week’s Links Championship, was replaced by

Irishman Simon Thornton for the threeball alongside Miguel Angel

Jimenez and Edoardo Molinari.

The first day of action at the Victoria Course resulted in a

three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard, with pre-tournament

25-1 chance Robert Karlsson the most illustrious of the pacesetting

trio.

The Swedish beanpole carded a bogey-free 64 to assume

favouritism, with his compatriot Johan Edfors and Dutchman Maarten

Lafeber matching his eight-under-par total.

Alexander Noren ended round one a shot behind at seven under

par, while Alvaro Quiros (67) and Ross Fisher (68) also made solid

starts to the week.

There is no reason to expect Karlsson to falter from the front

at this stage and odds-against quotes about the ten-time European

Tour victor winning his threeball again today are decent value.

He has finished in the top three at the Victoria Course twice

before in previous Portugal Masters and is powerful enough to take

advantage of the four par fives.

Playing partner Oliver Wilson is clearly enduring a crisis of

confidence as he is messing about with his putting stroke.

The Mansfield man’s great strength has always been his magical

short game, but he has switched to a left-hand-belowright grip for

some reason. It is a move which smacks of desperation from a

frustrated player who has never won on the European Tour and an

experiment which is unlikely to last long.

Simon Khan, the third member of the group, holed a bunker shot

for eagle on the fifth hole yesterday to keep his neck above water,

but the Epping man, who closed with an 83 in the Links Championship

last week, generally performed abysmally in a levelpar 72, so there

is no question who is likelier to get among the birdies this

afternoon.

Recommendation R Karlsson 2pts 11-10 Stan James