11th Portugal Masters: “Should be a fantastic theatre”

11th Portugal Masters: “Should be a fantastic theatre”

We spoke to Peter just before the media presentation of the 11th Portugal Masters which was held on the 29th of August at the tournament venue –  the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course. Not only were we told first-hand about all the great names coming to play this year at Vilamoura, but we were also given some insight regarding the new and exciting arrangements around the 18th hole; the course setup; the television broadcasts; the brands that will be involved; the relationship with the new course owners; the Portuguese players and the Official Charity for the event. 

QUESTION – Out of all the big names coming to this year’s Portugal Masters you must be especially delighted with the one of Padraig Harrington, the defending champion? 

PETER ADAMS – It’s always important for any golf tournament to have the reigning champion come back and defend the title – it doesn’t always happen. But Padraig Harrington is coming back and he will defend. I think everybody in golf was delighted that he won last year, he’s still a huge figure in the game being a three time major winner and playing on six Ryder Cup teams … He’s a golfing legend.

It was also great that he’s an Irishman. Ireland is one of the most important countries for Turismo de Portugal. There are a lot of Irish people coming down to play golf in the Algarve and a lot have houses here as well. So Padraig was a very popular winner for the crowd. And I think the media coverage in 2016 was very, very strong, because obviously it was the first time, in many years, that he’d had a European Tour victory.

But he’s not the only Irish star and past champion – Shane Lowry will also be at Vilamoura. He actually won his first European Tour Tournament as a professional here in 2012. He’s got the distinction of winning the Irish Open as an amateur in 2008 which is why his victory here in 2012 was his first as a professional. And then, most famously for him, in 2015 he went on to win a World Golf Championship event, the Bridgestone Invitational. He’s a very popular winner as well.

What about the other stars…?

Andy Sullivan is great news for the tournament as he won the Portugal Masters in 2015 and was runner-up last year. He’s a Ryder Cup player and a multiple tournament winner on the European Tour… The other thing that’s great about him is he comes with his own army of spectators – the “Sully Army”. He’s a big star, particularly for the English spectators, so they’ll turn up in big numbers to watch him. He loves Portugal and the Portugal Masters.

He’ll be joined by his fellow countrymen Danny Willett and Matthew Fitzpatrick. Willett, who most famously won the 2016 US Masters, is working on his game at the moment. He’s had a fairly difficult time over the last few months, but I think he feels that his game is coming back and he’s chosen to come and play in Portugal.

Fitzpatrick will be playing in his first Portugal Masters. He had a great season last year winning the Nordea Masters and then the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai – the great season ending finale for the European Tour. And of course he played in the Ryder Cup. He’s a young guy, I think he’s only 22, so he’s a big star for the future and it’s great he’s coming to play.

And then we have Thomas Pieters. He won four of his matches playing as a rookie in last year’s Ryder Cup at Hazeltine and he really loves coming to Portugal – I believe he’s got family and friends here. He’s a big star and he’s been having a great year with some good finishes in a number of big tournaments, including fourth place in the US Masters in April, so he’s coming here in good form.

Besides the field what can we expect from the upcoming Portugal Masters? 

What’s obviously very new is the date. It’s the first time we’ve staged the Portugal Masters in September. And although we had seven very good years playing it in October, we also had a little bit of rain over the last two or three years. So we wanted to bring the tournament forward to really increase our chances of a sunny Portugal Masters – the two things go together. We love the idea of having the Portugal Masters played in the Algarve in bright sunshine.

We’re also changing a number of things on the golf course. We’re going to have a different arrangement around the 18th green. Next to the Eagle Lounge – which is the new name for our VIP tent – we’re going to have two exclusive hospitality tents, one for Rolex and one for Dom Pedro Golf.

And then as you play the 18th, on the right hand side, we’ll have a big bar with a large terrace for the public which will overlook the 18th. It’s sponsored by Golf Breaks. Here you have a direct link from the bar to the grandstand which will, for the first time, be on the right hand side of the green as you play the hole. So you’ll be able to go and buy a drink, take it to the grandstand, and enjoy watching the players.

Also, we’re going to have a giant outdoor TV screen on the 18th hole. It’ll be on the other side of the lake and will show the leaderboard and live golf. Before we had an old fashioned manual leaderboard but this time it’s going to be on a big screen. Everybody around the 18th will be able to watch live golf on the screen and the golfers in front of them playing the hole.  So it should be a fantastic theatre.

So, the Portugal Masters is not a Rolex Series event, but Rolex will anyway be present at the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course… 

Yes. Rolex thinks that Portugal is an important territory. The director of Rolex values the Portugal Masters as an opportunity to promote the brand not only in Portugal but internationally because of the worldwide television distribution. And also because of Portuguese speaking countries such as Brazil and Angola which are important markets for Rolex as a brand.

What other brands are involved in the Portugal Masters?

Obviously there’s the Dom Pedro Group, through their Dom Pedro Golf Collection. It’s a great opportunity for them. And the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, which is part of the Minor Hotel Group, who bought the original Tivoli Group. They have the players’ hotel which is located next door. We also have Emirates, a partner with the European Tour, which, as you know, runs flights in and out of Lisbon. Portugal is an important market for the airline. And then companies like BPI, the official bank of the Portugal Masters. This year BPI is sponsoring the Interactive Zone which is where golf fans can go and have a golf lesson from a PGA Professional, enter a long putting competition and basically get involved with the game of golf. So there are a lot of brands associated with the Portugal Masters and their investment is very much valued by us – we need them to keep the event at the forefront on the European Tour.

How will the course be presented in terms of setup?

It’s a brand new administration here at Dom Pedro Golf. There are new people looking after the golf course and the clubhouse at the Dom Pedro Victoria and they’ve done a huge amount of work this year to bring the standard up. The fairways and greens are going to be very good. Because we’ve had a very hot summer it’s been difficult to grow the rough, so it’ll be a little bit shorter than we’d like. But in the future we’re going to make a transition in the rough from rye grass to bermuda grass, it’s actually starting now. Bermuda grass likes hot weather, so it means that we can have strong grass even during the hot months of the year.

What’s expected for this year regarding the tournament’s international broadcasts? 

Well, I’ll start with the host broadcaster which in Portugal continues to be Sport TV. And then the European Tour, through its company European Tour Productions, makes all the arrangements for the broadcast of the tournament worldwide. We have agreements with approximately forty international broadcasters and the Portugal Masters will be shown live every day, from Thursday through to Sunday, in up to half a million homes across the world.

So it’s a very strong international broadcasting footprint. The tournament can be seen in all major territories: Europe, North America, the Middle East, Far East, Asia and Australasia which I think is very important in selling Portugal as a tourist destination for golfers, but also very important for all of the sponsors that they get fabulous worldwide television exposure for their brands.

A good performance from Portuguese players is important to attract more spectators to the Portugal Masters. Were you aware of Ricardo Gouveia’s first full season on the European Tour last year?

Yes. Ricardo is an extremely talented golfer. He definitely, in my opinion, has the game and the talent to win the Portugal Masters. And I think it would be fantastic for the golf tournament and for Portugal if he could win on home soil, and thereby capturing the imagination of Portuguese golf fans. We’d love to see many more Portuguese golfers and golf fans coming to the Portugal Masters.

I think it’s also important to say that members of the Portuguese Golf Federation can get a twenty five percent discount if they buy tickets in advance or show their membership card at the gate. We’re trying to make it accessible.

It’s a full field golf tournament. With more daylight hours in September, we’ll have 156 players instead of 126 as in the past. So now we have six invitation spots for Portuguese golfers. Ricardo Melo Gouveia will not need one as he qualifies to play in this tournament anyway, so that means there will be another six Portuguese professionals playing and two spots for amateurs. So there should be nine Portuguese players for the home fans to come and watch. It’s a great opportunity for those Portuguese players that are either trying to win their card to play on the Tour or those that need to gain the experience of playing in a big tournament. The Portugal Masters is going to give them that this year.

How is it working with Group Dom Pedro, the new owners of Vilamoura Golf Courses?

Really good. We’ve developed an excellent relationship already. We knew a lot of the people anyway at Dom Pedro. For example the CEO, Luís Correia da Silva. I’ve known him right back to the time of the World Cup in Portugal in 2005. At that time he was the Portuguese Secretary of State for Tourism, so we met a long time ago and we know each other very well. I also know the two owners, Keith Cousins and Stefano Savioti

We’re working very closely with them. As I said at the beginning, they’ve made a tremendous effort to try to improve the standard of the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course and they’re also making some changes to the clubhouse, including in the Players’ Lounge area – new furniture, new flooring, a new roof and completely new decoration… The Portugal Masters will benefit from all of that.

Like last year the Official Charity for the Portugal Masters will be the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA)… 

Why did we do it? Last year I thought it was amazing to see golfers with different levels and types of disabilities coming to the Portugal Masters. I actually thought it was quite sensational the way they play such amazing golf. And I think it’s a fantastic cause if the Portugal Masters can do anything at all to encourage people with different disabilities to get involved in the sport of golf, to enjoy everything golf can offer them. So I’m really pleased that they’re coming back this year.

Estarted a project last year coaching a number of golf professionals around the country on how to look after disabled people and how to help introduce them to golf. So this is a countrywide initiative in Portugal. And this was just the start. So we feel that if we can raise some more money for them they can continue this project and encourage even more disabled people to get involved in the sport of golf.

Like last year, will there be some initiatives for disabled golfers during the Portugal Masters? 

Yes, absolutely. We’re planning to do a lot of things as we did last year. There will be a demonstration from the EDGA on the practice range and on the practice green. On Saturday, after the players have finished their rounds, we’re going to have six EDGA players play the 18th in front of the crowd. We want to film it so we can put it out on the television with a commentator. And we’re also considering whether some of the European Tour professionals will play with them. So I think it’s a great opportunity to showcase the talents of the EDGA players and for the crowd, the spectators, to appreciate their abilities and how they can play such fantastic golf and enjoy the sport despite the fact that they have different levels of disability.

This will be your 11th time as the Director of the Portugal Masters…

I feel very privileged that my first ever tournament in the Algarve was the WGC-Algarve World Cup in 2005. At that time I was in charge of all the World Golf Championships in Europe, so I came down here to run the World Cup. And it was after the World Cup that I met with Turismo de Portugal and they asked if we could create a brand new event in the Algarve which then became the Portugal Masters. The first event was held in 2007 and I’ve been very lucky to be able to come and work in Portugal at a fabulous golf course in a beautiful part of the world – the Algarve. We do a lot of business in Lisbon, but obviously the Algarve is where the golf tournament takes place and I’ve been lucky to work with some great people who really care about tournament golf in Portugal. That includes Turismo de Portugal, Dom Pedro Golf and the previous owners of Victoria. I think it’s been a great privilege.

Peter Adams interviewed by Rodrigo Cordoeiro photographed by Filipe Guerra

Photos subtitles:

Padraig Harrington during the last round of the Portugal Masters 2016 moments before becoming the winner / GETTY IMAGES

Peter Adams during the presentation to the Media of the 2017 edition of the Portugal Masters / FILIPE GUERRA

Peter Adams and Ricardo Melo Gouveia / FILIPE GUERRA

Peters Adams and Luis Correia da Silva CEO at Dom Pedro Golf / FILIPE GUERRA

Some of the EDGA players during the Portugal Masters 2016 / GETTY IMAGES

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