The defending champion at this week’s Portugal Masters might be too far back to mount a successful defence - but you won’t find him complaining.
Steven Brown looked like he was heading to Q School last year before he fired a final day bogey-free 66 to land his first European Tour title.
Playing over the Dom Pedro Victoria Course in Vilamoura, a course he loves, Brown said it was a bit of a downer to be defending his title without fans.
“Yeah I would say a little frustrating and a shame but on the flip side we’re very lucky to be able to play the event so I’m not complaining at all,” he told bunkered.co.uk. “In general it’s a shame we can’t play with fans at all the tournaments as it adds something to play in front of people. Let’s hope that can happen again sooner rather than later.”
The Englishman is currently just outside the top-25 after a one-under 70 left him four-under for the tournament, but that may change later in the day. Julien Guerrier leads on 14-under, with a host players hot on his tail, including Scotland’s Liam Johnston.
Johnston fired a 61 in yesterday’s round, with the Victoria Course once again giving players the opportunity to go low. Scott Jamieson famously missed out on a 59 back in 2013, though Oliver Fisher did manage to shoot the magical number there in 2018.
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The Victoria Course, in fact, remains the only venue on the European Tour to yield the much-coveted sub-60 number.
Brown says another low number could be possible this weekend, but the rough is proving tricky on a course he says has one of best set-ups he’s ever seen.
“The rough is very different and very thick,” he says. “The leading scores are still low as they aren’t in the rough very often but overall I would say the scoring isn’t as good. That’s with not much breeze either so with some wind at the weekend I think the scoring will be higher. It’s a great set-up this year and all the players are agreeing that its one of the best conditions ever.”
The European Tour is keeping players in a strict bubble to avoid any spread of COVID-19 and Brown says he and his peers are now well drilled as to what can and cannot be done.
“It’s been different obviously and taken some getting used to but it’s fine actually. We can have a bubble of four so me and Jordan Smith and our caddies have been having dinner. Prep hasn’t been affected as we can always chat to the other players while at the course and things, socially distant though obviously.”
He added: “Evenings are very different as we can’t leave the ‘bubble’. This week for example we’d be going down to the marina for dinner and chilling with the guys but we can’t this year. This year it’s eating at the hotel but it’s so nice that it’s not so bad.
"After the last six weeks, most of the players are used to the restrictions now.”