Defending champ Lewis returns to Portugal Masters in search of form

Tom Lewis
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Tom Lewis won more money in his Portugal victory last year than he has all this season so far.
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 | 2:10 p.m.

VILAMOURA, Portugal -- Tom Lewis, one of the stars of European golf last year, has admitted his frustration at the way his first full season as a professional has nosedived.

The 21-year-old from England defends his Portugal Masters title this week, but has to go back more than five months to the last time he survived a cut.

Even a 65 at St. Andrews last Saturday -- his lowest round since he won here at the Oceanico Victoria Club last October -- could not save him from yet another early exit.

At 123rd on the money list, Lewis would be facing a first trip to Qualifying School except for the fact that his stunning victory last year -- achieved in only his third start as a professional – earned him a two-year exemption.

"It's a shame I'm not playing as well as I was this time last year," he said Wednesday. "It's disappointing that I won't be up to my A-game. I've had some good rounds, but I haven't been able to put two rounds together.

"I was holing a lot more putts last year. It's frustrating because I know I am capable of doing it and I've improved on most of the areas I've wanted to, but it just has not come together," he added. "I'm frustrated with myself for not performing to the level I expect.

"I did expect a little bit of a dip in my career, but my game isn't at the level I thought it was going to be," he explained. "I'm disappointed and I wish I had done better -- of course I do -- but luckily I've got next year."

Lewis's victory earned him $535,000, whereas his 2012 winnings on the circuit total only $200,000.

"In my eyes, it's not really about the money -- I've never really been interested in that," he said. "It's about playing golf and trying to improve.

"Unfortunately it's been an expensive year because I've missed so many cuts (13 in Europe, one in America) traveling all round the world staying in nice places," he added. "I've learnt a lot, but I'm also disappointed I haven't turned that into performance."

Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari are the two members of Europe's Ryder Cup team in the field and, perhaps not surprisingly, they have been paired in the first two rounds with Captain Jose Maria Olazabal.

Olazabal put them in the bottom two positions in the singles when his side was four points behind. After a spectacular fightback, Kaymer beat Steve Stricker to guarantee the Ryder Cup stayed in European hands and then Molinari's halve with Tiger Woods gave them the outright victory in the match.