Madeira Islands Open presents chance for players in dire need of success

Phillip Archer at the Madeira Islands Open
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Phillip Archer is playing well these days, thanks to some coaching, putting lessons and exercise.
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Wednesday, May 09, 2012 | 1:30 p.m.

MADEIRA, Portugal -- There is only one European Tour event all year with less money on offer than this week's Madeira Islands Open -- but victory would still mean an awful lot to every player teeing off.

The total purse at Santo da Serra is about half what the winner will get at The Players Championship on Sunday. But with the big names all away -- England's 21-year-old Tommy Fleetwood is the highest-ranked player at 192nd in the world -- opportunity knocks.


This week marks the 20th staging of the Madeira Islands Open, one of the smallest events on the European Tour but also one of the most scenically spectacular.

Take Phillip Archer. The 40-year-old from England thought of giving up the game at the end of last season, but won a European Challenge Tour event in Colombia in March and leads that second-tier tour's Order of Merit.

"I sat down with my wife and talked about whether to carry on or not," Archer said. "We decided that I should and I went back to an old coach I used to see during the good times. I also had some putting lessons and started a bit of fitness and it's paying off because my results have been great.

"I'm enjoying playing again," he added. "I'm delighted with how I've played so far this season and hopefully I can continue in the same vein."

The "good times" were very good. Archer was unbeaten for Nick Faldo's Seve Trophy team in Ireland in 2007 and had hopes of playing under him in the Ryder Cup the following year. He also tied the European Tour record with his round of 60 during the 2006 Wales Open -- and missed a seven-foot putt on the last for the first-ever 59.

"My confidence is sky high at the minute, so there's no reason why I can't go and get another good result," he said.

Another 60-shooter playing this week is Bradley Dredge, and his came on this very course. That was during an eight-shot victory in 2003, two years before he won the World Cup with Stephen Dodd, but Dredge is now ranked 319th in the world.

"It's always nice to come back to a place where I've played well in the past," he said. "The 60 stands out, obviously. I had a putt from about seven or eight feet on the 17th which unfortunately I missed.

"I remember walking up the 16th fairway with my caddie and we were counting how many under par I was," he recalled. "It's not often you have to count up the birdies on both hands -- I was 11 under and then I birdied the 16th."

Former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson, who did make Faldo's side in Louisville and is a nine-time runner-up on the circuit, stands 475th and lost his Tour card last season -- as did Nick Dougherty, three times a winner.

Thirty years old later this month, the former Walker Cup star -- he was Luke Donald's partner in 2001 --  missed 32 cuts out of 33 in a nightmare year, but switching to the Challenge Tour finished three places below Archer in South America.