Tom Lewis earns long-awaited victory at Portugal Masters

VILAMOURA, PORTUGAL - SEPTEMBER 23: Tom Lewis of England celebrates the victory after the final round of Portugal Masters at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course on September 23, 2018 in Vilamoura, Portugal. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Tom Lewis earns long-awaited victory at Portugal Masters

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Tom Lewis earns long-awaited victory at Portugal Masters

Tom Lewis put years of misery behind him by winning the Portugal Masters for the second time. The Englishman’s 22-under 262 gave him a three-shot victory. More importantly, it resurrected his European Tour career.

Lewis took the title with closing 66 to deny countryman Eddie Pepperell and 54-hole leader Lucas Herbert the $390,000 first-place check. The 27-year-old is the first player to win the Portugal Masters twice, following his 2011 win. He’s had a rough time since, which included losing his European Tour card in 2016.

“It’s unbelievable,” Lewis said. “It’s been a rough ride but this week I played hard.

“To be back here in Portugal and play the way I played and to have the crowds we had, I feel great right now. I think this one means more, it means a lot to come and win this again. The next win was always going to mean more because of how much I worked for it.”

Lewis has played a mix of bottom-of-the-food-chain European Tour events and Challenge Tour tournaments this season to try to regain full European Tour status. He won the Challenge Tour’s Bridgestone Challenge this month, a victory that took him to 12th on the Challenge Tour money list, with the top 15 earning spots on the 2019 European Tour. However, he began the week 163rd on the European money list.

The 2011 Walker Cup player now doesn’t have to worry about Europe’s junior circuit for two years. He earned a European Tour exemption until the end of 2020. It also moved him to 62nd on the money list.

There was a time when Lewis was talked about as the next star to come out of Welwyn Garden City, England. Lewis couldn’t escape comparison to Nick Faldo, who also hails from the town just north of London. The comparison wasn’t entirely unfair.

Lewis finished low amateur in the 2011 British Open at Royal St. George’s. An opening 65 saw him share the lead with Thomas Bjorn, the first amateur to share the lead since Michael Bonallack in 1968. His 65 set an Open record for lowest round by an amateur.

It came as no surprise that Lewis won the 2011 Portugal Masters in his third start as a professional after helping Great Britain & Ireland win the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen. Lewis was seventh-best amateur in the world when he turned professional. Many expected him to match that ranking in the professional game. However, his game disappeared.

“Hopefully I can do better than I did last time and continue to do what I’ve been doing with the team that I’ve got and the support and not ease off the gas and keep pushing forward,” he said.

Lewis probably won’t match Faldo’s playing record, but at least he’s back where he belongs. Whether he stays there remains to be seen.

Pepperell’s second-place finish moves him to 10th on the money list and into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career. Herbert moved to 64th on the money list to earn full playing rights for next year.

Sergio Garcia gave European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn much encouragement by finishing T-7 with rounds of 66-70-68-65 for a 15-under 269. Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen was the only other 2018 Ryder Cup player in the field. He finished T-20 at 12-under.

England’s Oliver Fisher couldn’t ride his historic second-round 59 to victory. The man who became the first player in European Tour history to break 60 finished tied with Garcia after further scores of 69 and 70. Gwk

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