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Pablo Martin upbeat for Portugal defence

Pablo Martin, the first amateur to win on the European Tour, said he had no regrets about delaying the launch of his professional career after landing last year's Portuguese Open title.

The 21-year-old Spaniard has made a slow start since turning pro in June but hopes to kick-start his game when he returns to Oitavos Dunes in Estoril for Thursday's first round.

Martin decided to go back to Oklahoma State University to represent his college golf team, thereby missing eight European Tour events before switching from the amateur ranks to play in the 2007 U.S. Open.

"I don't regret not turning pro straight away," Martin told reporters. "I promised my coach at college I would go back and I was able to finish all but the last year of my economics degree.

"I can finish that when I want now. It would have been nice to earn money but I hope I will have plenty of years to do that."

Martin has struggled since finishing 30th on his pro debut at the U.S. Open in Oakmont.

His best performances were 21st in last year's Portugal Masters and 21st at last month's Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida.

After missing four successive cuts on the European Tour, his display in Orlando and a chance to work again with his coaches in the U.S. put Martin in optimistic mood and he finished 25th in last week's Andalucia Open.

"I've been playing much better lately and I'm starting to putt better which is very important," he said.

"I think this can be a good week if I don't make too many mistakes because I know I'm going to have a very good feeling about the course."

Last week's playoff combatants in Andalucia, French winner Thomas Levet and teenage runner-up Oliver Fisher of Britain, compete in Estoril.

Briton Brian Davis returns to Europe after finishing tied 33rd in the New Orleans Classic while 2006 Ryder Cup players Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and David Howell are also in the lineup.

April 1, 2008

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