The European Tour returns this week after a fortnight’s break and given that the weeks immediately prior to that saw the Open Championship and WGC FedEx St Jude, a fair proportion of this week’s field will be coming into the D+D Real Czech Masters with very little, if any, competitive golf under their belts in recent weeks.
You’d think that after that enforced break that the Tour’s rank and file would be clambering over each other to be playing this week…alas that’s not the case. Those who missed out at Q-School and others who were outside the qualifying mark on last year’s Asian Tour have been drafted in to make up the numbers with a paltry €1m prize fund partially to blame I’m sure. Nevertheless, from a betting perspective this looks like a decent heat and with 5 years’ worth of course history to peruse, we have something to work with here in the Czech Republic.
Albatross Golf Resort, Prague, Czech Republic. Designer: Keith Preston, 2010; Par: 72; Length: 7,467 yards; Fairways: Bentgrass/Fescue; Rough: Rye; Greens: A1/A4 Bentgrass; Stimp: 12ft.
Course Overview. The course, which is located on the South-Western outskirts of Prague at slight altitude, is a 7,467 yard, par 72 with exposed fairways and large bentgrass greens designed to cater for the tourist trade first and foremost, with 4 or 5 teeing areas on each hole. Fairways are fairly generous and the main challenges with the driver are carefully placed bunkers; precision isn’t the primary requirement here, despite organisers attempting to strengthen the course by nipping in the landing areas prior to the inaugural event a few years ago.
The first and 12th are par-5s that present scoring opportunities to the bombers who can get their drives away; back-to-back par 5s around the turn are perhaps a little too long at over 600 yards each, however the par-4 6th can be played from the forward tee which brings the front edge of the green into play with the driver and the hole played tied 4th easiest to par 12 months ago. Other holes on the course demand a little respect and this is a layout where a variety of playing styles may well feature at the top of Sunday’s leaderboard with water in play on 7 holes and more substantially towards the end of the 18.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s D+D Real Czech Masters that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event: Current Form | Tournament Form | Tournament Top 20 Finishes | First Round Leader Stats
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2018: Andrea Pavan, 50/1; 2017: Haydn Porteous, 66/1; 2016: Paul Peterson, 250/1; 2015: Thomas Pieters, 80/1; 2014: Jamie Donaldson, 12/1.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Prague is here. With rain expected throughout the day on Monday and into the early hours of Tuesday, the course should be nice and lush ahead of this year’s event. Temperatures up to the mid-70s Fahrenheit and winds peaking at around 10mph in the afternoons should lend itself to some decent scoring this week, with another winning total in the high teens or better expected.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the 5 winners here since 2014 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
- 2018: Andrea Pavan (-22). 297 yards (41st), 64.3% fairways (34th), 80.6% greens in regulation (6th), 42.9% scrambling (36th), 1.52 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2017: Haydn Porteous (-13). 304 yards (9th), 66.1% fairways (25th), 81.9% greens in regulation (2nd), 30.8% scrambling (51st), 1.68 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2016: Paul Peterson (-15). 287 yards (40th), 82.1% fairways (3rd), 83.3% greens in regulation (1st), 58.3% scrambling (25th), 1.67 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2015: Thomas Pieters (-20). 321 yards (1st), 62.5% fairways (27th), 75.0% greens in regulation (22nd), 72.2% scrambling (10th), 1.54 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2014: Jamie Donaldson (-14). 291 yards (24th), 64.3% fairways (34th), 80.6% greens in regulation (2nd), 42.9% scrambling (65th), 1.65 putts per GIR (4th).
An exposed track with fairly wide fairways and large greens doesn’t give away many clues with even the more wayward players hitting reasonable numbers on both counts, however to score here a tidy enough long game which maximises GIR is probably key. Scrambling isn’t particularly difficult either, so it’s likely to come down to greens hit and putts made this week; however with pre-event rain softening the track, perhaps the longer hitters will have a slight edge overall.
Despite not being the longest of players from off the tee, only one player bettered Paul Peterson’s 8-under total on the par 5s here in 2016 and he made a total of 21 birdies and just 6 bogeys on the week overall. Similarly Thomas Pieters and Jamie Donaldson both excelled on the par 5s when they won – both led the field in that respect in their winning efforts – and attacking the birdie holes whilst defending on the trickier par 4s and the tougher par 3s looks the best method to getting into contention around these parts.
2017 was a bit trickier with cooler temperatures which led to Haydn Porteous winning with a 6-under total on the par-5s and a total of 21 birdies and an eagle, offset by 8 bogeys and a double for his -13 overall total. More scoreable conditions last year restored order with Andrea Pavan’s 11-under for the par-5s beaten by just one player on the week. With relatively straightforward conditions expected again this week, I’d anticipate that a player’s performance on the long holes will once again be pivotal to success.
Jamie Donaldson arrived at the Albatross Golf Resort 5 years ago with 4-event form of MC/MC/37/24, albeit the final 3 events were Major/WGC/Major; Thomas Pieters was similarly non-descript with incoming form of MC/60/33/35 before winning here and then again on his next start in Holland a fortnight later. 250/1 shock winner Paul Peterson was playing on the Asian Tour predominantly alongside the occasional co-sanctioned event and although he’d recorded a 3rd place finish the previous month at the Queen’s Cup, his efforts when competing at this level were far from encouraging.
Of the 5 winners, the two most recent victors had more tangible form: Haydn Porteous had finished 11th at Sun City on the Sunshine Tour and 6th in Denmark the week before, however with Total Driving ranks of 8th and 4th from those two outings, it was fairly clear that his long game was pretty sharp. Similarly Andrea Pavan had finished 14th in Scotland then 6th the week before in Sweden before securing his first European Tour title, pounding greens in regulation both times:
- 2018: Andrea Pavan: 9/MC/52/MC/23/56/56/MC/14/6
- 2017: Haydn Porteous: MC/MC/38/MC/32/36/MC/11/17/6
- 2016: Paul Peterson: 25/48/35/73/50/MC/59/3/22/MC
- 2015: Thomas Pieters: 18/33/MC/MC/24/39/WD/60/33/35
- 2014: Jamie Donaldson: MC/38/30/MC/5/5/MC/MC/37/24
Course form enthusiasts look away now – this isn’t what you’ll want to see. Andrea Pavan’s 39th place finish on debut was the best course effort on show from any of the 5 winners to date:
- 2018: Andrea Pavan: 39/MC
- 2017: Haydn Porteous: 60/MC
- 2016: Paul Peterson: MC
- 2015: Thomas Pieters: MC
- 2014: Jamie Donaldson: Debut
With only 5 years’ worth of history here at the Albatross Golf Resort to review, the course form of our winners (or lack of prior to winning) is tenuous to say the least and basing any decisions solely on what’s happened here since 2014 may well be a mistake. With 4 attackable par 5s and a potentially driveable par 4, this course sets up well for powerful players, however Paul Peterson proved in 2016 that there’s more than one way to navigate successfully around the Albatross.
My selections are as follows: