Congratulations to Steve Bamford whose 28/1 headline tip Brandt Snedeker got the job done at the Wyndham Championship on Sunday following his incredible opening round of 59. That success followed Steve’s Brooks Koepka selection the week before at the US PGA Championship and he heads into this week’s first leg of the PGA Tour PlayOffs looking for a personal hat-trick of wins – you can read his thoughts on The Northern Trust here.
Almost a year after Ryder Cup qualification started here in the Czech Republic, this week’s event marks the penultimate event of the European qualifying campaign. Despite not winning in Sweden last week, Thorbjorn Olesen moved up into the final automatic spot courtesy of his 4th place finish in Gothernburg, however with the likes of Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox and Ian Poulter playing in the US and Sergio Garcia opting not to play here after failing to make the PGA Tour PlayOffs, that gives Eddie Pepperell as the highest-scoring player on the automatic qualification bubble something to aim for here this week. Tournament favourite Thomas Pieters will likely need to win here this week and next if he’s going to threaten a wildcard pick from Thomas Bjorn, however in this relatively weak field he’ll fancy his chances of completing the first part of his task and the bookies have priced him accordingly at a paltry 7/1 at best at the time of writing.
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 in my opinion, 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 3rd 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 is in play on 7 holes and more substantially towards the end of the 18.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 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. Hot and sunny on Thursday with temperatures peaking at 90 Fahrenheit, however that’s the end of the good news as breezier, cloudier and potentially wetter weather is expected to take over from Friday onwards with temperatures taking a marked drop by 20 degrees or more by the time we hit Sunday.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the 4 winners here since 2014 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
- 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 cooler temperatures and the potential for rain from Friday onwards, the longer hitters may well stand the best chance of scoring around here this year.
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.
Last year 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. The weather forecast for this week is almost a carbon copy of 12 months ago with conditions deteriorating after a warm and sunny start on Thursday and a long course played in cooler conditions over the weekend may well produce a similar style of winner 12 months on.
Jamie Donaldson arrived at the Albatross Golf Resort 4 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 4 winners, Haydn Porteous had shown a little more form with 11th at Sun City on the Sunshine Tour and 6th in Denmark the week before being his 2 most recent strokeplay efforts, however with Total Driving ranks of 8th and 4th from those two outings it was fairly clear that his long game was pretty sharp.
- 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
With only 4 years’ 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. Haydn Porteous is a case in point as he’d finished 60th in 2014 and missed the cut in 2016 before winning here and I’d favour current form over course form here this week personally.
My selections are as follows: