Paul Williams

Paul Williams' D+D Real Czech Masters Tips 2021

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Congratulations to Steve Bamford whose headline selection Kevin Kisner obliged in the 6-man play-off at the Wyndham Championship for a 50/1 winner, let’s hope some of that positivity rubs off this side of the Atlantic before too long!

The D+D Real Czech Masters is our task this week as the European Tour returns to the Albatross Course on the outskirts of Prague. Through a combination of invites and national spots, the Tour have just about managed to scrape together a field of 126 here this week, with the FedEx Cup Playoffs starting over the in the US and taking centre stage.

Sam Horsfield heads the field this week at a general 11/1, with late entry Rory Sabbatini rating as a 14/1 chance alongside Danny Willett. Dean Burmester, Ryan Fox, Callum Shinkwin and George Coetzee all rate in the 20/1 to 25/1 bracket in a field that soon thins out in terms of quality.

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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. The bunkering has been reworked since we last visited this track with the objective to ‘improve visibility, interest and character’. How that actually affects playability remains to be seen, however visually the bunkering looks more prominent and in some places have been removed completely.

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 the 6th easiest to par 2 years 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 | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Winners & Prices. 2019: Thomas Pieters, 20/1; 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.

Nothing much to report in truth with sunny spells expected and temperatures creeping up to the low-to-mid 70s Fahrenheit by Sunday afternoon. Winds will be generally light at 5-10mph, with the odd gust or two maybe a little stronger.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Analysing the final stats of the 6 winners here since 2014 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2019: Thomas Pieters (-19). 318 yards (1st), 58.9% fairways (54th), 83.3% greens in regulation (2nd), 75% scrambling (18th), 1.70 putts per GIR (15th).
  • 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 long game which maximises GIR is probably key.

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 in 2018 restored order with Andrea Pavan’s 11-under for the par-5s beaten by just one player on the week.

Thomas Pieters’ second win here in 2019 saw him card an 8-under total on the par-5s, and on average everyone who finished in the top-5 plus ties played the long holes in a little better than 9-under par. 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.

From a Strokes Gained perspective, the top two players here in 2019 both excelled from Off the Tee and Tee to Green whilst both losing strokes on the greens over the 4 days. Conversely, Sam Horsfield and Andrea Pavan weren’t as tidy from a long game perspective, but both produced a stronger flat stick performance. The only consistent factor from all 4 players was SG Approach:

  • 1st: Thomas Pieters. T: 4th; A: 1st; T2G: 2nd; ATG: 56th; P: 52nd
  • 2nd: Adri Arnaus, T: 1st; A: 11th; T2G: 1st; ATG: 4th; P: 61st
  • 3rd: Sam Horsfield, T: 42nd; A: 8th; T2G: 7th; ATG: 19th; P: 16th
  • 3rd: Andrea Pavan, T: 51st; A: 9th; T2G: 22nd; ATG: 38th; P: 4th

Key: T: SG Off the Tee; A; SG Approach; T2G: SG Tee to Green; ATG: SG Around the Green; P: SG Putting.

Incoming Form.

Jamie Donaldson arrived at the Albatross Golf Resort 7 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 6 winners, the two victors in 2017 and 2018 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.

Thomas Pieters was our last winner here with the 2020 event being cancelled, and he arrived with fairly mediocre form for a player who was best priced at 20/1. 20th at the Scottish Open on his penultimate start had been his best finish since March of that year, and 9th for SG Off the Tee and 15th for SG Tee to Green was a positive sign ahead of a return to a track he clearly enjoys:

  • 2019: Thomas Pieters: MC/41/23/23/33/MC/MC/MC/20/67
  • 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.

Thomas Pieters broke a string of results here where eventual winners had very little positive course form to speak of when he won here at Albatross for the second time:

  • 2019: Thomas Pieters: MC/1/2/66/9
  • 2018: Andrea Pavan: 39/MC
  • 2017: Haydn Porteous: 60/MC
  • 2016: Paul Peterson: MC
  • 2015: Thomas Pieters: MC
  • 2014: Jamie Donaldson: Debut

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 and approach play excellence following a successful drive would seem to be the most likely way to unlock this course.

My selections are as follows:

Callum Shinkwin 2pts EW 22/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Betfred

With some pretty unappetising prices at the top of this week’s betting, I’m going to take just Callum Shinkwin from the leading players in the market and then look further afield for some juicier prices.

Sam Horsfield has clear enough course and current form credentials to warrant favouritism, however at a best-priced 11/1 he’s plenty short enough in this most fickle of sports. The late addition of Rory Sabbatini following his missing out on a Playoffs start this week on the PGA Tour is interesting, however much depends on whether he’s simply passing through on his way to Slovakia and already in holiday mode, or whether he’s here to contend – either way, 14/1 for a player who’s winless in over a decade is tough to stomach, despite his performance at the Olympics and for 3 rounds at Sedgefield last week.

Johannes Veerman, Jacques Kruswijk and Hugo Leon could have found their way into my team this week had they been at more respectable prices, so I’ll stick with just the one selection from the top part of the betting and look for the Englishman to bag his second European Tour title.

Statistically, Callum ticks the boxes I’m looking for to conquer this week’s test in Prague. Powerful from off the tee, the 28 year-old sits 14th on Tour for Driving Distance for the season to date and at 13th for SG Off the Tee that’s where he does a lot of his damage, which fits in very nicely with the first two home last time we visited this track. 3rd, 3rd and 1st on that SG count at the Cazoo Open, Hero Open and Cazoo Classic last week respectively suggests that he’s right at the peak of his powers with the big dog right now and that bodes very well in my view.

5th, 16th and 7th for SG Tee to Green over that same stretch combined with 5th, 39th and 11th for SG Approach have produced three impressive finishes, culminating in 3rd last week as he closed with a 6-under round of 66 and birdies on the final two holes for some good momentum coming into this week.

A missed cut on his last visit here in 2019 can be disregarded as he withdrew from the next two events with food poisoning and a back issue, so we can infer that he may not have been 100% that week; instead 9th here in 2017 when still smarting from his Scottish Open play-off defeat to Rafa Cabrera-Bello is a far better indicator of his potential in my view. RESULT: T33

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Nicolai Hojgaard 1pt EW 70/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

I put Nicolai Hojgaard up a couple of weeks ago at Fairmont St Andrews and he promptly missed the cut, however I think it’s worth persevering with the power-packed Dane following a solid 21st place finish last week in Kent as he arrives on a track that should play to his strengths.

Despite not getting over the line yet on the European Tour, unlike his twin brother Rasmus, 2nd at last year’s KLM Open, wedged between eventual winner Sergio Garcia and Matt Wallace, is a decent indicator of the 20 year-old’s potential and he produced another impressive finish in May at the Canary Islands Championship, carding 18 birdies and 3 eagles on his way to a 19-under total and a tie for 4th place, having previously finished in a tie for 7th at the Austrian Open where he ranked 9th for SG Approach and 2nd for SG Tee to Green.

14th at Celtic Manor was positive form in more recent times, gaining almost 11 strokes on Approach and from Tee to Green, and although he’s been a little patchy since there were some positive elements to take from last week’s 21 birdies and an eagle as he closed with his best round of the week on Sunday, carding an impressive 67 which was beaten by just 4 players.

6th for Driving Distance, 21st for SG Approach and 22nd for GIR on the European Tour for the season to date are impressive statistics in the context of this week’s field, and given what we’ve seen here at Albatross to date, his lack of competitive course experience isn’t likely to be too much of a hindrance. RESULT: T17

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Berry Henson 1pt EW 200/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Betfred

In a weak event such as this, sometimes a single stat or factor can be sufficient to add an otherwise obscure name to a shortlist or, in the case of Berry Henson, risking an each-way stake out of curiosity.

For me that spark came at the Hero Open a week or so ago, where the American finished 10th to tie his best European Tour career finish, having finished in the same position back in 2018 at the co-sanctioned Maybank Championship in Malaysia. It was the stats that fell out of that performance that earmarked him for this week for me though: 7th for Driving Distance and 2nd for Driving Accuracy translated to 1st for Total Driving as you might expect; couple that with 11th for GIR and 7th for Scrambling and you also get a field-leading Ball-Striking and All Round performance. 12th for SG Tee to Green, 9th for SG Off the Tee and 4th for SG Approach complete a pretty impressive week’s numbers and a similar performance here may well produce a better overall finish.

At 42 years of age and having flitted from tour-to-tour over his career, it wouldn’t be too unkind to label the Californian as a journeyman, despite having secured wins on the Asian Development Tour and the main Asian Tour itself in quick succession a decade ago. We’ve seen with Richard Bland in recent times though that players can still find a new level into their forties, and with a game that at its best would appear to be compatible with Albatross, I’m happy to take a chance on Berry having finished a respectable 23rd here last time we visited in 2019. RESULT: T39

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Zheng-Kai Bai 1pt EW 275/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

Finally, depending where you do your research, Zheng-Kai Bai’s name comes in many forms. Bobby Bai and Bai Bobby Zheng-Kai are some of the other variations you might find – seemingly ‘Bobby’ could be the name that’s settled on eventually – however for now let’s just accept there’s work to be done when it comes to consistency of naming convention.

Now that we’ve successfully identified the talented 23 year-old from China, let’s talk about the man himself. After turning pro in 2019, Bobby quickly took to the China Tour and won on his 3rd outing of the season at that level at the Huangshan Championship. 10th and 2nd followed at the same level later that year, paving the way for a couple of Challenge Tour/China Tour co-sanctioned starts which he took full advantage of, finishing 22nd at the Hainan Open before winning the Foshan Open the following week. For context, last week’s winner Calum Hill finished 3rd that week, with Belfry winner Richard Bland a shot behind in 4th place.

A step up the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020 didn’t really go to plan in a disjointed season for all, however this year has shown much more promise with a 6th place finish at the Huntsville Championship and 13th on his penultimate start at the Utah Championship where he led going into the weekend courtesy of a 2nd round 62. A PGA Tour debut fell between those starts at the Barbasol Championship, where a 42nd place finish overall masks 2 decent rounds of 66 and 68.

Game-wise, Bai is a modern power-packed golfer who averages over 315 yards from off the tee on the Korn Ferry Tour and he’s show flashes of excellence with his irons, none more so than at the Barbasol where he ranked 8th for GIR with 79.2% of greens hit while also finishing 7th for SG Off the Tee.

For me, Bobby’s a rough diamond and an unknown quantity who’s worth chancing here on a course that should suit, given the dismissive price that been chalked up against him. RESULT: WD Pre-Event

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:00BST 16.8.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.