D+D Real Czech Masters 2016 – Albatross Golf Resort, Czech Republic
The European Tour returns to the continent after a few weeks away in the US, Thailand and Brazil for the USPGA Championship, the low-key Kings Cup and the Olympic Games respectively. This is the third staging of the D+D Czech Masters and the field assembled is probably the strongest to date.
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This is an exciting part of the season with the Race to Dubai hotting up, not to mention the final few events for the likes of Lee Westwood, Jamie Donaldson and Thomas Pieters to increase their chances for Ryder Cup selection. Matthew Fitzpatrick and Andy Sullivan also tee it up this week in Prague, both of whom are all but assured of a place in Darren Clarke’s European team. Tyrrell Hatton and Victor Dubuisson who were on the original entry list have opted out – the former I had as a big runner here – but it appears he is playing the Wyndham Championship over in the States instead.
The Albatross Golf Course is a traditional par 72 that opened for business just six years ago. The track measures in at 7,467 yards and all four of the par 5’s are played within the first 12 holes. The four par 3’s are all strong, with three measuring between 195 and 219 yards. There are also several tough, long par 4’s – the 8th, 15th and 17th all exceed 480 yards – par will be a good score on these three holes in particular. All that said, this is a course which encourages low scoring, mainly due to little-to-no rough to speak of. Water is in play on seven holes, but mainly is in play to capture the most errant of shots.
Currently we are looking at fine weather for rounds one, two and three with some wet stuff forecast for Sunday morning. Winds will be on the low side all week, peaking around 12mph on the final day.
Previous Winners & Key Stats
2015 – Thomas Pieters (-20) (DA: 27th, DD 1st, GIR 22nd, PPGIR 1st, Scrambles 13/18)
2014 – Jamie Donaldson (-14) (DA 34th, DD 24th, GIR 2nd, PPGIR 4th, Scrambles 13/23)
Pieters and Donaldson both played the par 5’s in -12 for the week and what is key here is playing the first 12 holes well under par. The 17th played the toughest hole in both 2015 and 2014 whilst the 18th was the second hardest last year. The 16th was the third hardest in 2014 whilst the 14th and 15th ranked inside the hardest seven holes for both previous editions – this is comparatively a brutal closing stretch and failure to play those opening 12 holes in anything less than four under par and you can probably forget your pick making a charge for the trophy.
This is seen as a bit of a bombers paradise with Pieters and runner-up Pelle Edberg coming 1/2 in driving distance last year. Length is much more important here than accuracy off the tee, but greens in regulation could be even more vital with both leaderboards packed with players hitting greens in the correct number, many of whom finished in the top ten for the week in this statistic. Short-hitting plotters such as Fitzpatrick, Robert Dinwiddie, Craig Lee, Soren Kjeldsen and Damien McGrane all have top ten finishes here.
A six-time European Tour winner, South African Richard Sterne was a must back for me this week in Prague. A T46 at the Open in his most recent start, Sterne looks to be heading back to his best form which saw him win five events in 2007/2008. A T13 in the Scottish Open that proceeded the Open saw him 5th for GIR, 11th for DD and 24th for DA. The week before in France saw another fine ball-striking performance in which he was 18th for GIR, 21st for DD and 7th for DA. His putter performed during his T11 in Paris as he finished 15th for PPGIR, showcasing his all round game is in fine fettle presently. Last seen in the winners circle at the Joburg Open in 2013, Richard looks ready to win again on tour.
Each Way – Eastbridge Sports Betting Brokerage @ 33/1
Jaco van Zyl
This is the South African’s first visit to Prague and on the face of it a bit of a left-field pick. Jaco skipped the Open and the USPGA majors in order to prepare himself to represent South Africa in last weeks Olympics in which he finished a disappointing T43. Clearly though, the experienced plotter has a vision at to what his schedule should be and on the back of recent(ish) strong displays at Wentworth in the BMW PGA (T7), Irish Open (T23) and Mauritius (T12) I have a feeling he might fancy the challenge the Albatross course will give him.
Each Way – Betfair @ 50/1
I’m not a huge fan of backing previous non-winners as maiden victories are so hard to come by – however I’m always willing to make an exception with special talents – and the big hitting Dane, Lucas Bjerregaard, certainly falls in that bracket. An opening round of 66 on the devilishly tricky Open de France layout last month caught my eye, suggesting his stone cold putter might finally be heating up. Lucas is in the top 10 for DD this season averaging some 304 yards off the tee. He also ranks 32nd for GIR so he is clearly setting up plenty of birdie chances that this layout demands. He also has form at the Black Mountain course in Thailand – a set-up that Pieters and Edberg have top 5 finishes to their name.
Each Way – Betfair @ 90/1
The former European Masters champion at Crans-sur-Sierre has quietly managed three top 10 finishes this season, this despite having seemingly a quiet time of it of late. Course form of T22 and T19 is promising, as is four rounds of sub 69 round the Albatross layout. A T24 in Thailand in his last strokeplay event saw Lipsky finish 6th in GIR suggesting his long game is in pretty decent knick. The American seems to play well at this time of year and I thought his price looked too big at 100s – especially given I backed him here at 50s last year.
Each Way – Betvictor @ 100/1
Prices correct at time of writing.