Length off tee a big advantage at the Albatross
Dom Pedro Victoria form a big plus
First staged in 2014, the Czech Masters is one of the newer events on the DP World Tour and this is only the ninth renewal after the tournament was one of those lost to the pandemic in 2020.
The Albatross Golf Resort in Prague has been the tournament's host course since its inception.
Albatross Golf Resort, Prague, Czech Republic
Par 72, 7,468 yards
Stroke index in 2022- 71.06
Designed by Keith Preston and opened in 2010, the Albatross Course has been the host course since the event began. It's a long track with average width bentgrass and fescue fairways and bentgrass greens. The greens have previously run at around 12 on the Stimpmeter.
There were a couple of changes to the course before the 2016 renewal. Two new green side lakes were added and 27 new trees were planted.
It's not a very tough track but it's long with a tricky finish (see In-Play Tactics below).
Live on Sky Sports all four days, beginning at midday on Thursday
Tournament Winners with Pre-event Prices
- 2022 - Max Kieffer -16 80.079/1 (54-holes)
- 2021 - Johannes Veerman -15 34.033/1
- 2020 - Event Cancelled
- 2019 - Thomas Pieters -19 22.021/1
- 2018 - Andrea Pavan -20 60.059/1
- 2017 - Haydn Porteous -13 55.054/1
- 2016 - Paul Peterson -15 1000.0
- 2015 - Thomas Pieters -20 80.079/1
- 2014 - Jamie Donaldson -14 12.011/1
What Will it Take to Win the Czech Masters?
Although three of the last six winners have ranked in the 40s for Driving Distance, the Albatross is a lengthy course and I'd definitely favour length over accuracy off the tee.
Last year's rain-affected renewal was reduced to 54-holes and the winner, Max Kieffer, ranked only 49th for DD. But the first four in the DD rankings - Wilco Nienaber, Gavin Green, Jake McLeod and Louis De Jager - all finished inside the top-eight last year.
This was Kieffer's first, and to date, only success on the DP World Tour, but Green, who finished second ranking second for DD, will feel this was a golden opportunity to get off the mark himself given he led by three after two rounds on 14-under-par.
Thomas Pieters ranked fourth for Driving Distance when he won the event for a second time four years ago, and he ranked first in 2015 when taking the title for the first time.
Pelle Edberg, who finished second to Pieters eight years ago, ranked second for DD and the big-hitting South African, Dean Burmester, ranked first for DD two years ago when finishing sixth.
The 2016 winner, Paul Peterson, ranked third for Driving Accuracy but none of the other winners have ranked any better than 25th.
Greens In Regulation has been a key stat some years and so too has Scrambling but putting well and making lots of birdies has usually been the secret to success here.
The eight winners have ranked, fourth, first, second, second, first, 13th, ninth and second for Putting Average and it's been all about making lots of birdies.
Kieffer, who ranked first for Strokes Gained Putting, made more birdies than anyone else 12 months ago. The two who were tied for second in 2021 ranked first and second for birdies made last year (the winner, Johannes Veerman, ranked 11th).
Prior to that, Denmark's J.B Hansen was the only man in the field to make more birdies than the 2016 winner, Peterson. The other five winners have made more birdies than anyone else.
Focus on the Driving Distance stats and the various putting metrics.
Is There an Angle In?
At the very first edition of this event, Sky Sports' Wayne 'Radar' Riley likened the course to the London Club, which was the venue for the 2021 Cazoo Classic, won by Calum Hill.
He may have been on to something given an out-of-form Paul Peterson, the surprise 2016 winner here, was in-contention there until a very poor third round.
The runner-up here in 2021, Sean Crocker, sat tied second there after round one (before missing the cut!) and the inaugural winner here, Jamie Donaldson, finished third at the London Club.
However, the course that appears to correlate best is Dom Pedro Victoria - home of the Portugal Masters.
Thomas Pieters has won at both venues, the inaugural winner here, Jamie Donaldson, has three top-eight finishes in Portugal, and the 2021 winner, Veerman, was eighth in the Portugal Masters on his only appearance.
The 2018 runner-up, Padraig Harrington, won the Portugal Masters in 2016 and the link between the two tracks was cemented further last year.
Gavin Green and Tapio Pulkkanen, who finished second and third here, went on to fill the same two places in Portugal. Jake McLeod, who finished sixth in this event last year, only has one other top-10 finish on the DP World Tour - his eighth place at the Portugal Masters in 2019.
Both are wide-open low-scoring resort courses so it makes sense that the two correlate nicely and that's a great place to start.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Donaldson and Pieters were fairly well fancied, but it's been a reasonable event for outsiders and for first time DP World Tour winners.
This was Donaldson's third victory on the DP World Tour and Haydn Porteous had won the Joburg Open in his native South Africa a few months before he won here. But Pieters, Peterson, Pavan, Veerman and Kieffer were all won their first DP World Tour titles here, and Pieters, who has won this title twice, is the only winner of the tournament to win again since.
Winner's Position and Price Pre-Final Round
- 2022 - Max Kieffer - tied fifth, trailing by four (after 36 holes) 24.023/1
- 2021 - Johannes Veerman - tied second, trailing by two 6.05/1
- 2020 - Event Cancelled
- 2019 - Thomas Pieters led by a stroke 2.789/5
- 2018 - Andrea Pavan - tied for the lead 2.447/5
- 2017 - Haydn Porteous - solo second, trailing by two strokes 3.412/5
- 2016 - Paul Peterson - solo second, trailing by two strokes 12.5
- 2015 - Thomas Pieters - led by a stroke 2.0421/20
- 2014 - Jamie Donaldson - tied second, trailing by one 3.412/5
The first three home in the 2015 edition were all tied for third after round one and just one off the lead after opening rounds of 66 and they occupied the first three places at halfway.
A year earlier, Jamie Donaldson had never been outside the first two places at any stage when he won so after the first two editions it looked like it might be a hard place to play catch-up.
Pieters sat 10th after round one three years ago, before sitting second at halfway and first after round three, The 2018 winner, Andrea Pavan, was never worse than fifth or more than two strokes adrift between rounds but Peterson came from miles back to win in 2016.
The little-known American trailed by eight strokes at halfway before he broke the course record on Saturday and then he shot the joint-best round of the day on Sunday to win by a stroke.
The 2017 winner, Haydn Porteous, was neither bang up with the pace or miles off it. He trailed by four after round one, five after round two (although he'd moved up from 27th to fourth) and he trailed by two with a round to go.
The 2021 victor, Veerman, sat tied for 37th and four back after round one but the next five on the final leaderboard all sat inside the top-three and tied after round one. The first seven winners all sat first or second after 54 holes.
Peterson's victory is starting to seem like quite an anomaly and being up with the pace looks key - although Kieffer had been four back with a round to go last year.
The Albatross has a relatively tough finish after the par five 12th with the last six holes all averaging over-par again last year (the last four holes ranked fourth, third, first and seventh toughest).
If you're betting in-running, beware the par four 17th hole. In the first eight editions, it ranked either as the hardest or second hardest hole on the course. A par there is a good score, but Kieffer went one better than that 12 months ago and that was the difference.
Having been matched at a low of 1.384/11, the third-round leader in 2021, Pulkkanen, bogeyed the 17th hole before double-bogeying the last to lose by two and Green was matched at even shorter 12 months ago before he played the last five holes in two-over-par. As is so often the case on this Tour, taking on odds-on shots in-running may well pay dividends.
The market is struggling to split Shane Lowry and Adrian Meronk but my preference would be with the latter.
Lowry has been largely disappointing this year and he comes into the event on the back of a missed cut at the Open Championship and lacklustre 51st in the Wyndham Championship.
Lowry isn't known for his length off the tee, so I'm not convinced he's an ideal candidate for the Albatross course, which he's playing for the first time this week, and he's without a top-ten finish since finishing fifth in the Honda Classic way back in February.
In contrast, this is Meronk's third appearance in the event and although he missed the cut on debut 2018 and he only finished 17th here two years ago, he sat second at the halfway stage after opening rounds of 68 and 67.
Meronk won the Italian Open in May and he's since finished fifth in the KLM Open and third in the BMW International Open. He also finished 23rd in the Open Championship last time out so he arrives nice and fresh and with decent credentials.
The 23-year-old Swedish sensation, Ludvig Aberg, is long enough off the tee to enjoy this week's assignment.
He's been catching the eye on the PGA Tour, where a fourth at the John Deere Classic and a 14th place finish in the Wyndham Championship last time out have been the highlights, and there's also been money for Nicolai Hojgaard, who finished alongside Aberg in the Wyndham last time out.
Hojgaard is equally long off the tee and he has the benefit of a previous visit. The 22-year-old Dane finished tied 17th on debut two years ago, having sat tied for second alongside Meronk after round one.
I'll be back later today with the Find Me a 100 Winner column which will feature a couple of outsiders to add to the two I've backed at less than 100/1101.00 - Thorbjorn Olesen and Thriston Lawrence.
Olesen is far from the longest off the tee and he's not been in great form since finishing third at the Soudal Open in May, but he was fifth here in 2015 on his only previous visit and he's more than capable of winning out of the blue.
In search of his eighth DP World Tour title, Olesen is no bigger than 35/136.00 on the High Street so I was more than happy to get him onside at 65.064/1 and it's a very similar story with Lawrence...
The 26-year-old South African is looking for his fourth DP World Tour victory in the space of a year and he won the BMW International in June on the back of two missed cuts so I'm far from worried about his underwhelming current form.
Like Olesen, Lawrence has played here only once before, finishing eighth 12 months ago, and in common with the Dane, he's trading at much bigger on the exchange than he is on the High Street.
Generally available at 40/141.00, he was simply too big to ignore at 85.084/1 this morning. And I missed the 90.089/1!
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