The European Tour moves on to the Czech Republic for the sixth renewal of the D+D Real Czech Masters. Read our man's in-depth preview ahead of Thursday's start here...
"The five winners have ranked, fourth, first, second, second and first for Putting Average and it’s been all about making lots of birdies. Denmark’s J.B Hansen was the only man in the field to make more birdies than the 2016 winner, Paul Peterson, and the other four winners have made more birdies than anyone else."
The D+D Real Czech Masters was first staged in 2014 so this is only the sixth renewal and for the sixth year in-a-row we return to the Albatross Golf Resort in Prague.
Albatross Golf Resort, Prague, Czech Republic
Par 72, 7,467 yards
Stroke index in 2018 - 70.83
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 usually 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, on the first and 12th holes, a new lake was added to the left of the lay-up area on the 10th and 27 new trees were planted.
In addition to hosting this event for the last four years, the Albatross was also the venue for the Prague Masters on the Ladies European Tour in 2011 and 2012.
For more on the course, please see this course map on the venue's website.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 10:00 UK time on Thursday
First Five Winners
2018 - Andrea Pavan -20
2017 - Haydn Porteous -13
2016 - Paul Peterson -15
2015 - Thomas Pieters -20
2014 - Jamie Donaldson -14
What Will it Take to Win the D+D Real Czech Masters?
The Albatross is a lengthy course and three of the five course winners to date have been long hitters but two of the last three winners have ranked only 40th and 41st for Driving Distance so it's clearly not that vital. Length off the tee is more important than accuracy though.
Last year's winner, Andrea Pavan, ranked only 34th for Driving Accuracy and that was the highest ranking amongst the top-six. The 2016 winner, Paul Peterson, ranked third for DA but none of the other four winners have ranked any better than 25th, although Pavan's ranking of 34th was the worst any winner has ranked.
Scrambling is an important stat most weeks but that certainly hasn't been the case here. The 2015 winner, Thomas Pieters, ranked 10th for Scrambling but the other four have ranked 65th, 25th, 51st and 36th.
Pieters only ranked 22nd for Greens In Regulation but the two players in second and third, Pelle Edberg and Matthew Fitzpatrick, ranked first and second and the other four winners have ranked second, first, second and sixth for GIR so that's the stat to concentrate on but all five winners have putted really well and made lots of birdies...
The five winners have ranked, fourth, first, second, second and first for Putting Average and it's been all about making lots of birdies. Denmark's J.B Hansen was the only man in the field to make more birdies than the 2016 winner, Peterson, and the other four winners have made more birdies than anyone else.
You'll find the GIR and the Birdies stats for the European Tour here.
Is There an Angle In?
Next week's European Tour event, the Scandinavian Invitation, was played at a new venue last year - the Hills Golf & Sports Club and prior to the off I contacted the club in an attempt to find something about the course and the club's manager, Kerr Rowan, was kind enough to answer a few questions. I asked him if it reminded him of any other courses used on the European Tour and this was his reply.
"Hmm that's a tough one. It's a very unique course built in a Forrest with a lot of natural rock as features. It's very American in style with bright white bunkers and very green grass. The greens are fairly small and undulated. A little similar to the Albatross Course in Prague?
It goes without saying that we perhaps shouldn't read too much in to one result but Kerr could well have been on to something as the last two winners here finished tied for sixth in Sweden.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
The short answer is no. We've had a Welshman, a Belgian, an American, a South African and an Italian winning so far. The inaugural winner, Donaldson, is the only winner that could be described as experienced and three of the five were winning for the first time on the European Tour.
Donaldson, went off at 12/1, Pieters was backed by a few shrewdies from [95.0] down to [70.0] in 2015 but the 2016 winner, Peterson, was impossible to spot before the off and was matched at [1000.0]. Porteous was a well-backed [55.0] chance two years ago and last year's winner, Pavan, was a similar price given he was tipped up by Joe Dyer in the each-way column at 50/1.
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 and last year's winner, Pavan, was never worse than fifth or more than two strokes adrift between rounds either 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 shot the joint-best round of the day on Sunday to win by a stroke.
The 2017 winner, 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. All five winners have sat first or second after 54 holes.
If you're betting in-running, beware the par four 17th hole. In the first five editions it's ranked either the hardest or second hardest on the course and a par there is a good score. Last year it averaged 4.33.
Given he's been playing the best golf of his career and that he ranks sixth for Greens In Regulation on the European Tour at present, it's no surprise to see the Scottish Open winner, Berndt Wiesberger, heading the market but there are negatives. Like the vast majority of the field, Wiesberger hasn't played for a few weeks (since he finished 32nd in the Open Championship) so he may have gone off the boil and he doesn't bring any course form to the table either. The Austrian has played here only once before, missing the cut in the inaugural edition five years ago.
Eddie Pepperell contended strongly at the Irish Open, finishing fourth behind Jon Rahm and Wiesberger in second but since then he's finished down the filed at the Scottish Open, the Open Championship and the WGC FedEx St Jude so he needs to bounce back to form but he does have course form. The Englishman has played here every year to date, producing form figures reading 5-22-MC-5-9.
Although he languishes in 51st place on the European Tour's GIR stats, Erik Van Rooyen has been hitting his irons majestically of late. Nobody found more greens in regulation than Erik at the BMW International Open and he ranked 14th for GIR at the Scottish Open. He finished 34th here on his sole visit two years and while it only looks a matter of time before he gets over the line on the European Tour, he's proving expensive to follow and he looks too short this week given his propensity to throw away a lead.
The market is still maturing so I may add one or two more nearer the off and if I do, I'll update Twitter but for now I'm going for just two - Brandon Stone and Tapio Pulkkanen.
Brandon Stone needs to improve with the flatstick this week as his figures are poor but his GIR numbers are very good and he's a classy multiple winner that I thought was just worth chancing modestly at [90.0].
Tapio Pulkkanen sat fifth after the opening round here last year, a week after sitting fourth after round one at the Hills Golf & Sports Club, so although he ended the two events in 34th and 44th respectively, he wasn't in great form at the time so I suspect the venue might suit him.
His form is erratic but he's produced some solid GIR stats and some superb putting stats this year. He's yet to have a good week with the irons coinciding with a great week with the putter, but if both aspects click this week, he's a lively outsider.
Brandon Stone @ [90.0]
Tapio Pulkkanen @ [220.0]
I'll be back tomorrow with the BMW Championship preview.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter