A passable field has assembled in Prague for the third renewal of the Czech Masters. Jamie Donaldson and Thomas Pieters won the 2014 and 2015 renewals, respectively. Six of the OWGR Top 100 have made the trip and that includes the two former winners.
Albatross Golf Resort hosts the event for the third time but the course has undergone some fairly significant changes in the last year. The Par 72 has seen the addition of twenty-seven trees and three new lakes. Despite the thick rough and potential rain, I still expect a good long game to be the key to winning.
Driving Distance proved to be the most important weapon in 2015. Pieters ranked 1st and won. Pelle Edberg ranked 2nd and was runner-up. Don’t look past Greens in Regulation though. Every player finishing inside the Top 10 in the two stagings has ranked inside the Top 25 in GIR for the week.
The Czech Masters will be the penultimate event before the Ryder Cup standings are locked in so there’s a chance that someone on the cusp makes a big push in Prague. That really only includes the front four in the betting. Sullivan, Pieters, Westwood and Fitzpatrick are all between 10/1 and 16/1. I’m not a big fan of any of them at the prices.
Pieters fits the bill but he’s defending champion and coming off a big week in Brazil, it might all be too much for the 24-year-old. Lee Westwood has made a career of beating fields that were below him. It has now been over four years since he last found success in Europe though and that’s not good enough.
Andy Sullivan continues to churn out great performances week after week. 10/1 is probably just about fair but of the main four it is Fitzpatrick that stands out. The 21-year-old is undeniably one of the most talented golfers on the European Tour. The only thing stopping me from backing him at 16/1 is his inconsistency.
Instead of them, I’ll be taking the 80/1 about Pelle Edberg further down the market. I did miss the 100/1 about the Swede but his price is still too big. The Czech Republic has been a happy hunting ground for Swedish golfers. In nine European Tour events in the Czech Republic, three Swedes have won and another five have finished runner-up.
Edberg is the most recent runner-up. Coming in behind Thomas Pieters in 2015. The 37-year-old ranks inside the Top 50 in both GIR and Driving Distance so his success here is no surprise. A T6 in his last stroke play start looks promising, Edberg should contend in Prague this week.
Oliver Fisher is an interesting prospect at 100/1. It’s difficult to know which Oliver Fisher will show up for the Czech Masters this week. Coming off a 4th place finish in the Paul Lawrie Match Play, I’m hoping Fisher can push on in a country that has been good to him. The 27-year-old won the final edition of the Czech Open in 2011 before it became defunct.
If Fisher plays as well as he did at the Match Play then his poor form at the course shouldn’t be a concern. The course Fisher won on in the Czech Republic was another lengthy Par 72 and coming off a very positive result, I think Fisher can go close this week.
Finally, I’ll be having a small bet on Pedro Oriol at 200/1. The Spaniard sat T7 after the 1st Round at Albatross Golf Resort last year and although he faded, I like his chances this week. Oriol is one of the longest hitters out there and having posted four rounds in the 60s in his last event, he should arrive full of confidence.
Oriol’s best finish on the European Tour came in Austria. The 30-year-old also owns Top 5s in Switzerland and Slovakia on the Challenge Tour so this is an area in which he’s clearly comfortable. An outside chance of winning and a decent chance of placing, I think 200/1 is more than fair.