The DP World Tour leaves the UK to head back to Europe this week and it does so for the Czech Masters, an event which is becoming a regular on the schedule and one which starts a decent month on the tour.
Johannes Veerman certainly enjoyed his time in Prague last year as he won the title and the American will be looking to make a successful defence of the crown. A fairly good field are out to oppose him though.
2021 – Johannes Veerman
2019 – Thomas Pieters
2018 – Andrea Pavan
2017 – Haydn Porteous
2016 – Paul Peterson
2015 – Thomas Pieters
2014 – Jamie Donaldson
Once again we are back at the Albatross Golf Resort this week as is always the case when this tournament is played. This is a track where the bigger hitters should have a massive advantage but actually two relatively short hitters have come out on top here in the last five outings. The course is a par 72 which stretches way beyond 7,400 yards and with wide fairways and big greens everything plays into the hands of the powerful hitters, even if recent winners suggest otherwise.
Although length is no bad thing around here, it is becoming more apparent that hitting greens in regulation is the biggest requirement for this track. There is no punishment off the tee around here though so that gives the bigger hitters shorter irons into the greens which is why length could be important. That said, there is still the chance for someone who peppers the flags with the irons from the fairways to go well. I’m focusing on bigger hitters this week though.
After a fairly disappointing field in Northern Ireland last week it is much better this week although the final stages of the PGA Tour are still taking place so it is still not as strong as some events will be in the near future. The former champion Thomas Pieters is one of the two players inside the top 100 in the world rankings who are here. Victor Perez is the other one of those and both should be right in the mix come Sunday.
We are entering an important stage in the Race to Dubai chase now and Thriston Lawrence will be looking to improve on his ranking of 11 in that competition while Rafael Cabrera Bello, Kalle Samooja and Sebastian Soderberg will look to improve from 31, 38 and 40 respectively. We also have the Hero Open winner Sean Crocker in the field this week while the defending champion Johannes Veerman is another. Ian Poulter, Laurie Canter and Eddie Pepperell are some English names eyeing up the title.
Thomas Pieters won here in 2015 and 2019 and he is a huge 8/1 favourite to win the title for a third time. In terms of rankings he is head and shoulders clear of the field so it stands to reason that he’s the favourite this week. This will be his first outing since The Open though so there might be a little bit of rust for him to shake off but in terms of length and taking advantage of the holes that the bigger hitters can get at he fits the course well. He’s the one to beat but that rustiness is enough of a concern for me to let him win.
Victor Perez is a 20/1 second favourite. The Dutch Open winner tees it up here for the first time but he should be suited to the course because he gets it out there off the tee and then goes after the pins with the irons. The fact that a number of tournament regulars are here with better course knowledge is a concern though, as is the fact that since the European Open in early June he has gone MC-53-MC-34 and not played since The Open. There are enough reasons to skip the Frenchman this week.
Richard Mansell is a 22/1 shot to win the tournament. He was fourth in Northern Ireland last week and generally gets it out there off the tee but he could only finish in T39 on his only appearance here last year. He could come on for the run but in a low scoring week the fact he has lost strokes to the field in six of his last seven outings is a concern. This is a tournament where maiden winner can come along but he feels skinny on the prices to me.
Hennie du Plessis comes along as a 25/1 shot. He is another who tees it up here for the first time but he’s long enough off the tee to cope. He was second in South Africa last week so comes here in good form but the big problem with him is his LIV ties. Clearly those players are the black elephant in the room and this will be the first time he has teed it up on the DP World Tour since he played the opening three events of that tour. We know he and his friends aren’t welcome and that is a negative.
Sean Crocker was a runner up here last year but having broken his DP World Tour duck at the Hero Open last month I think he is capable of going one better this time around and get his hands on a second title at short notice. The one thing we often see on the UK Swing and shortly after is winners going in again because the fields aren’t the strongest so form is relevant. Sam Horsfield went in twice around this time two years ago and although he didn’t win twice Rasmus Hojgaard was first and third in the space of three weeks. Crocker missed the cut the week after he won the Hero Open but that happens so often after a player wins for the first time. He has had time to come down after his win and should be looking to push on from here. Crocker smacks it off the tee and attacks the flags with the irons. If his putter plays ball, which it certainly did last year, then he could take a lot of beating.
Espen Kofstad hasn’t won yet but I think he is of sufficient quality to win a tournament on the DP World Tour and it might be one with a second level field like this that he makes his breakthrough in. The Norwegian has been in solid form without too much that was spectacular in recent times. His last five outings was 9-13-16-MC-25 from the Irish Open to the Cazoo Classic a couple of weeks ago. In that stretch he has been good throughout the bag particularly in the short game. The difference in his results have been his efforts with the putter where in his last four recorded outings he has gained strokes with the putter in three of them. If he does that here then with the quality of his long game he is entitled to be in contention.
Gavin Green is a monster hitter of the golf ball and I would imagine most would have expected him to have won on the DP World Tour by now. That hasn’t happened but it doesn’t mean it is too late. He is only 28-years-old so potentially he is approaching the prime of his career. He certainly comes here in decent form having finished second in Singapore last week. The traveling is a bit of an issue here but he was third here in 2018 so he won’t need too much in the way of practice rounds. He’s been hitting the ball well from tee to green in recent weeks so if he can putt well he shouldn’t be too far away either.
Borja Virto made the most of a first start of the year on the DP World Tour last week when he finished second in Northern Ireland and that effort was so creditable that I’ll pay to see how he goes here. He had four top 10s in his last seven starts on the Challenge Tour prior to last week so he is clearly hitting the ball nicely and although that form isn’t top level form, I do think in these weeks where the big stars are absent that form is form. He played twice here in his DP World Tour days in 2016 and 2017 without much of a return but he has three top 10s in the Czech Republic on the Challenge Tour so he seems to enjoy this part of the world. He was the fourth longest in the field last week and seventh in driving accuracy and second in greens. If he hits the ball that well here and holes some putts he can contend again.
Back S.Crocker to win Czech Masters (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 23.00 with Betway (1/5 1-7)
Back B.Virto to win Czech Masters (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with Betway (1/5 1-7)
Back E.Kopstad to win Czech Masters (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 35.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back G.Green to win Czech Masters (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-6)