The European Tour returns to the iconic city of Prague this week for the sixth edition of the D+D Real Czech Masters, with Major Champions Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els joined by former World Number One Lee Westwood in a strong field at Albatross Golf Club. Here’s what to look out for…
All of the previous five champions of this event are in the field this week, with Jamie Donaldson (2014), Thomas Pieters (2015), Paul Peterson (2016), Haydn Porteous (2017) and Andrea Pavan (2018) set to tee it up at Albatross Golf Resort.
Each of the previous winners is from a different country – Wales, Belgium, USA, South Africa and Italy – representing three different continents. They have 11 European Tour titles between them.
No player has successfully defended this title yet, although Thomas Pieters came close in 2016 when he finished runner-up a year after his maiden European Tour victory in Prague.
Andrea the Giant (killer)
Pavan is undoubtedly one of the stars of the show after his epic performance on the final day last year, overcoming three-time Major winner Harrington in a last round duel – both players having shared a three-stroke lead heading into round four.
The Italian already has a victory under his belt this year, at the BMW International Open where he overcame another former Ryder Cup player, Matt Fitzpatrick, in a tense play-off.
Pavan is clearly not afraid of an occasion so will be expecting to put in a strong performance in the first title defence of his European Tour career.
Ryder Cup link
It is fitting that The 2020 European Ryder Cup Captain Harrington returns to Prague this year to try and better his runner-up finish last year, while winning 2018 captain Thomas Bjørn also plays, as this tournament has a strong connection to golf’s greatest team event.
Its inaugural edition was the penultimate event for qualification to The 2014 Ryder Cup and Jamie Donaldson required a top-seven to secure his place on Paul McGinley’s European team. The Welshman duly won the event and went on to hit the winning shot for the European team at Gleneagles the following month.
A year later Thomas Pieters won his maiden European Tour title at Albatross and, on his title defence in 2016, the Belgian finished runner-up. That result helped convince 2016 Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke to take a punt on Pieters as a Wildcard, a decision which was undoubtedly justified as the Belgian went on to become the best European Rookie in Ryder Cup history by claiming four points at Hazeltine National.
On course for great things
Albatross Golf Resort is one of more than 30 prestigious venues in the European Tour Destinations’ network, and is a hugely popular track among the players.
The 7,467-yard parkland course underwent some winter renovations prior to last year’s event, which included the introduction of several water features, but the most dramatic design change came at the final hole.
It is a dramatic finishing hole, guarded by water all the way up the left side of the fairway to the green, so nerves can play a big factor for any player with a lead coming down the 72nd.
A family business
The promoters of the D+D Real Czech Masters, Relmost, is an organisation led by Petr Dedek, who also owns the title sponsor D+D Real.
His dedication to golf in the Czech Republic has been unstinting, having begun way back in 2012 with a Challenge Tour event – the D+D Real Czech Challenge.
That commitment has grown to a point where this year they run three Challenge Tour events, now including the Prague Golf Challenge and the D+D Real Slovakia Challenge, as well as this week’s event, now in its sixth edition.
For the first time this year, Petr Dedek’s son - also named Petr – takes over as Head of Golf Operations.