For many, the summer tournaments played in mainland Europe come together to form the best period of the European Tour season. The Czech Masters was added to the mix in 2014 and was an instant hit. The first edition featured a quality field and there have been a number of very decent winners such as Jamie Donaldson, 2016 Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters (twice, as well as being runner-up once) and Andrea Pavan.
The conditions at Albatross Golf Club in Prague are often hot and the course can be firm and fast, so this is a slightly different challenge from the norm. At around 7,500 yards it is a relatively lengthy layout too. Scoring, however, is rarely a challenge for this level of player and with birdies guaranteed we are often treated to thrilling finishes to the Czech Masters. If you like an event with low scoring it is certainly well worth checking out, with winning scores of -19 or better three times between 2015 and 2019.
|2019||Albatross Golf Club||Thomas Pieters|
|2018||Albatross Golf Club||Andrea Pavan|
|2017||Albatross Golf Club||Haydn Porteous|
The 2020 tournament was cancelled.
2019: Thomas Pieters
Thomas Pieters will take a European Tour win whenever he can get one but he must surely have wondered why the form he showed during his 2019 Czech Masters win wasn’t there one year earlier. Victory in the 2018 edition would have made it difficult for Thomas Bjorn to ignore Pieters’ claims for a place in the Ryder Cup team. That he could only finish ninth in 2018 showed that the big hitting Belgian’s game was not ready for the examination of the Ryder Cup but the improvement he made one year on raises hopes that he could be about to get back to his very best. It would certainly be fitting if another win at the site of his first European Tour victory were to spark Pieters back to form.
The pressure was on Pieters right from the start on Sunday as he held the slenderest of 54-hole leads. He has played some very good golf in some very big tournaments and was able to draw on that experience to shoot a controlled round of 69, three shots under par, which held the chasing pack at bay. Still, there was a big puff of the cheeks from Pieters when the job was done and he admitted afterwards that he could only relax after the final putt dropped. “I’m relieved,” Pieters said in his post round interviews. “It’s been a long time since I last won.”
2018: Andrea Pavan
For the second year in a row, the Czech Masters came down to a battle between an experienced, popular European Tour stalwart and a player still working their way up the ranks. Irish major winner, Padraig Harrington, was the player getting most of the support from the watching galleries at Albatross Golf Club but just like Lee Slattery 12 months earlier, Harrington was just unable to do enough and it was Andrea Pavan who took advantage to secure his first title on the European Tour.
The 29-year-old Italian didn’t look like a player who wasn’t used to competing at the sharp end of a European Tour event. Despite what must have been a difficult night’s sleep given that he shared the 54-hole lead, Pavan got stronger as the round went on. Birdies at 14, 16 and 17 for Pavan coupled with some mistakes from Harrington at the business end of his round resulted in a two shot win for the Italian, who summed it up by saying, “It’s amazing, it’s massive.”
Away from the fight for the title the main storyline was the number of players hoping to play their way into contention for a place at the upcoming Ryder Cup. Thomas Pieters and Eddie Pepperell didn’t manage do enough to earn a captain’s pick from Thomas Bjorn, with ninth place finishes for them both.
2017: Haydn Porteous
Lee Slattery is one of the most popular European Tour players among his peers. Many of those who were not in contention for the 2017 Czech Masters were cheering Slattery on towards a first European Tour title since 2015 but there is no room for sentimentality at the sharp end of a tournament of this magnitude. South African Haydn Porteous certainly had nothing but winning on his mind on the Sunday and he turned in a magnificent performance, first to close the two shot gap between himself and Slattery, and then to kick on and win the tournament by a further two shots.
Slattery was just one of the high quality players that Porteous had to finish ahead of for this second European Tour title. Pontus Widegren and Tom Lewis ended the tournament in a share of third place with the likes of Eddie Pepperell, Matteo Manassero and Lee Westwood all finishing inside the top 10.
Porteous, who lives in Johannesburg, wasted no time sending out a message to the competition with birdies on his first two holes. He faltered shortly after making the turn for home but showed great mental fortitude to bounce back with birdies on 14 and 16. That scoreboard pressure proved too much for Slattery, who saw his challenge peter out as Porteous stayed strong. His -13 total remains the worst winning score in the short history of the tournament.