Luke Donald will make his first appearance at the D+D REAL Czech Masters when the tournament returns to the fearsome Albatross Golf Resort this week.
The tournament takes on special significance because it is the penultimate qualifying event for the European Ryder Cup team.
Donald will announce the 12 men to take on the USA at the conclusion of next week’s European Masters. Much of the team has already taken shape but there will be several players in action this week who will hope to catch Donald’s eye. (See Will These Be The Ryder Cup Teams in September).
These include Shane Lowry, who failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs but will be hoping that he has done enough to secure one of Donald’s six wild cards. And it would be a shock if he fails to make the side.
Victor Perez, of France, finds himself in the same boat, along with twins Rasmus Hojgaard and Nicolai Hojgaard, Marcel Siem, Pablo Larrazabal, Adrian Meronk, Thorbjorn Olesen, Yannik Paul and Robert MacIntyre, all of whom are in action this week and next.
MacIntyre, Paul and Meronk occupy third, fourth and fifth places in the European points table behind Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, who have both already secured their places in the team along with Viktor Hovland.
A victory for MacIntyre, Paul or Meronk will surely secure a place in the team. The Scot has been knocking on the door for a while and is desperate to be at Marco Simone Golf Club next month, and there is no doubt that he would be a huge asset to the team. He is sneaky long and, crucially, is one of the best putters on the planet.
MacIntyre finished second to McIlroy at the Scottish Open, tied fourth at the Made in Himmerland, and has three other top-10 finishes to his name this season, Crucially, he won the Italian Open at Marco Simone last year.
He enjoyed a fine amateur career, becoming the first player to win the Scottish Youths’ Championship and Scottish Boys’ Open Strokeplay Championship in the same year and went on to represent Great Britain and Ireland in the 2017 Walker Cup where he beat rising star Cameron Champ 6&4 in the singles.
He began to focus on golf at the age of 17 after growing up playing his favourite sport, shinty. Between the ages of 13 and 17 played for his local club, Oban Camanachd in his native Scotland.
He shone in his maiden season as a professional by finishing inside the top 15 of the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2018 to earn a European Tour card. MacIntyre then burst onto the world scene in 2019 when he finished 11th in the Race to Dubai and picked up the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award after a season that included three runner-up finishes and a tie for sixth place at The Open. He secured his first DP World Tour win the following season at the 2020 Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown.
Perez finds himself under pressure after withdrawing from last week’s tournament in Northern Ireland after just one round, citing illness.
Paul owes his standing to some fine early-season form, including consecutive runner-up finishes at the Thailand Classic and Indian Open but his recent form has not been great. He definitely needs a couple of big weeks.
Meronk won the Italian Open earlier this year and the Australian Open earlier in the season. He finished fifth at the KLM Open and tied third at the BMW International Open. He has also played several times on the PGA Tour this year, but without much success. He is another who could do with reminding Donald just what a fine ball striker he is.
Donald said: “I am very happy to be playing in the Czech Masters. It will be the first time I’ll have played in the Czech Republic and I can’t wait to see the beautiful city of Prague. It is one of the last events which counts towards Ryder Cup qualification so I’m looking forward to seeing how potential players perform.”
Petr Dedek, owner of Relmost, the tournament’s promoters, said: “Every year our goal is to arrange participation with a global golf star and a player who has never competed at the Czech Masters and we have succeeded this year. Luke is a former World Number One and current Captain of the European Ryder Cup team, so the spectators at Albatross Golf Resort have something to look forward to.”
The Englishman, who spent 45 weeks at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, will be joined by his 2010 and 2012 Ryder Cup teammate Francesco Molinari as the 2018 Open Champion also confirmed his participation in the event.
Like Donald, the Italian, who won five points from five matches at the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, will also be making his tournament debut. He would dearly have loved to have been a member of Donald’s team but Molinari has spent a couple of years in the doldrums after suffering a series of injury woes. He will be at Marco Simone as one of Donald’s vice-captains.
He said: “It’s a tournament I haven’t played before and I can’t wait to spend some time in a beautiful city like Prague. I have heard from other players that this is a great event on a very good course at the Albatross Golf Resort. I can’t wait to be there.”
Mr Dedek added: “Francesco has played a big part in the popularisation of golf in Italy and fits into our philosophy of the tournament where we want at least one player with extraordinary achievements and a strong story to come to us every year, and he is certainly one of them.”
This year, the Czech Masters will not only be about golf. One of the most successful Czech gaming organizations, Dynamo Eclot, will prepare an attractive eSports program for the visitors in the tournament village on Friday. On Saturday afternoon, a golf-hockey exhibition will take place with the participation of the Czech hockey representatives, and in the evening there will be a special concert by the popular music group Chinaski.
The event was won in 2015 and 2019 by Thomas Pieters, in 2016 by Paul Peterson, in 2017 by Haydn Porteous and in 2018 by Andrea Pavan.
Albatross Golf Resort in Prague is a bit of as monster, measuring 7,457 yards. It features two par fives that measure more than 600 yards. It features plenty of water, 65 bunkers and more than 1,200 trees.
Robert MacIntyre is surely the man to beat. He played brilliant golf in finishing runner-up to Rory McIlroy at the Scottish Open and his batteries are fully recharged. I also have a feeling that we are going to see something special this week from Shane Lowry, who narrowly missed out on the FedEx Cup Playoffs and is desperate to secure his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team.
Robert MacIntyre. Can end the Ryder Cup argument this week
Adrian Meronk. Next couple of weeks will tell us a lot about the Pole
Shane Lowry. A class act
Five to Follow:
Robert MacIntyre. Sneaky long, great putter
Adrian Meronk. Great ball striker
Shane Lowry. Brilliant on and around the greens
Yannik Paul. Needs to rediscover early-season brilliance
Marcel Siem. Having a splendid season
Five Outsiders to Watch:
Francesco Molinari. There is still a top player in there
Luke Donald. Would love to show his team how it’s done
Padraig Harrington. Still competitive at the highest level
Ludvig Aberg. One to watch
Ross Fisher. Still has his moments
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