Qualifying for the 2018 Ryder Cup started with last year’s D+D Real Czech Masters and this year’s tournament is the penultimate event in the battle to seal an automatic place in Europe’s team, Phil Casey writes.
Now in its fifth year at the Albatross Golf Resort in Prague, the event has a strong history with the biennial team event, with Jamie Donaldson winning the inaugural edition to secure his place on the team for Gleneagles in 2014.
And in 2016 Thomas Pieters finished second to American Paul Peterson in the defence of his title and won the following week in Denmark to persuade Darren Clarke to give him a wild card for Hazeltine, where he won four points from five matches.
With such course form it is no surprise to see Pieters installed as the 6/1 favourite in a relatively weak field, especially given his share of sixth in the US PGA Championship on his last start.
However, the talented Belgian was 15/2 last year and could only finish 66th so instead our first selection is defending champion Haydn Porteous, who is available at 33/1.
In all honesty Porteous had nothing of note this season until last week’s tie for sixth in the Nordea Masters, but his length off the tee will be an asset on a course measuring almost 7,500 yards and he is worth chancing in the each-way market in this company.
Another player who generates plenty of distance off the tee is England’s Matt Wallace, who comes into the week on the back of a memorable hole-in-one and 19th place in the US PGA.
Wallace is a two-time winner this season but had missed four cuts in a row before Bellerive, where he told me that working with a new sports psychologist after the Open had paid instant dividends.
A price of 22/1 reflects the fact that his performances have not gone unnoticed in Europe, unlike in the States where he was called Mike by a TV commentator, but he is worth siding with in the each-way market.
At three times the price we’ll also give Scott Vincent a second chance after his missed cut in Sweden, the Zimbabwean’s combination of length off the tee and being ranked second in strokes gained putting meaning he is worth the risk each-way at 66/1.
And finally, Sweden’s Johan Carlsson can be backed for small stakes in the same market at 125/1 after finishing 10th and 13th in his last two starts.
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