This week's stop of the European Tour sees the continent's elite golfers head to Prague, where they'll contest the Czech Masters at the Albatross Golf Resort.
There's history to be made in the Czech Republic capital this week, with the tournament looking to unearth its inaugural champion and 156 golfers are looking to be exactly that.
Follow all the action here, as we bring you daily updates from the Czech Masters with highlights, analysis and more.
Round 4 Recap
Jamie Donaldson reigned supreme in the Czech Masters on Sunday, winning by two strokes over countryman Bradley Dredge to lift the trophy in Prague—as European Tour revealed:
The Welshman came into the tournament at the Albatross Golf Resort looking to cement his place in next month’s Ryder Cup team with Europe, and victory has now confirmed his Gleneagles attendance.
Europe fans can certainly take a lot of encouragement from that fact, as the golf that Donaldson has played over the course of the week has been sublime at times.
Here’s a look at the final leaderboard after another pulsating day in the Czech Republic capital:
|Czech Masters Final Leaderboard|
|Position||Golfer||To Par||Sunday's Round|
Donaldson came into the final round at 10 under par, and while two shots adrift of Dredge at the start of play, he was still very much in contention.
The 38-year-old produced a solid final round of 68 to leapfrog Dredge and lift the trophy, putting together six birdies and two bogeys during his four-under round.
Starting fast has been a defining feature of the Welshman’s play this week, and opening with three birdies in a row gave him a great platform from which to build.
Shooting one under par from there proved enough with Dredge and Co. failing to make a serious dent on the scoreboard on the final day, and following the round, Donaldson reflected on a dream day securing his Ryder Cup status—per European Tour:
This is big—it’s been an amazing week. I didn’t get here until late; I needed to play well either this week or next week, or both, to guarantee my place in The Ryder Cup team so there was a lot on the line and this week I played really well, so that’s great.
Winning is everything: wins shoot you up world rankings, Race To Dubai, all sorts. Its massive—those three last holes coming in there were really tough with the wind blowing, so I’m just really happy to seal it.
It’s so difficult to get into the team, the lads are playing so well. You know that you have to play well to secure your place and it did come down to the wire. But that’s how it is to get into the team—I played as well as I can play for 18 months, and then a couple of slow events and you rocket down the list, so it’s great to come here and play so well and do enough to get into the team.
While Donaldson occasionally stuttered on certain holes throughout the week, four rounds under par showed the class that he possesses, as European Tour revealed:
Dredge, meanwhile, continued his fruitful run of form with a second runner-up finish in as many weeks, but Sunday was a day to forget for the 41-year-old.
Having held a two-shot lead overnight, Dredge would have been full of confidence ahead of Sunday’s play, but two bogies and two birdies saw him close with a level-par round of 72.
Elsewhere, the round of the day went to Scotsman Scott Jamieson, who produced a stunning, eight-under-par 64 to close out his tournament.
Eight birdies without a single blemish on the card sent Jamieson up 68 places on the leaderboard into a tie for ninth, but the day well and truly belonged to Donaldson.
With the Ryder Cup edging closer and closer, the Welsh star now needs to find a way to keep his form at the astronomical high it’s at now, but given his class, that much is an inevitability.
Round 3 Recap
Welshman Bradley Dredge overtook countryman and overnight leader Jamie Donaldson at the top of the Czech Masters leaderboard on Saturday, producing a stunning round to move to 12 under par—as European Tour revealed:
Dredge began the day in a tie for eighth on six under, but 66 blows on Day 3 moved him up to top spot, as we see below:
|Czech Masters Leaderboard: Day 3|
|Position||Golfer||To Par||Saturday's Round|
While Dredge hasn’t won on the European Tour since the European Masters back in 2006, the way that he performed on Saturday suggested that a return to the winners’ circle could happen sooner rather than later.
The 41-year-old carded six birdies without a single blemish on his card on the way to a 66, showing the kind of form that made him a star of the tour a decade ago.
Dredge was the runner-up in last week’s Made in Denmark tournament, and it seems that he may well be about to go one better at the Albatross Golf Resort.
Donaldon and Danish star Soren Kjeldsen share second place at 10 under, with a star-studded top 10 queuing up behind them.
Donaldson, who started the day’s play on nine under par, started to show a few cracks in his play on Friday, and he continued such inconsistency on Saturday.
The Welshman started with a fantastic eagle on the par-five first, and was even three under through his first four holes. However, the bogies then started to flow.
A bogey on the fifth before a double on the eighth saw Donaldson out in 34, and a one-over-par 37 total coming in earned him a 71.
While the 38-year-old is still very much in contention, he desperately needs to resurrect the form that saw him cruise to the top of the leaderboard on Thursday, or the tournament could slip through his fingers.
Donaldson is hoping for a strong finish in Prague to cement his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team for next month, but Scotsman Stephen Gallacher may have something to say about that.
Gallacher is also hoping to sneak into Paul McGinley’s side for Gleneagles, and he’ll fancy his chances sitting just two shots back of Donaldson on eight under par.
As Dredge showed during Round 3, there’s a low score out there at the Albatross Golf Club, and any one of the stars in the Czech Masters’ congested top 10 could make a charge for the trophy on Sunday.
However, if the Welshman produces another magic performance then his first victory in eight years could well be on the cards. Either way, it’s all set up perfectly in Prague.
Day 2 Recap
Jamie Donaldson continued his strong form at the Czech Masters in Prague on Friday, adding a 69 to Thursday’s 66 to cement his place at the top of the leaderboard.
The Welshman is in good company there, though, with 12 players all within three shots of him at the halfway stage of the tournament, as we see below:
|Czech Masters Leaderboard: Day 2|
|Position||Golfer||To Par||Friday's Round|
Donaldson was consistency personified on Day 1 as he picked apart the Albatross Golf Resort, but Day 2 saw a little bit of nervousness creep into his play.
While holding a one-shot lead at the top of any leaderboard at the end of Friday is hardly something to lament, the Welsh star needs to cut needless errors out of his game if he’s to be crowned the champion come Sunday.
Starting on the back nine, Donaldson went out in one under par before four birdies in six holes on his way in moved him into a commanding lead at the top.
However, bogies on the seventh and eighth saw the 38-year-old back among the pack with lots to address ahead of Saturday’s play.
Naturally, Donaldson reflected on what could have been after his round, saying to European Tour that he could have shot seriously low, but insisted that he won’t dwell on his errors:
I played nicely again and made a lot of birdies out there today, but a few bogeys so if I can go out there tomorrow and play as well as I’ve played over the last couple of days I’ll be in a strong position going into the final round. Overall it was a solid day but like I said it could have been very good out there. I won’t dwell on the poor shots; I played two pitches at seven and eight and misjudged them both so one’s come out hot and one’s come out dead. That slowed the run down, up until that point I was really motoring. It’s a great golf course, it’s generous off the tee and you’re setting yourself up for birdies on a regular basis so it’s more of the same and go and attack at the weekend.
Despite his occasional errors in judgement, Donaldson’s round of 69 will bring him a lot of encouragement, and with a little bit of work, the title will be going back to Wales.
Elsewhere on Friday, a new course record was set by England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who carded a phenomenal seven-under-par 65, per European Tour:
Fleetwood worked his way to eight birdies on the day, with his bogey on the fourth hole the only blemish on his card.
After a level-par 72 on Day 1, the 23-year-old moved up 59 places into a tie for third, where he’s joined by Lee Slattery, Garrick Porteous, John Hahn and Scotsman Stephen Gallacher.
The latter is in direct competition with Donaldson for a place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team, and his round of 67 did his chances the world of good on Friday.
The Scot’s brilliance will have Donaldson looking over his shoulder heading into the weekend, and with the course looking more and more generous by the day, a few low rounds could be in prospect on Saturday.
Day 1 Recap
Welshman Jamie Donaldson continued his stellar form this season by racing to the top of the leaderboard on Day 1 of the Czech Masters.
The 38-year-old is chasing a place in Europe's Ryder Cup team but needs a good couple of results to make next month's Gleneagles showdown.
However, he certainly kicked off his quest in the best possible fashion, shooting a six-under-par 66 to move one clear of the field, as we see below:
|Czech Masters Leaderboard: Day 1|
|Position||Golfer||To Par||Thursday's Round|
|T3||S. S. P. Chowrasia||-4||68|
Head to the European Tour's official website for highlights of Thursday's round.
Donaldson has been reborn this season after years of mediocrity on tour, and so he proved with a dynamic display in Prague, where he carded eight birdies and two bogies.
While the Welsh star will be over the moon with the way he performed, he'll be looking over his shoulder at his rivals for a place in Paul McGinley's team—Stephen Gallacher and Joost Luiten both shot rounds of 70.
Donaldson's 66 was even more impressive with all things considered, though, as he revealed after the round that he's not feeling 100 per cent, via the European Tour's site:
I played nicely—the course was playing tough early on, quite windy and then died down late but that finish is pretty tough, so I'm happy with the result.
I've got a bit of a cold but you just get on with it. I don't feel too bad considering but I'm here and playing nicely and more of the same tomorrow.
I know what I've got to do this week so it's just a case of going out and doing it. It's another golf tournament where you've got to go out there and play as well as you can and content to win the tournament. I'm in a position to do that now; I just need more of the same over the next three rounds.
Said position is one shot clear of Sweden's Mikael Lundberg, and while illness may have Donaldson feeling a little under the weather, that was hardly apparent from his performance.
Elsewhere, five Englishmen currently sit tied third at the Czech Masters, with Paul Waring, Kenneth Ferrie, Danny Willett, Lee Slattery and Matthew Nixon all carding rounds of 68.
The front nine was playing very easy at the Albatross Golf Club on Thursday, and the English quintet certainly took full advantage of it.
Ferrie in particular enjoyed the best of the action going out, racing to six birdies on the spin, as European Tour revealed:
However, three bogies and a birdie going home from there forced Ferrie back to third, though he remains in a very healthy position heading into the weekend.
With just five shots separating the top 44 players at the Czech Masters after Day 1's play, it's safe to say that the tournament is wide open with three days of drama remaining.
If Donaldson continues his strong form, though, the gap could well widen both on the leaderboard in Prague and in the Ryder Cup standings.