The press conference at the Mandarin Oriental Prague Hotel in Malá Strana officially launched the week of the D + D REAL Czech Masters. In attendance at this media event were the biggest stars of the 5th year of this European Tour tournament, which starts at Albatross on Thursday.
Besides Danny Willett, John Daly, Lee Westwood, and Padraig Harrington, who arrived at the press conference straight from the airport, the meeting was also attended by Petr Dědek, the director of Relmost, the tournament’s promotion company, as well as representatives of the European Tour’s major partners and organisers.
“We endeavour to make sure that the players return to our tournament year in, year out, as well as to attract new stars. These players seated around me are proof that we have been successful in our efforts,” were the first words spoken by Petr Dědek, who immediately reminded everyone in attendance that the starting field of the Czech Masters also includes 12 Czech players. Ten professionals and two amateurs.
Subsequently, Petr Dědek and Igor Vida, Chief Executive Officer of Raiffeissen Bank, signed a five-year extension of the existing partnership agreement with Czech Masters during the live broadcast. ”I thank everyone who has started co-operating with us, as well as those who are extending it,” said Dědek.
”I would like to congratulate Petr on this new agreement and to also thank all the other partners,” said Ben Cowen, Director of Operations at the European Tour.
”Collaboration with this tournament has been fantastic for five years now. This will continue for the next five years, as we announced last year,” said Cowen.
”The course is again in great shape, thank you Albatross. Prague is a beautiful city and my colleagues and I look forward to coming back here every year,” concluded Cowen, paying compliments to the capital city, which gradually echoed from all the participants of the press conference.
The lack of water meant that the task of grooming the course to such a great level as to be enable to host a tournament of the European Tour was an exceptionally challenging task this year.
”It was definitely the most difficult tournament preparation process that we have experienced in five years. The combination of a drought and extreme heat have resulted in a total of 500 liters of water lacking per square meter. Nevertheless, we have put in our utmost effort to maintain the high standards of the course and hope that the players will enjoy it,” said Stanislav Lisner, General Manager of Albatross.
Danny Willett is taking part in the Czech Masters for the second time in four years. However, his role has changed significantly since 2014. Back then, he was just a ”regular player”, whereas now he is a ”poster boy”, the main star, who is attracting fans to the tournament from billboards.
This role change is due to the fact that he won the Masters in Augusta in 2016. ”Things have changed a lot since that time in my golfing and personal life. It has been a very busy couple of years. Unfortunately, I was not always completely healthy during that time. But that has changed and I am ready to play for the best result,” said Willett.
John Daly and Lee Westwood, two charismatic sorts and big personalities of world golf, have returned to familiar pastures. ”Coming here makes sense to me. I really love to return to this tournament and will try to play at the best possible level,” said Daly prior to his third appearance at Albatross.
The 52-year-old winner of two majors also mentioned his knee problems, which have been limiting him this season. This only confirms that his words about returning to Prague are not merely a polite statement, given that he has arrived even though not entirely healthy.
“This problem caused me to miss many tournaments and I was forced to finish in the PGA Tour Champions. But I have now devoted several days to treatment. It is not completely right yet, but I will try to play as best as I can,” said the popular American.
Not a trace of fatigue could be seen on Padraig Harrington, who had just arrived from New York. ”That is the lot of golfers. I didn’t want to have jet lag, so I slept on the plane to be ready. I look forward to the tournament,” said the Irishman, who played as an amateur in the then Czechoslovakia back in 1991, and who first played a European Tour tournament in the Czech Republic in 1996.