Els lifts status of Qatar Masters
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2005 Qatar Masters | Preview | 09 Mar 2005
The Qatar Masters, which although played on a quality golf course, has often suffered from following the week after the high profile Dubai Classic. This week the event gains a huge boost however with the first appearance of last week’s winner and the world number three, Ernie Els, at the Doha Golf Club.
The course is designed by Englishman Peter Harradine and is situated on the outskirts of the city of Doha, which sits on the Persian Gulf about an hour’s flight north west of last week’s venue in Dubai. Harradine has a list of courses in the region to his credit.
The tournament was first played in 1998 when Andrew Coltart won over Andrew Sherborne and Patrick Sjoland. The course had opened just two years earlier and was built out of the desert type of terrain that surrounds the area. Built atop natural rocky outcrops, the course measures over 7300 yards.
Els heads the field and will be the raging hot favourite to win again on a course not dissimilar to that in Dubai last week, but there are a number of in form golfers playing the event who may well give him a run for his money.
Paul McGinley was 11th last week and was 4th in Singapore a few weeks earlier with a 30th place at Pebble Beach in between those two efforts. He missed the cut here last year but earlier form at the Doha Golf Club has been good.
Nick Dougherty won in Singapore five weeks ago and his 6th place last week in Dubai gave every indication that his good form has continued. He was second here in his first full European Tour season in 2002 and must surely be a better player now.
Niclas Fasth played so well when winning in New Zealand and in his two follow up efforts when 4th in Malaysia and 22nd in Dubai, that it is hard to see him not being somewhere amongst the contenders come Sunday. He has not played well here in the two times he has been here but he should do better in 2005. Now back on the European Tour after a brief foray into the US in 2004, he seems more at home.
Richard Green seems to feature just about every week he plays these days. He has played three times here and although he has missed the cut in two of those starts, he was 8th here two years ago. The past eighteen months however have seen a new look Richard Green and yet another top ten to go with the many he has accumulated over the past twelve months would not surprise.
Thongchai Jaidee disappointed last week in Dubai when he was expected to do well. He brings some good recent form from Asia and it may be that he will head the Asian Tour contingent this week. He has played well in his previous two visits and his recent win in Malaysia indicates he can compete at this level.
Defending champion Joakim Haeggman has played reasonably if nothing else this season, his first round of 65 at the New Zealand Open the highlight. It would seem this form is perhaps not good enough to get across the line this week but a good showing would not surprise.
Gregory Havret has played beautifully in 2005 except when his missed cut in New Zealand but in six other starts he has not been outside the top twenty. He has played the odd good round at the Doha Golf Club in the past but he seems to be developing into such a good player that a step up in performance would not be a unexpected. He does not win often but by again putting himself into contention as he does so on a regular basis, he can do so here.
One for longer odds might just be the South African Charles Schwartzel who showed earlier in the season with his win at the Dunhill and a runner up placing at the South African Open, that this much vaunted young player is headed in the right direction. He was mid-field in Dubai last week but that was after a break of a few weeks and now that he is back into the swing of things he might well regain that earlier form.
Of the Australasians other than Green mentioned earlier, Peter Fowler, Marcus Fraser, Michael Campbell, Stephen Scahill, Terry Pilkadaris, Wade Ormsby, Terry Price, Scott Strange, Kim Felton, Adam Groom, Brad Kennedy, Marcus Both, Adam Fraser, Eddie Lee and Richard Lee all get starts.
Many of these players are Asian Tour players and have the chance to gain access to Europe with a win in this event co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour.