Qatar Masters now rivalling Dubai
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2009 Qatar Masters | Preview | 21 Jan 2009
The European Tour continues its Middle Eastern swing this week when it travels further up the Gulf to Doha in Qatar for the US$2.5 million Commercial Bank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy. Doha is a 30 minute flight north of last week’s venue in Abu Dhabi.
The tournament will again be played at the Peter Harradine designed Doha Golf Club where it has been staged since first held in 1998 although this is a vastly different event compared to that very first year when Andrew Coltart won in its inaugural staging.
The event took on a whole new status in 2002 when the prizemoney was elevated significantly and the event became a genuine support event to the Dubai Classic. The quality of this week’s field suggests it is now not too far behind the longer standing Dubai event, if at all.
The field assembled is a proverbial who’s who of European and world golf. The favourite is the world number two Sergio Garcia but many others have equal credentials in terms of being potential winners of the tournament.
Garcia made a solid start to the 2009 year when he finished 8th last week in Abu Dhabi. There was a lot to like about the manner in which he finished the tournament off and with that outing behind him he should be that much the better this week. His form towards the end of last year was simply stunning.
Garcia finished 7th in this event last year and many factors point to him being a chance to add another European Tour title and given the strength of this field move a little closer to Tiger Woods, who is now only 3.15 points ahead of the Spaniard in the world ranking.
Adam Scott arrives in Qatar before an enforced rest to allow his knee to fully recover. It did not seem to bother him too much last week however during his fine late charge at the Sony Open to finish joint runner up. Scott is the defending champion and in fact has won this event on the two occasions he has played, his initial victory in 2002 by a massive six shots. Last year he won by three so there is clearly a comfort zone for Scott at the Doha Golf Club.
Henrik Stenson was too bad to be true last week in Abu Dhabi, hitting the wrong ball at one stage perhaps unsettling him to the point where he missed the cut. He has won this event previously and been runner up and any sort of recovery from last week’s disaster should see him in the mix.
Ernie Els won this event in 2005 defeating Henrik Stenson by a shot in the process. Other than a disappointing week in Abu Dhabi last week, Els has played with great consistency in recent months. Another win is not far away for the 39 year old and he is sure to be a factor.
Last week’s winner Paul Casey gave every indication that his game is near its very best with an impressive victory in Abu Dhabi. While it is will be difficult to back up after his first victory in two years it is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Johan Edfors appears to have rediscovered the form he displayed two years ago when he won three events on the European Tour schedule. With a 4th place finish last year in this event and a very good 5th place last week in Abu Dhabi, he stands a chance at longer odds.
Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy are others who played well last week although Kaymer missed the cut in this event twelve months ago.
Aaron Baddeley is the leading world ranked Australian although Richard Green who has played well in Qatar on occasions and who played well for much of last week’s Abu Dhabi tournament might be a better prospect. Baddeley was playing his first event in some time when he finished midfield last week but he should be improved this week.
Rod Pampling played ok last week in Abu Dhabi and the recent winner of the Australian Masters gets another chance this week while Michael Campbell, Mark Brown, Scott Strange and Brett Rumford make up the Australasian contingent. So strong is the field generally that Peter O’Malley is forced to sit out the event having missed out on a start.