Qatar Masters has early start
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2014 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters | Preview | 21 Jan 2014
The European Tour has made the short flight north from Abu Dhabi to Doha in Qatar for this week’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club, the middle leg of a three event swing through the Middle East.
The event begins a day early this week, the 72 holes being played from Wednesday through Saturday.
Following a dramatic tournament last week which saw Pablo Larrazabal narrowly defeat Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, this week’s event has again drawn a very good field although McIlroy and Mickelson will not be competing.
Larrazabal will however although backing up after such a significant victory is never easy to do.
The Qatar Masters was first played back in 1998 when Andrew Coltart was the winner but the event went to another level in 2006 when Commercial Bank became the naming rights sponsor and provided a significant boost of prizemoney and no doubt ’incentives’ for leading players to compete.
This year only one top ten player is in the field but the week promises to be an enormously competitive one with Sergio Garcia perhaps the favourite just ahead of the world number three Henrik Stenson who himself is a former winner of the title.
The defending champion in 2014 will be England’s Chris Wood who provided a dramatic finale to the 2013 version when he eagled the final hole to defeat George Coetzee and Sergio Garcia.
Garcia made a slow start last week in Abu Dhabi after an injury concern but he finished strongly and appears set to contend and possibly win this week.
Stenson has also enjoyed three runner-up finishes in addition to his win in 2006 so the superb Peter Harradine layout appears to very much fit his eye. Although not so good in the event in recent years his much improved form in recent times suggest he should be a factor. He did miss the cut last week in Abu Dhabi but that could perhaps be put down to early season rust. He should improve sharply this week.
Garcia has been in magnificent form of late and with five top tens in seven starts in the event including his near miss last year his chances seem very good.
Thomas Bjorn is a previous winner and has been in outstanding form in recent times. He was 10th in Abu Dhabi, 10th at the Volvo Golf Champions, won the Nedbank Challenge and was runner-up at the World Cup. They are credentials which should stack up this week.
George Coetzee had a much improved week last week in Abu Dhabi and appears to enjoy desert golf having been runner-up and 9th in the two events he played in this swing last year. He might be one for longer odds.
Martin Kaymer has been 9th in each of his last two starts in this event and although not starring of late he has done little wrong. He has made the cut in each of his last twenty starts worldwide. I can see him featuring at some stage this week.
PGA Champion Jason Dufner finished 9th at his only start in the event last year and we know what he went on to achieve in 2013. Dufner finished 5th at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions before a midfield finish at the Sony but he is such a class player and with a greater understanding now than was the case last year then he stands a chance.
The Australians in the field are Brett Rumford, Marcus Fraser, Richard Green and Wade Ormsby, the only one of those four to make the cut last week in Abu Dhabi.
Green has the most experience at this venue having played the event on twelve occasions although Rumford who has played ten times has an equal best finish in the event to Green, both finishing 3rd on one occasion.
Fraser has had little success here and Ormsby has played only twice for a best of 30th.