Qatar Masters raises profile on European Tour
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2007 Qatar Masters | Preview | 24 Jan 2007
For most of the field in this week’s Commercialbank Qatar Masters, a flight of about an hour north and west to Qatar from last week’s venue in Abu Dhabi has been involved to get to Doha, on the shores of the Gulf and the venue for this week’s tournament.
The changing nature of this event in recent years now means that several others will join those who played at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship last week and collectively the event brings together a very strong early season lineup. Not only are the likes of Ernie Els, Michael Campbell and Stuart Appleby joining those who played last week, the impact of co-sanctioning with the Asian Tour adds yet another dimension to tournament.
The top four finishers from last week’s tournament, Paul Casey, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Peter Hanson and Chris DiMarco are also in the field.
It has only been in the last two years that the Qatar Masters has been able to contend with the Dubai Classic with not only a greater amount of prizemoney being available but it would seem a preparedness by the tournament organisers to spend the sort of money needed in order to entice leading players to Doha. Their policy has worked and the co-sanctioning of the event with the Asian Tour has also given the rapidly emerging Gulf State of Qatar even greater exposure.
The golf course at the Doha Golf Club is a quality layout designed by the man who designed last week’s Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s layout, Peter Harradine. It was built in the mid 1990’s and is surrounded by the desert. Qatar is a peninsula of land which juts out into the Gulf, to the west of which is Saudi Arabia and to the East the Gulf itself.
The tournament has seen some quality winners in recent years with Henrik Stenson, Ernie Els and Adam Scott all having tasted success at this venue in the last few years. The defending champion is Henrik Stenson who did well in Abu Dhabi last week when 8th, that coming six weeks after his runner up placing at the Nedbank Masters. With last week’s event no doubt removing a little rust from his system, he seems well placed to defend the title.
When Ernie Els last played an event of any kind he was successful but that was five weeks ago at the South African Open. His overall form at the end of 2006 was outstanding and if he has not partaken in the pleasures of life too much in recent weeks then he might just win this event for the second time. He first won here in 2005 when he overcame a five shot third round deficit to beat Henrik Stenson by one. As a matter of interest, Els has not missed a cut in any event in nearly three years, despite having issues with injury on occasions.
Paul Casey displayed last week just why he is one of the most exciting players in European golf with his win in Abu Dhabi following a last round 65. He seems to regularly play well at the start of the year and although this will be the Englishman’s first visit to Qatar, he has shown a capacity to play well anywhere.
Retief Goosen had not played for a few weeks when he lined up last week in Abu Dhabi and if there were any wrinkles in his game then he had a chance last week, when still finishing 5th to iron them out. He will benefit from that and should do well this week despite not having played this event since 1999.
Sergio Garcia was perhaps a little disappointing last week but it was not all that bad. Garcia will play the event for the first time as a professional having played in Qatar late in his amateur career in 1999. His class should take him a long way towards contention.
Chris DiMarco has stayed on this year to play in Qatar and after his fourth placed finish last week in Abu Dhabi he appears to be a good chance of winning in the Desert once again.
Stuart Appleby faces a big task as he has not played well in his first two events of 2007 finishing only 13th in a restricted field at the Mercedes and then missing the cut at the Sony Open.
A player who might do well this week is the often underrated Robert Karlsson who has often played well in Qatar and who had a solid week last week when 14th in Abu Dhabi. He was runner up in this event in 2001 but is a much more credentialed player now. Miguel Angel Jimenez did well last week when runner up in Abu Dhabi and could again do well.
The Australasians are gradually working their way back to the European Tour in 2007 and with several taking advantage of starts via the Asian Tour’s co-sanctioning, their will be a strong representation this week.
Michael Campbell is in the field but Nick O’Hern is the leading world ranked of the Australasians to tee it up this week. He did not look to be swinging the club all that well last week but made a solid start before struggling at the weekend. If he has sorted out those issues then he could well bounce back.
Richard Green has often played well in this part of the world and was the best of the Australians last week. Peter O’Malley, Terry Pilkadaris, Brad Kennedy, Scott Strange, Richard Lee, David Bransdon, Unho Park, Kane Webber, Gary Simpson, Adam Blyth, Marcus Both, Tony Carolan, Adam Blyth, Adam Groom, Mahal Pearce and Adam Le Vesconte make for a strong line up of ANZAC’s.