Quality field lines up for Qatar Masters
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2008 Qatar Masters | Preview | 22 Jan 2008
The European Tour moves along the Gulf this week to Qatar and to the Peter Harradine designed Doha Golf Club in the rapidly growing suburbs of Doha for the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
The tournament has been significantly elevated in status in recent years, the introduction of Commerical Bank providing the impetus and capital to offer the necessary incentives to attract some of the game’s greats.
The Doha Golf Club is one of the many built in this region of desert conditions by Harradine and is a fine layout. Harradine also designed last week’s venue in Abu Dhabi, this week’s course was built in the mid 1990’s.
While he might not necessarily be the expected winner of the event, Australian Adam Scott is the leading world ranked player in the field and as a previous runaway winner, he deserves consideration. Scott had an average tournament last week in Abu Dhabi in his first event of the season but his obvious comfort zone with the Doha Golf Club (he won by six shots in 2002) has him as some sort of chance.
Henrik Stenson indicated with his joint runner up finish last week that he is close to winning form and as a previous winner (2006) and runner up (2005), he is the man most will expect to win.
Like Stenson, Lee Westwood is in fine form at present, in fact even better than the Swede, and the amazing consistency he has displayed over the past six months should see him figure here despite a less than impressive record at the Doha Golf Club. Westwood has been inside the top ten in nine of his last ten starts.
Retief Goosen is the defending champion having unleashed an amazing birdie, eagle finish in 2007 to defeat Nick O’Hern. Goosen has not been at his absolute peak in the last twelve months but towards the end of 2007 there were signs that things were getting better.
Scott Verplank is the token “star” American in the field and with several good finishes of late might have some sort of chance. He does not play internationally all that often and has obviously been attracted by a significant financial lure. He is coming off a great season in 2007 however and a couple of solid finishes in 2008 to suggest he might do well.
Martin Kaymer will still be coming down off his four shot maiden European Tour victory last week but it might be that he will be buoyed by the victory and might go on with it. It is however always difficult to follow up such a performance, especially one of such significance, with another great week.
Amongst the Australians Richard Green is a genuine chance to do well. He recorded the best round of the day last Sunday in Abu Dhabi and played well in this event last year when 4th. He is Australian golf’s ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ with many good finishes in the Desert including in this event last year and a win in Dubai and a runner up in that event also.
Other Australasians include Michael Campbell, who looks to get his career back on track after a horror run in 2007, especially late in the season where he missed his last four cuts. When he last played at the Australian Open in mid December his game was in perhaps its worst shape and there were stages during the opening two rounds that it appeared he may want to walk away.
To his credit he fought it through and there is an indication he has been working with a new sports psychologist in Sydney to overcome the battles he is having. One of the issues Campbell has had to address, especially in recent events in Australasia, is that, as one of the leading figures in the events he has played, he is constantly under the spotlight making it impossible to escape the scrutiny his form slump has generated.
Campbell has regularly bounced back from the depths to a run of great results and if he is able to rediscover his naturally gifted game, he may well be contending before long.
Peter O’Malley, Scott Strange and Marcus Fraser make up the balance of Australasians in the field.