Sergio heads to Qatar to defend Masters title
There was a terrific finish to the first of the European Tour’s desert events last week with Frenchman Gary Stal pipping Ryder Cup stars Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy to take the title in Abu Dhabi.
There’s a strong field in Qatar this week including 79 European Tour winners and three of the world’s top six players. Keep reading for our preview of this week’s 2015 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
Wind likely to be a factor in the desert
The Championship Course at Doha Golf Club has been home to this event since its inception in 1998. It is renowned as a testing, long and windswept layout and is playing this week at 7,400 yards to a par of 72.
At its highest point, Qatar is just 338 feet above sea level. This means that the course is very susceptible to high winds and with much of the course open and surrounded by desert scrub it can often be a challenging course to navigate.
The favourites for the title
If we learned anything from last week’s event in Abu Dhabi it was that players with a good record on the desert courses can be backed to do well. Three time winner Martin Kaymer would have won the tournament without a final round 75 while perennial runner-up Rory McIlroy once again missed out by one shot.
On those criteria the man to beat in Doha this week is Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard pushed Chris Wood all the way in 2013 – eventually losing by one shot – before taking the title last year with a play-off win over Mikko Ilonen.
Ahead of this year’s event Garcia said:
“I want to play as well as I can and put up a good defence of my title. I’ve started my season in Qatar for the last few years, and I always enjoy coming back.
“I came close to winning a few times, so it was nice to get over the line last year. I played really well on the last day to get into the play-off, then had to play really well all over again to beat Mikko. So I have some good memories, and hopefully they can inspire me to have another successful week.”
The 35 year old is the 7/1 favourite.
Justin Rose finished last week’s event in Abu Dhabi strongly by shooting a bogey-free final round 65. The Englishman doesn’t have the best record in Qatar – he has made just one cut in five appearances – but he admitted he was ‘looking forward to trying to get my head around this golf course’.
Rose is 15/2 but a better bet may be his first round playing partner Charl Schwartzel.
The South African shot 13 under par for a top ten finish in Abu Dhabi to follow-up a second place finish at the South African Open in early January. The former Masters champion is in excellent form and can be backed at 17/1.
Some outsiders to consider in the betting
Last week we suggested that you kept an eye on the South African player George Coetzee. The 28 year old shot eight under par to finish a respectable T37 and we’re going to stick with him this week based on his recent record in Doha.
Coetzee pushed Chris Wood all the way in 2013, eventually finishing a shot behind the Englishman in a share of second place. Twelve months ago he shot 14 under par – including a first round 64 – to finish T5.
Coetzee looks great each way value at 39/1.
Steve Webster has finished in the top 5 in Qatar in each of the last two years and so would have rewarded an each-way investment in both 2013 and 2014. Webster recently turned 40 and made a solid start to the new season with a T12 finish in Abu Dhabi last week.
Webster seems to have flown under the radar and is available at 79/1.
The 2015 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters tees off on Thursday 22 January 2015 at the Doha Golf Club’s Championship Course.