The DP World Tour exits South Africa and heads back to the desert this week for the Qatar Masters, one of the longest serving events in this part of the world and one which acts as a decent tournament for those not lucky enough to be teeing it up in the WGC event.
Antoine Rozner was the man who walked away with the loot here last year and he’ll be lining up once again in a bid to successfully defend the title. Some decent golfers will be opposing him so he might have his work cut out.
2021 – Antoine Rozner
2020 – Jorge Campillo
2019 – Justin Harding
2018 – Eddie Pepperell
2017 – Jeunghun Wang
2016 – Branden Grace
2015 – Branden Grace
2014 – Sergio Garcia
2013 – Chris Wood
2012 – Paul Lawrie
We are back at the wonderful Doha Golf Club after a couple of years away. The 7,400 yard par 72 track has been a feature of this tournament throughout its history. It sounds long on paper but with the dry air we know the ball flies further so it isn’t a long track by any means. The way it has been created, with many doglegs and small greens means there isn’t a lot of joy in overcoming it with power.
Given the firmness of the tracks out in this part of the world the course needs to be played from the fairways for the best control into the greens. A good putter is always needed in this part of the world, as is comfort in the wind because this is an exposed track like we saw in the desert events earlier in the year so don’t have those who don’t have a good record in the wind high up on your shortlist. Good iron players who flight the ball low and putt well are the ones to be on here.
We knew we were going to be devoid of the big stars this week as they are in Austin teeing it up in the WGC Dell Match Play and given that we are only two weeks out from The Masters with those same players already having an eye on peaking for that. Nevertheless we have a competitive field which has a mixture of European/DP World Tour winners and former champions who will all be looking to set themselves up for the remainder of the season.
The defending champion Antoine Rozner will be one of the high profile players in the field this week but former winner Justin Harding won’t be too far behind. Adri Arnaus, Adrian Meronk and Matti Schmid are some of the rising stars who are in the field while there is also a spot on the tee for the MyGolfLife Open winner Pablo Larrazabal. Laurie Canter, Dean Burmester, Jordan Smith, Ross Fisher and Marcus Armitage are some of the others who have a tee time this week.
Dean Burmester chased Shaun Norris home in vain last week but he is the 18/1 favourite to win this tournament. That was the second runner up finish the South African has delivered in four starts and having won the South African PGA Championship in November, it is clear that he is in pretty good form. He doesn’t have the best of records on this course though with finishes of 41-MC in his two starts on it so that is definitely a concern, although he’s improved a lot in the three years since we were last here. The mental energy used last week is also a possibly issue so he isn’t for me this week.
Adri Arnaus continues to be a winner in waiting on the DP World Tour and he is 20/1 to make that this week. My immediate issue with the Spaniard is that he has had a few chances to win and hasn’t got over the line. He arrives here off the back of three top 10 finishes, the latest of which involved him losing a playoff in the MyGolfLife Open a couple of weeks ago. He was in the top 15 here the last time the tournament was staged on this course so he has plenty going for him but I’m happy to let him win at this price.
George Coetzee and Jordan Smith are next in the betting at 22/1. Coetzee has five top 10 finishes around this track and seems to play it well regardless of what form he is in on arrival. As it turns out he comes here in a run of 9-4-25 in his last three starts. He’s one to consider as is Smith who was sixth here in a stronger field in 2017 and who arrives here with four top 20 finishes in his last five starts which includes a couple of runner up finishes, the latest of which was when he went down in the MyGolfLife Open playoff. These two are dangerous.
Romain Langasque is the only other player in the field who is shorter than 30/1. The French ace can be backed at 28/1 in plenty of places. He doesn’t have the greatest record here, although we should always remember that the field has been a lot stronger than this previously, but he arrives with top 10s at both the South Africa events recently and was in the top 20 in Abu Dhabi and Dubai to begin the Desert Swing.
Matthieu Pavon has a decent pool of work in the wind with top 10s in places like Mauritius, the Nordea Masters and the Scottish Open and he also has a top 20 in the Dunhill Links so ticking the first box is very much done. He also has some good work in the desert and comes in here in decent enough form too with six top 20 finishes in his last eight starts. That includes a third placed finish in the Ras al Khaimah Championship to show that he can handle the desert conditions. Pavon was in the top 10 around the greens last week and is putting nicely and I think he has all the tools to put up a very strong effort here.
Wilco Nienaber burst onto the scene during lockdown and although he went so quiet last year that he had to go to the Challenge Tour final to secure his tour card, he did that and comes here with three top 25 finishes in his last six starts, which includes a top 10 finish in the Steyn City Championship last week. His short game has been in excellent order in the last few weeks and that is important because there is little to no rough to speak of on this course so the distances that Nienaber hits it he isn’t going to have much into these greens. If he can continue to putt well then this is a course that sets up very nicely for the South African to have a very big week.
I’ll take a couple of outsiders this week with the first of those being Nacho Elvira who has a couple of top 10s around this place and who finished T6 in the MyGolfLife Open after opening with a 62. Elvira has been up and down in recent times but generally his short game has been good and his putting has been fair. When he lights it up with the putter than he fires scores like that 62 in South Africa a couple of weeks ago and while he couldn’t quite go with the pace over the weekend he showed enough that week to make me think he is a runner at a course he enjoys. There is no real punishment off the tee this week so the Spaniard can let the rest of his game flow and could run into the mix at a decent price once again.
The final bet I’ll take this week is on Tapio Pulkkanen who has a couple of top 10 finishes in his last four starts, one of which would surely have been better if he didn’t flatten out in the final round of the Ras al Khaimah Championship. That is a bit of a concern but to be fair to him Nicolai Hojgaard was miles clear in front so he was having to push hard to have any chance. He further cemented his good form at the Steyn City Championship last week where he finished T5 and for the second time in four starts he led the field in strokes gained around the greens and was in the top five for scrambling. When you consider in the two Ras al Khaimah events he gained 4.584 and 7.926 shots with the putter and another 3.183 last week in South Africa, given the length the Finn smacks it he could do this track some serious damage.
Back M.Pavon to win Qatar Masters (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back T.Pulkkanen to win Qatar Masters (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back them here:
Back W.Nienaber to win Qatar Masters (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back him here:
Back N.Elvira to win Qatar Masters (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Betway (1/5 1-7)