Lowdown:
The European Tour remains in the Middle East this week for the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy at Doha Golf Club. Thomas Bjorn of Denmark defends the title.
A strong field has assembled in Doha to contest this ever-increasingly prestigious tournament. Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Jason Day and Graeme McDowell have all made the journey from Abu Dhabi and they are joined on the start sheet by, amongst others, Hunter Mahan, Sergio Garcia and Retief Goosen.
Like many of the courses in this part of the world, the layout at Doha GC is a Peter Harradine design. Opened for play in 1994, water comes into play on six holes and natural outcrops of rock are also a feature.
This will be the 15th running of the Qatar Masters, first won by Andrew Coltart back in 1998. Since then the event has produced some notable champions. In 1999 Paul Lawrie was a winner here before going on to claim the Open Championship that summer at Carnoustie. Tony Johnstone secured his final European Tour victory here in 2001. Adam Scott has twice been a winner, in 2002 then again in 2008. Swedish players have also enjoyed some success at Doha – Joakim Haegmann won the event in 2004, Henrik Stenson lifted the trophy in 2006 while Robert Karlsson triumphed in 2010.
In last year’s event, Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn produced four superb rounds to win by four strokes from 2009 champion Alvaro Quiros. Both men will start again this year.

Venue:
Doha Golf Club, Qatar
Date: Feb 2-5
Course stats: par 72, 7,388 yards
Purse: €1,895,000 Winner: €303,113
Defending Champion: Thomas Bjorn (-14)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 2 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 7am
Friday 3 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 7am
Saturday 4 – Live on Sky Sports 4 from 9.30am
Sunday 5 – Live on Sky Sports 4 from 8.30am

Player Watch:
Graeme McDowell – He finished strongly in Abu Dhabi, covering his final nine holes in just 31 strokes. He’s climbing the World Ranking again and is knocking on the door of moving back into the top-10. A victory here would do the job.

Matteo Manassero – It’s hard to believe the Italian is still only 18; he already displays a great maturity on the fairways. He was sixth in Abu Dhabi last week, finishing only three behind Robert Rock.

Alvaro Quiros – Second last year, second in 2010 and the winner in 2009, Quiros is clearly a fan of this layout. The Spaniard will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance in Abu Dhabi.

Key hole:
16th. At just 306 yards it’s eminently driveable for most players in the field. But, it’s a small and awkward target with a large rock guarding the front of the green. Expect to see some unpredictable bounces off that outcrop as players go for the carry and fall just short.

Skills required: Finishing strongly. The last three holes are: A driveable par 4, a short par 3 then a reachable par 5. The 16th generally ranks the easiest hole on the course and the 18th the second easiest. Thomas Bjorn played the last three in five-under-par for the weekend last year.

Where next?
PGA Tour –
Waste Management Phoenix Open preview