Lowdown:
The European Tour remains in the Middle East this week for the Commercialbank Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club. England’s Chris Wood defends the title and a strong field has assembled.

World Number 3 and 2013 European Tour Number 1 Henrik Stenson is the top-ranked player in the field this week and he’s joined on the start list by, amongst others, Sergio Garcia, Jason Dufner, Luke Donald, Ernie Els and Martin Kaymer.

This will be the 17th 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. He won again in 2012. 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, Chris Wood of England secured a thrilling victory by eagling the final hole. He finished one ahead of South Africa’s George Coetzee and Sergio Garcia of Spain.

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.

As you’d expect, the weather is set to be dry and pleasantly warm for the duration of the tournament with only a moderate breeze for the players to contend with. Conditions should be pretty much ideal then, so expect to see some good scoring.

Venue: Doha GC, Doha, Qatar
Date: Jan 22-25
Course stats: par 72, 7,400 yards
Purse: €1,850,000 Winner: €305,232
Defending Champion: Chris Wood (-18)

TV Coverage:
Wednesday 22 – Sky Sports 4 from 6.30am
Thursday 23 – Sky Sports 4 from 6am
Friday 24 – Sky Sports 4 from 9.30am
Saturday 25 – Sky Sports 4 from 8.30am

Player Watch:

George Coetzee – Runner-up last year together with Sergio Garcia and tied fourth last week in Abu Dhabi, Coetzee is long overdue a victory on the European Tour. This could be the week.

Branden Grace – Runner-up in the Volvo Champions, Grace was tied sixth in this event last year. He’s a great player and might just be about to find top form.

Stephen Gallacher – Tied eighth last week and with a proven record in the desert – the Scot was Dubai Desert Classic winner in 2013. He has experience in this event having played it every year since 2008.

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.

Where next?
PGA Tour –
Farmers Insurance Open preview