Many players took full advantage of good scoring conditions in round one of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, but at day’s end Oliver Fisher led by one
On a perfect day for scoring, with the normally testing Shamal wind reduced to a mere zephyr, there were red figures aplenty on day one of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters
Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who often performs well in the Middle East, led the morning scoring with a blemish-free 66, but a host of players were hot on his heels, among them Alfred Dunhill Championship victor, Branden Grace, who is showing signs of rediscovering the form that won him five titles in 2012. He played with South African Open Champion, and GM columnist Andy Sullivan, who told me afterwards that Grace had been knocking the flag out all round.
Many big names were out in the afternoon draw, among them defending champion Sergio Garcia who eventually signed for a solid 69 after knocking it on 18 in two and two-putting for birdie despite straying eight feet past with his first putt.
Qatar specialist, Paul Lawrie, who has won the title twice, was another man to go bogey-free with an excellent opening 67. The Scot was joined on that mark by Ernie Els who played an exquisite 40-yard bunker shot on 18 to set up a closing birdie.
Justin Rose felt his game improved every day last week in Abu Dhabi, and appears to have continued where he left off with a four-under par 68. Rose was joined on that mark by Stephen Gallacher, and young Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick, who has taken to tour life like a duck to water.
But with the shadows lengthening towards days end, it was another Englishman, Oliver Fisher, who took the outright lead on seven-under, calmly holing a six-footer for par on his final hole for an eight-birdie, one-bogey round of 65. Fisher enjoyed his most consistent year ever in 2014, making 24 out of 29 cuts, and finished strongly in Abu Dhabi too for 12th place. “I played well and gave myself a lot of chances so it was a good round,” said Fisher afterwards as he seeks to add a second tour title to his 2011 Czech Open success.