The European Tour stays in the Middle East this week for the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club, where a top-quality field has assembled.
Paul Lawrie won the first of his two events in 2012 at the Qatar Masters last season, but, this year, competition will be fierce for his highly-coveted crown.
The tournament made its first appearance on the European Tour schedule in 1998, and has seen an impressive list of victors over the years.
Lawrie (who also won in 1999), Adam Scott, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Henrik Stenson and Thomas Bjorn have all won in Doha.
The Aberdonian played some fine golf last year en route to a four-shot triumph over Jason Day and Peter Hanson. Lawrie and Hanson return again this year alongside a host of stars, including world number four Justin Rose – who finished second last week – Louis Oosthuizen – who won the 2013 Volvo Golf Champions – Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Jason Dufner.
“I think I gained something last week. I’m very happy with where my game is and I want to continue in the same vein here in Qatar,” said Rose.
Oosthuizen is also relishing this week’s test. “I feel like I’m swinging it really well at the moment. I always love coming to the Middle East. I tend to play well here and I love the golf course,” he said.
The Doha Golf Club is not as long as the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, but the rough will be of a similar length. Water comes into play on several holes and it possesses a selection of very demanding par-3s. The greens are also very large, so good lag putting will be key this week.
Tournament: Qatar Masters
Venue: Doha Golf Club
Date: Jan 23-26
Course stats: par 72, 7412 yards
Purse: €2,500,000; winner: €310,917
Defending champion: Paul Lawrie (-15)
Wednesday 23 – Sky Sports 2 from 6.30 am
Thursday 24 – Sky Sports 1 from 6.30 am
Friday 25 – Sky Sports 2 from 9.30 am
Saturday 26 – Sky Sports 3 from 8.30 am
Justin Rose – The Englishman seems to be in contention most weeks nowadays and he’ll be buoyed after a very good start to the season at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Martin Kaymer – The German looks to be more or less back to his best and a top-ten last week could be the springboard for a first European Tour win since November 2011.
David Howell – The veteran Englishman suffered a heartbreaking four-putt from five feet last week to fall out of the lead, but he’ll take a lot of positives from his sixth-place finish.
Key hole: 18th. The 589-yard par-5 18th is reachable for the longest hitters, but could also pose some problems. This could well be the setting for some late drama, especially with water running up the left side of the hole and flanking the putting surface.