Throughout the 12 years that Qatar has hosted a European Tour fixture, this event has steadily risen in profile. Whereas once it was basically a second-division affair, now it occupies a key stopping point on the Race to Dubai, and boasts a similarly world-class field to the other legs of the ‘Gulf Swing‘. As its profile has grown, so has the quality of champions. All four winners from 2005 to 2008 were either in the world’s top ten or soon to enter it.


Big hitters have prospered before at Doha, including last year’s winner Alvaro Quiros, but driving distance has not proved an essential component of success despite the relatively wide fairways. Rather, a high-class short game has tended to be more important, as the greens are very exposed. Any advantage enjoyed by the bombers could be further reduced this year as the rough is thicker than usual. Par-5 performance is predictably important on this par 72, though the course’s strength is arguably its par 3s.
At least as important as any of these stats at Doha is luck of the draw, as the Shamal wind presents the toughest obstacle to scoring. Historically, an early tee-time in round one has proved to be an advantage, but the advanced forecast suggests it might be less important this time. Strong winds are forecast throughout Thursday, much more so than for the final three days.


3pts ew RETIEF GOOSEN @ 14/1 (GENERAL)

Despite ongoing concerns about Goosen’s temperament under pressure after a series of disastrous finishes in 2009, the South African’s claims are too obvious to ignore. He won this event in 2007, and has started the season strongly with top-six finishes on both PGA Tour starts so far. A superb wind player, Goosen hasn’t finished outside the top 25 anywhere since August and looks almost certain to feature on Sunday’s leaderboard.

2pts ew SERGIO GARCIA @ 25/1 (GENERAL)

It has been a long time since I backed the ever frustrating Garcia, but despite a typically erratic performance in Abu Dhabi, I reckon he’ll be hard to keep out of the frame this week and for once, the price is right. Garcia has finished seventh in each of the last two Qatar Masters, both of which were unsuitable low-scoring affairs. With the rough thicker this time and strong winds forecast, he should much prefer the greater ball-striking test. Whatever his putting frailties, Garcia is a great wind player who can generally be relied upon to hit most greens in regulation.

1.5pts ew ANDERS HANSEN @ 45/1 (GENERAL)

With five top 20s to his name, Hansen has a consistent record at Qatar even if he’s never seriously challenged for the title. I doubt he’s ever come here in better form, after registering his fifth top eight in his last nine events on Sunday. The Dane is a rock of reliability from tee to green right now, and that must bode well with Doha expected to play slightly tougher than usual.

1pt ew ROSS MCGOWAN @ 66/1 (GENERAL)

McGowan looked very much a man on the up during the second half of 2009, winning the Madrid Masters and also registering top-six finishes in Dubai, Scotland and Switzerland. The Englishman’s long game was exemplary during that period, and after a fair opening effort last week could well get competitive in Doha. McGowan served notice of his suitability for this course when finishing a promising 13th on one of his earliest European Tour starts two years ago.

0.5pt ew GARETH MAYBIN @ 150/1 (GENERAL, 160/1 BET365)

One of the leading rookies of 2009 is surely massively overpriced here at 150/1. He did just about everything but win last year, registering seven top tens and contending strongly on several occasions. It’s only five weeks since he put in another strong bid at Leopard Creek. Accurate with a good touch around the greens, Maybin would appear to have the right credentials to thrive on his course debut.