The Commercialbank Qatar Masters is the second leg of the Middle East Swing, and another quality field has pitched up at the Doha Golf Club. Most of the players are aware of the course’s intricacies, as the club has held this event since its inception in 1998. The Par 72 7,400yd track is similar to last weeks venue in Abu Dhabi, being quite long and exposed, and providing a decent test, particularly when the wind blows. The fairways are fairly generous, and several holes are protected by water hazards, but the real test here are the Par 3s which are all very demanding.
This event has provided a wide variety of winners, ranging from from the medium hitting, short game expert Tony Johnstone at one end of the spectrum, to one of the longest drivers on tour Alvaro Quiros, so no particular type of player seems to be favoured here. The weather forecast is always worth having a look at, and whilst it will be sunny, it is the forecast blustery winds which will play havoc with the shot selections.
The market is headed by the Swede Henrik Stenson (more later) and Sergio Garcia, who both were major disappointments in Abu Dhabi. The Spaniard put in a rather surly display last week, complaining about a shoulder injury caused by dangerous rough after a poor first round, and then getting embroiled in controversy after repairing a pitch mark in his second round. Despite his strong finish in Abu Dhabi, his attitude is a real negative, and at single figure odds I do not think he represents any value in such a strong field.
Last week, our pick George Coetzee landed a nice 90/1 E/W return, and we think our picks this week will hopefully go close.
My strong fancy is the previously mentioned Henrik Stenson, who missed his first cut since October 2012 in Abu Dhabi last week. He definitely looked in need of the outing, and his putting in particular looked poor (he was 101st in the putting stats for the first two rounds!). I’m willing to forget that stat as I think we will see the real Henrik Stenson this week, on a course where he has a stellar record (won in 2006, and three runner up spots). I think the layers may have overreacted to his missed cut, and the general 8-1 should be taken.
Another fancy is the rejuvenated Swede Robert Karlsson, who has shown signs of a return to form in the last couple of months; good to see him playing better after suffering with the dreaded yips a couple of years ago. The big Swede has posted two consecutive top ten finishes on the PGA Tour at the back end of last year, and finished a fast finishing Tied 8th in Abu Dhabi last week, where his long game seemed in really good shape. He won here in 2010, and was runner up in 2001, so this layout certainly suits his eye.
An outsider who seems overpriced in my opinion is the South African Thomas Aitken. He has found a bit of form, recently finishing Tied 6th and Tied 19th in his last two starts, and has played well at this venue having finished Tied 6th here in 2011. The forecast breezy conditions should suit this solid ball striker, so at huge odds he is worthy of a small interest.