Author: Paul Atkin
Published: 08:50 20/01/2015
The next stop on the three week Middle East Swing is the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which takes place at the Doha Golf Club, Doha. Another good quality field is in attendance at this well established venue, which has played host to this event since its inception in 1998.
The course was designed by Peter Harradine, who also coincidently designed last weeks venue in Abu Dhabi. This 7,400yd Par 72 track has average width fairways, leading to large, grainy Bermuda grass greens with difficult slopes, and water features heavily on several holes, including the exciting Par 5 18th hole. If the local Shamal wind blows, this exposed layout can provide a severe test, but with cloudless skies forecast for the tournament, and very little wind again forecast this week, a low scoring renewal can be expected this year. All types of players have won here, so no particular trend angle this week.
After the last two surreal weeks on the European Tour, where Major winners Charl Schwartzel and Martin Kaymer have snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory, with two incredible late collapses, its nearly impossible to predict what might happen this week. The usual ultra reliable German, who was our 16-1 tip last week, was matched on the exchanges at 1.01 for over £53,000, Ouch!, whilst at the other end of the spectrum, the winner Gary Stal was matched at the max 999-1 for 16 quid. Each way crumbs for the column, and a very perplexed golf pundit.
My main fancy is defending champion Sergio Garcia, who boasts a great record at this track, with 6 Top 10 finishes out of his last seven starts at Doha. His win here last year was gained after a prep outing in Abu Dhabi, but I don't think its such a negative that El Nino hasn't played since the Thailand Golf Championship in mid December, as the best time to catch the enigmatic Spaniard is fresh, both physically and mentally.
Backing Garcia always carries a certain amount of risk, but he still looks better value than his main rivals Justin Rose (poor course form), and Henrik Stenson (course winner, but lacklustre effort in Abu Dhabi). New customers can back him at triple odds on 888sport.
Despite his poor effort last week, I am going to again include Thorbjorn Olesen in my staking plan this week. The Dane looked decidedly ring rusty last week after a seven week break since his last outing, but at least finished on a positive note, with a final round of 68. Last week was also the first week with his new caddy Jason Hempleman, who previously caddied for Francesco Molinari. The experienced bagman replaced Zimbabwean Mike Kerr, who moved in the off season from Olesen to caddie for Adam Scott, so both player and caddy should improve for last weeks experience. He has course form at this track, having finished Tied 3rd last year, so expect a bolder show this week from this Gulf Swing specialist.
In the Top 10 market, I like the chance of Tour veteran Steve Webster, who turned 40 recently. Its hard to believe that Webby was leading Amateur in the 1995 Open Championship at St Andrews, where he beat a certain Tiger Woods to the coveted Silver Medal, but the Dubai based golfer is still well capable of mixing it in this quality of field. He arrives here in good form, after a solid Tied 12th place finish in Abu Dhabi last week, and further confidence can be gained by his impressive record at this venue. He finished Tied 4th in 2013, and Tied 5th last year, so another prominent display seems likely.
Finally, a word of caution for punters, this event starts on Wednesday this year,
Sergio Garcia 8-1 E/W 888sport
Thorbjorn Olesen 30-1 E/W bet365
Steve Webster 15-2 (Top 10 market) Stan James