This year will see the 22nd Qatar Masters champion crowned and if we’ve learned one thing in those two and a bit decades it is that a curious relationship has developed between the host Doha Golf Club and the linksland of the United Kingdom.
At first, second, and even third, glance a resort course in the Middle East would have little connection with the dunes of the British seaside and yet time and again links specialists have thrived here.
The reason? With the conditions typically blustery, the winner at Doha needs tight control of his ball flight, an important factor in links success. Here are four players to follow this week.
The Swede’s early years on the professional circuits were slow burn, but when he claimed a first Challenge Tour win in 2016 it propelled him on to the main tour and he took to it with a style that belied his inexperience.
His rookie campaign was notable for high finishes in quality tournaments and his sophomore season witnessed four top three finishes including a first win in the China Open.
He’s finished T28th and T19th in his two visits to this week’s course, proved himself on the linksland with a pair of top 20s in last summer’s Irish and Scottish Opens (he was second in the later heading into the final lap), and in ten visits to the Middle East on the European Tour he’s made nine cuts, collecting seven top 20s. He’s 28/1 with PaddyPower.
The 22-year-old, a second Swedish selection for the week, struggled with his first crack at the European Tour, but a season of consolidation on the second tier provided him with the tools to retain his card in 2018.
A slight figure, he doesn’t hit the ball a long way, but he likes a tough test, as evidenced by strong performances in the Open de France (which he led through 54 holes before finishing fifth) and BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Of even more interest, he thrived on debut in Doha last year, finishing the week in solo third, and his links pedigree? He won the Lytham Trophy by eight shots when in the amateur ranks. He carded 79-82 to crash out of last week’s Oman Open at the halfway stage, but before that he was T18th in the Saudi International with rounds of 67-71-67-67. He’s 66/1 with 888Sport.
With seven top ten finishes in his first European Tour campaign the Australian garnered plenty of attention as a golfer to keep on the radar.
His T7th in the Dubai Desert Classic reinforced that impression and when he opened the Vic Open 65-69 it looked as if a first win might be close at hand.
Alas, he hasn’t broken par in the five rounds which have followed. On the one hand that’s bad news (poor form), on the other if you trust he’s got something about him this is a week that might well suit his game and, what’s more, because of those recent numbers he’s a tasty price.
Gusty resort course form? Third in Sicilian Open and second in the Portugal Masters. By the British seaside? Seventh at the Dunhill Links. In the desert? That recent top ten at the Emirates. He’s 66/1 with Bet365.
The South African is a wonderful example of the golf punter’s course-form-versus-current-form dilemma.
He’s played the track seven times, grabbed four top ten finishes and on another occasion he led the field at halfway and ended the week one blow outside the top ten. Given that consistency you’d maybe not expect 15/2 to be available for another top ten (with 888Sport).
Of course, the fact that price does exist is for a very good reason: he hasn’t made a top ten since lacing three of them together this time last year (T8th here, a winner in South Africa, fourth in Spain).
Any hope? He carded a fine 65 in Dubai recently and he also signed for a 67 which had him T5th after 18 holes in the WGC Mexico Championship. The choice is yours: course or current?