Commercial Bank Qatar Masters
The European Tour moves onto Qatar this week and the long, testing course at Doha Golf Club. After a great win for one of our ‘players to watch’ Jamie Donaldson in Abu Dhabi last week closely followed by Justin Rose (our number 1 pick for the week) and Thorbjorn Olesen (another of our ‘players to watch’) in tied 2nd, it was a pretty solid start for us at DownThe18th.
This week sees mostly the same field move onto Qatar. The course at Doha Golf Club is renowned for playing rather long with big hitters such as Henrik Stenson, Alvaro Quiros and Robert Karlsson all picking up victories here in the last 7 years. The course will be playing at 7,400 yards, whilst the fairways have been slightly narrowed which means accuracy has to be taken into account as well as distance although the rough will play relatively fair. Weather is predicted to be very good this week so we can expect to see some great golf and lots of low scores.
Henrik Stenson (20/1 Paddy Power)
As soon as I knew Doha Golf Club plays quite long I immediately thought of Henrik Stenson who appears to be back to his best. Henrik went off the radar for about two years with driver issues but after some intensive training Stenson managed to regain his swing and regain some form. I first saw him coming into form back at last year’s Masters where he led the tournament for most of the 1st day. After some aggressive play, the swede stormed to the South African Open title at the end of last year beating a very competitive field and winning by 3 shots. Once players get a feel for this course they tend to perform well here, Alvaro Quiros proving that with a win and two 2nd places in the last 4 years. Henrik won here back in ’06 and was runner up in ’05, ’08 and ’09 showing Qatar is a place where he plays his best stuff. Stenson was playing some very solid golf last week in Dubai finishing just outside the top 20. I think he will push on from that and go very close here at Qatar this week.
Jason Dufner (16/1 Paddy Power)
Starting to be recognised as a very consistent performer on the golfing circuit now with his calmness and composure from tee to green. Dufner has been plying his trade all over the globe in the past few weeks meaning he is adding a lot of variety to his game. After his 9th place in Abu Dhabi last week Dufner said “I feel like my game is right there” and if not for a poor last hole he would have been top 5. He was also 1st place in driving accuracy on the PGA Tour last year which will be pivotal on the Doha Golf Course. With Jason now 11th in the world rankings and a key member of the US Ryder Cup Team, his credentials speak for themselves and I would be shocked if he didn’t secure at least a place here.
Thorbjorn Olesen (25/1 Paddy Power)
Thorbjorn is DownThe18th’s top player to watch for this year and his T2 in Abu Dhabi last week shows exactly why. All eyes were on Rory Mcilroy last week and his new multi-million pound Nike deal but Thorbjorn too has been snapped up by the major brand and has been donning the famous tick since the start of the year. His performance last week was quite sensational when you think he was playing with a whole new set of clubs. This just shows what natural ability the young Dane has. After watching most of the Abu Dhabi Championship it was clear that his game was right there, looking very confident off the tee and was in with a shout for birdie on almost every hole. His average of over 70% GIR for this year and last shows anything above a par is a rarity for Olesen. His close relationship with his caddy was also good to see with the banter clearly flying between them on every hole, watch out for these two sharing a few jokes. But for a wayward tee shot last week on the par 4 6th in his last round where he double bogeyed, the championship arguably could’ve been his. The Dane has averaged over 290 yards off the tee in his last 3 years on the tour, including this year, showing he will have no worries dealing with the 7,400 yard course. And of course, we do like Scandinavian’s here at DownThe18th and it would be fitting if Olesen walked away with Qatar Masters Trophy and the $2.5million winner’s cheque.
George Coetzee (28/1 Paddy Power)
Coetzee is another golfer we like the look of here at DownThe18th. After some stunning golf from his compatriots in the last year in the shape of Messrs Oosthiuzen, Grace and Schwartzel the limelight was somewhat taken off Coetzee who had his most successful year on the tour to date. He finished 21st in The Race to Dubai and also entered the official world top 50 rankings. He has averaged 300yards off the tee in his last 4 years and you could arguably call him a ‘big hitter’ a title you would gladly want on this course in Doha. Pair this with some impressive GIR stats in the previous years, I think this could be the time where Coetzee comes out on top of his South African compatriots. Last week’s 9th place in Abu Dhabi shows the South African is hitting form just at the right time for him to claim his maiden victory on the European Tour.
Marc Warren (125/1 Paddy Power)
My one outside shot this week is going to Marc Warren. The Scotsman has shown great consistency in his last few tournaments for a player with such high odds. Warren has recorded 2 wins on the European Tour, one of which was at the 7,600 yard Scandinavian Masters where he beat the big hitting Robert Karlsson in a playoff. The Glaswegian finished T35 here last year but was well in contention after the first two rounds. Warren is also 5th in driving distance in the European Tour in 2013 averaging over 302yards off the tee. So if Warren can find some putting form, he could be a very cheeky shout for an e/w this week. You have to chuck a £1 on at that price don’t you?