Andrew Coltart returns to the scene of his breakthrough victory on the European Tour when he defends the Qatar Masters title at Doha Golf Club.
The 28-year-old Scot held off a strong challenge from Patrik Sjöland and Andrew Sherborne to become not only a first-time winner, but the first winner in the Emirate Gulf State of Qatar, which has constructed one of the most luxurious golfing facilities in the Middle East.
Coltart admits he will never forget March 5, 1998 as long as he lives. In the locker room that Sunday morning, as he slipped on his golf shoes in preparation for his final round, the news filtered through that he had won the Australasian Order of Merit.
A few hours later, thanks to a controlled, composed closing round of 67, Coltart added the Qatar Masters crown to his curriculum vitae to join stablemates Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley as a European Tour champion.
"I would be hard pushed to beat the day at St.Andrews in 1995 when I played in Scotland’s winning Alfred Dunhill Cup team," commented Coltart. "That was an emotional moment, but it was in a team tournament. I still needed to prove myself in an individual sense.
"Still, it was a wonderful day to top the Australasian Order of Merit and to win the Qatar Masters in the same day. From the moment I arrived at the golf course I felt good, I knew I was swinging well and had no fears."
He added: "It’s funny, but I didn’t have a feeling that the course was particularly suited to my game. I thought it was really long and difficult and I remember in a practice round Thomas Björn said he thought 18 under par would be the winning score.
"I thought that was ridiculous, even though I was playing well and with a lot of confidence. As it happened, that was my winning total. Just goes to show how much I know about it!"
The Doha Golf Club is a private club owned by the State of Qatar. The Royal facility was constructed to the highest specifications and makes use of the unique topographic natural features.
Since last year, the course has undergone a major overseeding programme in the rough with rye grass which, combined with a policy of no buggies since the beginning of January, has produced a stunning improvement in definition and presentation of the golf course.
Also, just like at Dubai Creek & Yacht Club last week, the penalties for missing the fairway are severe.
Furthermore, the sandy hazard surrounding the wonderful par three third hole and to the right of the fourth hole has been flooded to create a stunning water feature which adds a much greater challenge to both these holes.
The elevated 16th tee that last year caused some concern to players due to its size has been doubled in area to alleviate this problem.
In fact, it was the unique 16th hole which proved critical to Coltart in capturing the title. The hole, at 319 yards, does not pose too great a problem - unless the player strays too close to the massive rock biting deep into the fairway, considerably narrowing the landing area.
Coltart said: "I regard the 16th as the signature hole at Doha due to the big rock which influences how you play it. It comes at the time in the round where you have to make sure your head is screwed on properly.
"I was aware of that when I reached the tee in the last round, but I thumped a good drive into position ‘A’ 60 yards from the green and knocked a sand wedge to three feet for a birdie which put me two ahead with two to play.
"It was a nice cushion, but I didn’t feel comfortable until I reached the 18th green. Only then was I able to relax and savour the moment."
Sjöland and Sherborne, the men who ran him so close twelve months ago, are in the field again along with a host of winners on the European Tour, including Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Costantino Rocca, Thomas Björn and Miguel Angel Jiménez.