Wednesday, 07 March 2001
The oasis in the desert that is the magnificent Doha Golf Club provides the setting for the fourth Qatar Masters which will unfold in the Gulf State this week.

Architect Peter Harradine has created a verdant masterpiece, one which has been maintained to the highest standard by Australian Ranald McNeil, the course superintendent and head greenkeeper, who was involved in the original construction and who has stayed on to oversee the course’s development.

One of the best warm grass specialists in the world, McNeil has consistently ensured Doha Golf Club is in pristine condition despite the severe temperatures prevalent at times in this part of the world.

During the particularly hot summer months, the course requires over one million gallons of water per day to maintain its existence, sourced largely from its own reservoir that is replenished every 24 hours to minimise unnecessary wastage and ensure a reserved supply.

Defending champion will be Holland’s Rolf Muntz, who ended hopes of a Scottish hat-trick of victories 12 months ago, with a battling performance in the testing Shamal winds to win by five shots from Ian Woosnam and become the first Dutchman to capture an event on The European Tour.

Previous winners had been Scots Andrew Coltart and Paul Lawrie, Coltart’s victory in 1998 being his maiden success on The European Tour while Lawrie’s success the following year gave him the impetus to go on four months later to triumph in the Open Championship at Carnoustie.

All competitors will find a course which boasts some unique features, including many extensive man made water hazards, the most visually stunning being a multi-tiered lake with waterfalls between the approach on the ninth and 18th greens.

There are many memorable holes but perhaps one of the most noteworthy is the 16th, not a remarkable hole length-wise, but one which needs careful consideration thanks to the massive rock biting deep into the fairway which considerably narrows the landing area.

Longer hitters may be able to carry the rock but the penalty for failure must be factored into the decision of what to play from the tee. Certainly it was a dilemma Coltart thought long and hard about before coming up with the right option in the final round on his way to victory in the inaugural Championship in 1998.

“I regard the 16th as the signature hole at Doha due to the big rock and the fact it comes at a time in the round where you have to make sure your head is screwed on properly,” he said.

“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. I then knocked a sand wedge to three feet for a birdie which put me two ahead with two to play, which was a nice cushion.”

Whoever picks up the glittering ‘Mother of Pearl’ trophy at the end of this week will have, of course, conquered all 18 holes as well as a top quality field. It is fair to say he will have more than earned the handsome winners’ cheque.

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