Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup Team from The De Vere Belfry last year is strongly represented at the sixth Qatar Masters as Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Phillip Price make the short hop from Dubai to Doha this week.
All three rode the crest of a wave last September – Harrington capturing two points out of four, McGinley sinking the winning putt and Price securing a massive victory over Phil Mickelson - and have carried that form into the 2003 season, in which Harrington has already won the BMW Asian Open.
That prominent trio are joined by eight other players who have represented Europe at Ryder Cup level, two past champions of the Qatar Masters and the current Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year. In all, a total of 43 European Tour champions will tee up in Doha.
The stunning Doha Golf Club has become a magnet for many leading players, including 1991 Masters Tournament winner Ian Woosnam, past winners Tony Johnstone and Rolf Muntz and last season’s leading rookie, Nick Dougherty, who finished joint runner-up 12 months ago.
Muntz became the first Dutch champion on The European Tour International Schedule by capturing the Qatar Masters in 2000 and was succeeded by Zimbabwe’s Johnstone, who managed to tame the famous Shamal wind which frequently sweeps across Doha’s rugged terrain and makes a tough test even more strenuous.
Apart from the three Ryder Cup heroes from 2002, other Ryder Cup players in the field are Peter Baker, Paul Broadhurst, Ignacio Garrido, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Barry Lane, Costantino Rocca, Jarmo Sandelin and Woosnam.
Dougherty produced a superb effort last year, shooting four rounds in the sixties to tie Jean-Francois Remesy for second place behind Australia’s Adam Scott, a performance which helped him secure the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award.
The 20 year old from Merseyside said: “I played great last year and I love the course. It suits me and I think it’s going to be a great event.”
"I have made a lot of progress since I turned professional and this might be the week I win. I am looking forward to it immensely.”
Doha Golf Club is a green oasis in the middle of the desert- complete with 10,000 different types of plants, shrubs and trees, eight artificial lakes and the outstanding championship course located in the West Bay Lagoons near the capital of Qatar.