Ernie Els, winner of a dramatic Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday, continues his Gulf expedition this week when he makes his first appearance in the Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club with his sights trained on back to back victories.
The South African, who eagled the final hole at the Emirates Golf Club to wrench the title from Miguel Angel Jiménez of Spain, is the highest ranked player in the world to have played in the country since the event was launched in 1998.
The Qatar Masters will be joint-sanctioned between The European Tour and the Asian Tour for the first time and Els is excited at the prospect of challenging Asia’s top players including the current Asian Tour Number One, and European Tour Member, Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand.
The 35 year old goes in search of the gleaming Mother of Pearl Trophy and said: “While I have never played previously in Qatar, I have heard very good things about the Doha Golf Club and I am really looking forward to playing there and meeting Qatar Golf Association president Hasan al-Nuaimi and everyone else who have done so much to develop this tournament.”
Welshman Stephen Dodd, who played with great control to get within a shot of victory in Dubai, is also in the field and looking for another victory to add to the Volvo China Open title he won last November.
This will be the eighth edition of the tournament, which boasts a field with four Major Champions as a host of European Tour winners. In addition to Els, winner of two US Open Championships and The Open Championship in 2002, also competing are Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and Sandy Lyle and Welshman Ian Woosnam, who boast two Masters Green Jackets and two Opens between them.
Woosnam, the new European Ryder Cup Captain for 2006, is joined in the line-up by Irishman, Paul McGinley, who sank the winning putt in the 2002 Match at The De Vere Belfry.
Joakim Haeggman secured victory in the Qatar Masters last season as he ended a seven year wait to pick up the third European Tour title of his career. The 35 year old Swede defends his title at Doha GC as the 150 strong field do battle for the US$1,500,000 prize fund.
Other past champions are Lawrie, fellow Scot Andrew Coltart, Rolf Muntz of The Netherlands and South African Darren Fichardt.