Ernie Els of South Africa conjured up another mesmerising performance to complete back to back victories in the Gulf by rallying from five strokes back overnight to land the Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club. Els closed with a best-of-the-week 65 for a 12 under par total of 276 and a one stroke victory over Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.
Last week in Dubai, Els searched deep into reserves of mental strength to produce a winning eagle on the 72nd hole of the Dubai Desert Classic. Seven days later in Qatar, the World Number Three again found the inner resolve to beat odds stacked high against him.
One week it was Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez who looked devastated after being at the sharp end of an Els assault. The next it was the turn of Stenson to be deflated by a South African juggernaut. The Swede recovered from three dropped shots on the 13th and 14th to birdie the 16th and 18th.
However his 25 foot birdie putt at the 17th somehow defied gravity and stayed above ground, as Els sat nervously in the Recorder’s Hut behind the 18th watching quietly as rival after rival dropped out of contention. His chip for eagle at the last missed the hole and with a round of 71 he finished second on his own on 277.
Els had stated the previous night that he hoped to be no more than five strokes behind Stenson at the close of play. He got his wish and quickly set about demolishing the substantial cushion the Swede had established. Even a bogey at the third could not halt his ruthless push towards the top of the leaderboard.
Four birdies on the first nine were followed by two more at the tenth and 12th. Now he had Stenson clearly in his sights, as another challenger, Richard Green of Australia, faltered. When the Swede double bogeyed the 14th after a poor drive, Els rapped in a shot birdie putt at the 16th and was suddenly two shots ahead.
As the swirling Shamaal wind grew in intensity, Stenson fought hard to birdie the 16th and 18th, agonising over the missed birdie at the 17th. He admitted sadly: “One hundredth of an inch at the 17th cost me the chance of a play-off. I was certain that putt had to go in.”
With his victory, Els became the first player on The European Tour International Schedule to win back to back tournaments since Vijay Singh captured the Carlsberg Malaysian Open and the Caltex Masters in 2001. It was also the biggest catch-up of the 2005 season as he converted a five shot deficit into a glorious triumph.
“I wanted to give myself a lower scores and as it turned out I shot low, which doesn’t normally happen. The three birdies on the bounce on the front nine were really big as the wind was beginning to blow at the time.
“I suppose I got lucky and got the win but I feel really good. I feel like my game is right there and I can’t wait to get to America. The way things are going, I look forward to playing golf.”
Victory enabled Els to extend his lead at the top of The European Tour Order of Merit with €555,286 (£382,175) while Stenson’s brave second place moved him up to seventh position on €244,629 (£168,366).
Green and Swede Pierre Fulke shared third place on 279, nine under par, after rounds of 71 and 70 respectively.