After a thrilling first leg to the 2010 Gulf Swing that saw Europe’s leading players consolidate their presence near the summit of the Official World Golf Ranking, the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy takes centre stage this week with seven of the top 14 lining up at Doha Golf Club.
Defending champion Alvaro Quiros, 11th last week in Abu Dhabi, will be relishing the opportunity to retain his title against so many of the world’s best, led by World Number Four and Race to Dubai winner Lee Westwood and last week’s champion Martin Kaymer, who is now ranked a career-high sixth after his rousing victory over Ian Poulter in Abu Dhabi.
Having won back-to-back titles on The European Tour last year at the Open de France ALSTOM and The Barclays Scottish Open, Kaymer will be a serious contender this week as he looks to amass more crucial Ryder Cup points in his quest to qualify for Colin Montgomerie’s European Team to take on the USA at The Celtic Manor Resort in October.
“My main goal is just to play The Ryder Cup this year,” said Kaymer. “Last week was my fifth win on Tour, which is awesome. Hopefully I can do well this week and keep climbing up The Ryder Cup rankings.”
Poulter’s stirring effort saw him move into the World’s top ten for the first time in his career, and he will be joined in Doha by Number Eight Henrik Stenson and Number Nine Paul Casey along with Kenny Perry, and Sergio Garcia, ranked 13th and 14th respectively.
Stenson has proved he has the game to tame the 7,388-yard Doha Golf Club with a victory, three runner-up spots and a seventh place finish in his last five appearances.
Speaking before making a tenth consecutive appearance in the Qatari capital, Stenson said: “I know the course inside-out, which is always going to help. It's a course I really enjoy playing. I think the three courses we play in this part of the world are great and after nine years I should have a fair idea of how to play the golf course.
“Last year was as good as we’ve seen it condition-wise. The greens were really good and the rough fairly thick. It’s a fair set-up but I think scoring is normally a little bit higher than in Abu Dhabi.”
England’s Ross Fisher, currently 18th in the World Ranking, will be hoping to get his year off to the perfect start by bursting into that top 15 in what is his first appearance on the 2010 International Schedule.
While the main focus of the pre-tournament hype will naturally fall upon those in the upper echelons of the World Ranking, there are many more serious contenders in Doha this week.
Quiros aims to put up a valiant title defence over a venue that was tailor-made for a man of his prodigious power, while the South African pair of Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel should threaten the top of the leaderboard in Doha.
Quiros said: “Winning last year opened doors for me. It took me to 24th in the world and thanks to Qatar I was able to play my first full year of Majors. My other wins helped me but it’s fair to say Qatar was the last tier, the final push to get to the highest level in the world.”
Oosthuizen, second here last year alongside Stenson, has once again brought his best form to the desert after a fifth place finish in Abu Dhabi last week, while Schwartzel is looking to join three of the game’s most illustrious names with another victory this week.
Having won in each of his last two appearances on The European Tour – at the Africa Open and then the Joburg Open – Schwartzel can become only the fourth man in European Tour history to win in three consecutive appearances after Seve Ballesteros, Sir Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods.