Ryder Cup star Paul Lawrie will this week bid to become the first player to win the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters three times when the 16th edition of the US$2.5million event is held at Doha Golf Club.
Lawrie, who played his part in Europe’s thrilling Ryder Cup triumph at Medinah Country Club, first captured the title in 1999 – the same year as his Open Championship triumph at Carnoustie – before repeating the feat 13 years later.
Lawrie’s four stroke win over Australia’s Jason Day and Sweden’s Peter Hanson last year lifted him back into the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since 2003, and the World Number 31 has since maintained his place amongst the game’s elite.
Other than Lawrie, only Australian Adam Scott – in 2002 and 2008 – has won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on more than one occasion; and despite the presence in the field of World Numbers Four and Five, Justin Rose and Louis Oosthuizen, the Scot is confident of lifting the Mother of Pearl trophy for a third time.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to going back – Qatar is a place that I’ve always enjoyed playing. The golf course just seems to suits me. The greens always roll really well, and I can control my ball reasonably well in the wind most of the time.
“From the first day I got there, I felt comfortable. Obviously I won in 1999, then played well for the next few years. I think I’ve probably played the tournament 12 or 13 times and have missed the cut once or twice, so I’ve got a pretty decent record overall.
“The course just suits my eye. I quite like it off the tee and the way the course is shaped. It’s quite a firm course and the wind often picks up, so they’re the sort of conditions I normally thrive on, which probably explains why I’ve won twice.
“I putted well for both of my victories, which obviously you have to do in order to win golf tournaments. And I think I was 100 per cent for up and downs the first year I won. My short game is always the key and it was good there last year, too. So if I can get it going round the greens this time, hopefully I’ll give myself a decent chance again.”
If he is to achieve his aim, Lawrie will have to overcome a field which includes two players in fine form, Oosthuizen and Rose.
For the third successive calendar year Oosthuizen started with a victory when he reeled in Scott Jamieson to win the Volvo Golf Champions in Durban by a single stroke a fortnight ago.
Rose came agonisingly close to following Oosthuizen into the winners’ enclosure in Abu Dhabi last week, but ultimately had to settle for a share of second place after missing a birdie putt on the last hole which would have forced a play-off.
The duo will be joined at Doha Golf Club by World Number 11 Jason Dufner of America, World Number 19 Sergio Garcia of Spain, and a host of Major Champions including South Africans Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, both former winners in Qatar, a rejuvenated New Zealander Michael Campbell and Germany’s Martin Kaymer, who finished in a tie for sixth place in Abu Dhabi last week.