Paul Lawrie will launch his defence of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters alongside ever-popular Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Open Champion Ernie Els when the first round gets under way at Doha Golf Club on Wednesday.
Lawrie, whose victory at the 2012 Qatar Masters went a long way in securing the Scot a second Ryder Cup berth at Medinah Country Club last season, is looking to become the first player to win the title on three occasions – 14 years after first lifting the Mother of Pearl Trophy in 1999.
At 0735 local time on Wednesday, the Aberdonian will tee it up with Garcia – making his first start of the 2013 season – who retains an excellent record in the event having finished inside the top ten in four of his last five outings on the Championship Course at Doha’s famed golf club, and Els, who captured victory at the Qatar Masters in 2005.
There is also a mouth-watering group directly before the defending champion’s marquee offering, as Sweden’s Peter Hanson – tied second last year as Lawrie romped to victory – plays alongside one of last week’s runners-up in Abu Dhabi, Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen and 2011 Qatar Masters champion Thomas Björn.
Later in the morning, the World Numbers Four and Five in Justin Rose and Louis Oosthuizen respectively tee off together at 1155, the Englishman having also narrowly missed out on what would have been a wire-to-wire victory at Abu Dhabi Golf Club after an inspired last day performance from Jamie Donaldson and Oosthuizen, who claimed the first event of the year at the Volvo Golf Champions in his native South Africa two weeks ago. Their three-ball is completed by Germany’s Martin Kaymer, who has made his name as somewhat of a desert specialist in his already-glittering career.
In the group ahead, four-time 2012 sensation Branden Grace will play the first two rounds with Italy’s Matteo Manassero and American Ryder Cup star Jason Dufner, making his debut appearance at the Qatar Masters.
Leader of the embryonic 2013 Race to Dubai after a scintillating start to the season, Scott Jamieson travels to Doha having followed up his maiden European Tour win at the Nelson Mandela Championship in December with a tied third at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and a second place at the Volvo Golf Champions.
Perhaps tellingly, with eyes on Gleneagles in 2014, the Scot will take to the Championship Course alongside the newly-appointed European Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley, while the third member of the group is 2012 Challenge Tour winner Kristoffer Broberg.
John Parry, winner of the 2012 Qualifying School Final Stage, will strike the first tee shot in the 16th edition of the Qatar Masters at 0635 on Wednesday morning.