By Nick Totten, europeantour.com
Just 12 months ago the tallest man on The European Tour was left looking down on the rest, arms aloft, and cradling the stunning mother of pearl trophy awarded to the king pin in Qatar at the end of 72 holes. His eagle at the 18th hole secured a maiden title and was the latest highlight in a reel of exemplary play over the years, so europeantour.com dusted off the history books and took a look at the life and times of the Commercialbank Qatar Masters at Doha GC.
In a year when France beat Brazil in the World Cup Final, Titanic became the biggest grossing movie of all time, and Colin Montgomerie claimed the sixth of seven European Tour Order of Merit tiles in a row, 1998 also saw Andrew Coltart claim victory at the inaugural event in Qatar.
Not only was it the Scot’s maiden win, but it was the first time that the golfing world got to feast their eyes on the stunning trophy awarded to the man at the head of affairs come the end of four rounds.
Gleaming gold, the stunning clam shell – mouth wide open – shows off the pearl held within, a treasure reserved for only the best that week, and no doubt harking back to a time when fishing and pearl diving were the sovereign Arab state’s economic foundation.
Coltart was the first to have his name inscribed upon this desert jewel, and the list of those that followed subsequently now reads like a who’s who of world golf over the past 16 years.
Lawrie would taste desert delight a second time in 2012, one of only two men to win the title on multiple occasions, after Adam Scott finished top in 2002 and 2008. The second of those victories came in emphatic style too, with the Australian rallying from three shots back entering the final round to claim the sixth of nine European Tour titles thanks to a superb round of 61.
Those hailing from the southern hemisphere have, in fact, fared well in the Doha heat over the years, particularly those from the African continent with three South Africans and a Zimbabwean having had their own success.
The latter of which, Tony Johnstone, followed Rolf Muntz in 2001 as the next victor in Qatar, while Darren Fichardt (2003), Ernie Els (2005) and Retief Goosen (2007) have also all been first past the post.
Scandinavia has had its successes over the years too, with Joakim Haeggman getting the ball rolling in 2004, before fellow Swede Henrik Stenson followed suit two years later, while Robert Karlsson in 2010 and Thomas Bjorn some 12 months hence helped round out a Nordic quartet.
Throw in a Spaniard, the big hitting Alvaro Quiros, of course, and last year’s winner, Wood, and you have a roll of honour that is up there with the best.
Over the years the Qatar Masters has matured, much like the sport in the region, and now acts as the second leg in a golfing triple that attracts the greatest players in the world every January.
Low scores are often the order of the day, or in this case four, for anyone wanting to hold aloft the iconic trophy in Doha, with an average under par total of 16 under.
A fitting number as the tournament enters its 17th year, and in that time no one has been more than 20 strokes under the card, with Lawrie the first to set that bar in 1999, before Scott nine years later.
At the other end of the scale is Muntz, who still remains the only man to win this title having finished single digits under par, in this case, eight.
That year the wind blew, and it has a habit of doing that in Doha, on a course that measures a daunting 7,400 yards long and is surrounded by vast expanses of flat desert, in a country whose highest peak is a mere 338 feet above sea level.
Now established as one of The European Tour’s big early season draws, this year will see another top field tasked with taking the spoils – and that trophy – this week at Doha GC, and you will be able to follow all of the action courtesy of our #ETLiveBlog from Wednesday morning to Saturday afternoon, as well as via our iPhone app, and on all of your favourite social media channels.