After Pablo Larrazábal’s triumph in Abu Dhabi, The European Tour’s ‘desert swing’ moves to Qatar this week for the 17th edition of the Commercialbank Qatar Masters.
Ten of the World’s Top 50 players are in action at Doha Golf Club, with the strong international field including eight Major Champions.
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, the World Number Three and winner in Qatar eight years ago, will be targeting a quick return to the kind of form that resulted in him being crowned The 2013 Race to Dubai champion, having missed the cut last week – the first time he has missed a European Tour cut since the 2012 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Also in action is World Number 11 Sergio Garcia, former World Number Ones Luke Donald, Ernie Els and Martin Kaymer, and reigning US PGA Champion Jason Dufner, who makes his second appearance in the tournament after finishing tied ninth 12 months ago.
Defending champion Chris Wood also returns, after the Englishman produced a stunning finish 12 months ago to hold off Garcia and South African George Coetzee by one stroke.
Wood had trailed the pair by a shot heading to the final hole, but a magnificent 202-yard six iron approach shot over the water finished ten feet from the hole, and he holed the putt to claim his maiden European Tour title.
The approach shot was voted the European Tour’s Shot of the Month last January and meant Wood finally got his hands on some silverware following three runner-up finishes and 19 top-tens previously on The European Tour.
Wood’s victory helped him finish inside the top 30 on the 2013 Race to Dubai and qualify for the Seve Trophy by Golf+, and he looks back on it as a significant moment in his fledgling career.
“It’s amazing how quickly the defence has come around and it is going to be a new experience for me,” said the 26 year old. “It’s one of our best tournaments on Tour and the course obviously suits me, so I’m really looking forward to going back.
“I remember a lot from the week. I think you will always remember your first win. I took a lot of confidence and belief from that win. Finally crossing that line, after four years, I now feel I can perform consistently.”
So far Scotland’s Paul Lawrie is one of only two men to win this title more than once - alongside Australia’s Adam Scott - lifting the Mother of Pearl trophy in both 1999 and 2012.
Another former champion, Thomas Björn, is among the in-form players heading into the week. The Dane is the current leader of The Race to Dubai and heads to Qatar on the back of his victory in the Nedbank Golf Challenge last month and back-to-back top ten finishes in the Volvo Golf Champions and last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.