Chris Wood returns to the scene of his finest hour bidding to become the first player to mount a successful title defence of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which marks the second leg of The European Tour’s three-part ‘Desert Swing’.
Wood claimed his maiden European Tour victory in stunning style at Doha Golf Club 12 months ago, closing with an eagle three to see off South African George Coetzee and Spaniard Sergio Garcia by a single stroke.
It was the performance of a seasoned champion rather than a 25 year old looking for his first win, and saw the Englishman realise the potential he had first displayed when finishing tied fifth in The 2008 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
Wood relived his final hole heroics for TV on Tuesday afternoon but, given the purity of all three shots, understandably he struggled to recreate the magic in full.
“I think we could be out there a while,” he joked, before heading out to the 590 yard 18th hole, which he last year tamed with a booming drive, a crisp six iron from 200 yards and a nerveless putt from 12 feet.
“I don’t think I’ll hit three better shots than that, under the circumstances. For me to beat that would be to hit three shots like that to win an Open Championship.
“There’s a lot more pressure on winning your first event on The European Tour than winning your second or third, so I was obviously very proud of how I handled that pressure.
“As soon as I arrived here, it brought back some great memories. Obviously my first win on The European Tour is always going to be special to me, and Qatar is going to always be up there as one of my favourite events.”
The fast, sloping greens at Doha Golf Club, which have been recently re-laid, and the prevailing wind, known as the Shamal, traditionally make for fiendishly tough scoring conditions.
Wood will have to master both if he is to walk away with the €305,232 winner’s cheque again, but having played his best golf when the breeze was at its sharpest 12 months ago, the boy from Bristol is confident of holding his own in a world-class field which features World Number Three Henrik Stenson, World Number 11 Garcia, World Number 13 Jason Dufner and World Number 20 Luke Donald.
Wood said: “The wind can really blow here, certainly more than it does in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. But I always seem to play well in the wind, so the harder it blows the better for me.
“The third round was the toughest day last year, the wind was definitely the strongest. I think I shot 64, something like that, which I think was the best score of the day and meant I went from being two or three shots behind at the start of the day, to three ahead at the end of the day.
“So that set me up for winning the tournament, and hopefully I can put myself in contention again this year.”