Chris Wood returns to the scene of his maiden European Tour title brim-full of confidence this week as the Englishman tees it up at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters a week after coming agonisingly close to a fourth victory in Oman.
The towering 30 year old went toe-to-toe with his close friend Joost Luiten at the inaugural NBO Oman Open last week but just fell short as the Dutchman claimed a sixth European Tour title courtesy of a two-stroke victory.
It was a somewhat surprising return to form for Wood after a disappointing start to the 2018 campaign which yielded three missed cuts in as many appearances, but he has a spring in his step at Doha Golf Club this week having sealed a dramatic victory over Sergio Garcia among others here in 2013.
“It’s annoying that it was Joost who went and won last week,” joked the three-time winner. “It a good last day, we were both neck and neck all the way around. I thought if I broke 70 on Sunday I would have a chance and I did but Joost shot 68 and it was a great score. He’s a great mate of mine so I was pleased for him.
“It had been rough few months for me, even going into last season. I hadn’t felt like I’d played well for a while so to just find some form and also to contend again was good. You get back all the feelings that you want – there’s no doubt it’s given me a big bit of confidence heading into the rest of the year.
“I really struggled with my swing, feeling like I’ve not really been getting much out of the ball flight, it’s been quite weak and I’ve just been a bit confused with where I was at with it. It was a tough decision to change coach, changing back to my old coach back in Bristol.
“I had a good couple of weeks at home with him so I got a bit of clarity and I feel a lot better taking it out on the golf course.
“I take confidence from it because I haven’t had much of that for six months. It’s a nice time to put in a bit of a result the week before you come back to somewhere you’ve won. Whenever you come back somewhere you’ve done well or won, there’s always a little bit of confidence you take from that. Coming off the back of a decent week last week, that multiplies coming into this week, so I feel quietly confident.”
Wood, of course, has strong memories of his first victory which came in his fifth full season on the European Tour, and especially the nature of it as he wowed the crowds with a stunning eagle at the last to storm to victory.
“The way I finished the last hole to win here will always be with me,” he said. “Hitting a six-iron from over 200 yards to ten feet and holing the putt for eagle is a pretty good way to win your first event on the European Tour. That one will live long in the memory.
“I think the greens are key around here. They always putt well but the grain is very strong on them. It might take a few guys a day or two to get their eye in with the greens but I’ve been coming here for seven or eight or nine years so I’ve got an idea of how the greens work and where the grain is, what to allow for the grain and getting used to it pretty quickly, so I’d say that will be an important factor for me this week."
Julien Suri, meanwhile, makes his first European Tour appearance of the year – although not his first of the 2018 season – having played three events on home soil on the US PGA Tour.
The American is due to play three in a row, following up this week’s events with appearances at the Tshwane Open and the Hero Indian Open, and he is raring to go, especially after a brush with greatness when playing in a group ahead of Tiger Woods.
He said: “The way my schedule worked out I played three events in the US and needed a few days at home to work on some things and then I knew I was going to play in India and that it would be nice to play a couple before that, and I’d heard great things about this place so here I am.
“I had a great start to the season in Hong Kong, coming close there and then had a bit of time off at home. Then I had a little bit of a rib injury so I really only had about a week to practice before my first tournament in the USA.
“Considering that and the fact I played three weeks in a row, I feel like I did pretty well. I made the cut in two of the three events and it was really good to just experience that atmosphere at the weekends, with all of the people out there.
“In the first one out, on the Saturday I played just in front of Tiger Woods which was pretty awesome. To see the thousands of people on every hole, it was a pretty cool experience that you really couldn’t simulate, you’ve just got to be thrown into it.”