This week sees the 22nd edition of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, a tournament that has proven to be a bellwether event - with European Tour records broken, and an elite collection of past champions.
A true test
Designed by Peter Harradine and opened in 1997, Doha Golf Club has been the host venue of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters every year since it was first played in 1998.
Located in Al Egla, a northern district of the capital city, Doha Golf Club is part of the first wave of grass golf courses to have been built in the Middle East. Playing a healthy 7,400 yards, it has proven to be an appealing test, with some of the game’s biggest names winning the title.
A sign of things to come
Paul Lawrie will look to become the first three-time winner of this event when he tees it up in Doha this week, and should he triumph, it could be a very good omen for the 50-year-old Scot.
Lawrie first etched his name on the trophy in February 1999 - five months before he tasted Major glory, winning The Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Links.
Over a decade later, in 2012, Lawrie triumphed again in Qatar - lifting the trophy in the early part of the year for a second time. The end of the season proved, once again, to be filled with excitement and drama as he secured qualification for the European Ryder Cup team with a win at the Johnnie Walker Championship. Helping his team storm back on the final day, Lawrie secured a critical point in the Sunday Singles as part of the ‘Miracle at Medinah’.
The cream has a tendency to rise to the top at Doha Golf Club. Of the players who have navigated their way to victory at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, six of them have won Major Championships in their careers. In addition to Lawrie, other players who have won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and also lifted Major silverware are Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Retief Goosen and Sergio Garcia. Could big things be in store for this week’s champion?
In the history of Doha Golf Club, and indeed, the history of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, no player has been able to replicate or surpass Adam Scott’s final round from 2008. The Australian began the closing day three shots off the pace in a tie for fifth, but a stunning 11 under par final round of 61 gave him his second victory in the event, following his 2002 triumph.
Only four players have gone lower than 61 in the final round of a European Tour event, with all recording rounds of 60 – Ian Woosnam at the 1990 Torras Monte Carlo Open, Jamie Spence at the 1992 Canon European Masters, Rafa Cabrera Bello at the 2009 Austrian Golf Open and Brandon Stone at last year’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
Tied, tied, tied at the top
During the 2017 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, a total of nine players shared the lead after two rounds– a European Tour record that still stands today. Tied on eight under par heading into the weekend were Thomas Aiken, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jorge Campillo, Bradley Dredge, Nacho Elvira, Mikko Korhonen, Andy Sullivan, Jaco van Zyl and Jeunghun Wang.
Ultimately, it was South Korean Wang who outlasted the other contenders when he sealed victory with a birdie on the first play-off hole to collect his third European Tour title.