World Number Four Justin Rose of England and American World Number Nine Jason Dufner are amongst the highest-ranked players to confirm their participation in the US$2.5 million Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
The news was announced during the pre-event conference today at Doha Golf Club, where the tournament will be held from 23-26 January.
José Maria Olazábal, a 23-time European Tour winner, will also compete in Qatar, where the Spanish legend is assured of a special reception after captaining Rose and his European teammates to a spectacular comeback victory in The Ryder Cup last September.
Rose, who will join Ryder Cup colleagues Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer and defending champion Paul Lawrie in Doha, impressed on his last visit to the Middle East in November when a closing course record 62 secured a runner-up finish behind World Number One Rory McIlroy at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
The 32-year-old Englishman, also second to McIlroy in the 2012 Race to Dubai, is hoping to go one better in Qatar following a stunning season that included his first WGC title, a starring role in The Ryder Cup, his best finish in a Major and a career-high world ranking of four.
“I finished the year playing really well and I want to build on that in the Middle East. I’ll be looking to win early in the season and to win the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters would be a brilliant start and set me up well in the lead-up to the Masters,” said Rose, who last competed in Doha in 2009.
“My game’s in a good place right now and I’m playing well on all types of golf courses. I really enjoy playing desert courses like Doha Golf Club as it requires lots of imagination and shot making ability, which suits me. I believe I can win as I’ve been performing consistently for a while now.”
Rose outlasted Bubba Watson to win the WGC - Cadillac Championship last March for his fourth US PGA Tour victory in three years and fifth career title on The European Tour, where he was the leading money winner in 2007.
The father-of-two went on to impress in big events on both sides of the Atlantic, finishing joint runner-up at the BMW PGA Championship in England in May, joint-third at the US PGA Championship in August and runner-up in the Tour Championship in the US in September. In October, he won the star-studded Turkish Airlines World Golf Final, competing against the best players in the world.
Rose also stood out in The Ryder Cup, where he teamed up with Ian Poulter to win two foursomes matches and came from behind to beat Phil Mickelson in the singles, sinking long birdie putts on the final two holes to secure Europe’s fifth straight point on Sunday.
“The European Tour has such a big reach globally so the reception I’ve received throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa, where I’ve played since The Ryder Cup, has been amazing,” Rose said. “I’m really looking forward to meeting the fans in Doha as I’ve no doubt they’ll provide a fantastic atmosphere.”
Dufner, 35, is looking forward to facing Rose as he competes in Doha for the first time just four months after his Ryder Cup debut at Medinah, where he finished on the losing side despite winning three out of four points.
“However, it’s great that Justin’s playing in Doha. I’ve played practice rounds and competitive rounds with him. He’s a very skilled golfer and has come into his own with some big wins. Qatar has one big tournament a year so it’ll be good to have as many good players as possible.” said Dufner, who won twice on last year’s US PGA Tour and finished fourth on the money list with almost US$4.9 million.
An experienced traveller, Dufner finished runner-up in The European Tour’s Perth Invitational in Australia in October before competing in Malaysia and China, and is now keen to make his first visit to Qatar.
“I’m looking forward to Qatar, which looks like a good event when I’ve seen it on TV. I’ve spoken to some US Tour players and they say the Middle East tournaments are some of the better events of the year. It should be fun,” said Dufner, whose pre-shot waggle and swing have drawn comparisons to the legendary Ben Hogan.
“I’ve travelled a good bit through my golf career, from when I was on the Nationwide Tour and we played in Australia and other countries. I’ve played in Japan, in China a couple of times, Malaysia, South Africa and so on. I often travel for tournaments in the off-season, so it’s new for me to play in Doha at the beginning of the year.”
One of golf’s late bloomers, Dufner captured his first US PGA Tour title at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans last April. After getting married the following Saturday, he won again two weeks later at the HP Byron Nelson Championship to break into the world’s top 10.
“New Orleans was a good place for me because I’d played well there before (third in 2011). It was like an early wedding present and it was great to go on and get another win so soon after. It all just kind of snowballed,” said Dufner, who also lost a play-off for the US PGA Championship in 2011, the year he also finished runner-up in the Phoenix Open.
“The wins gave me a lot more confidence because that’s what I’d been working toward for so long. It was good to gain some success after hard work. It helped make any small doubts go away. It gave me the belief I could do it.”
Olazábal will be another crowd favourite in Doha after masterminding Europe’s Ryder Cup win, a crowning glory on a storied career that includes two Masters Tournament titles (1994, 1999) among a total of 23 European Tour wins, putting him eighth on the all-time list.
The 46-year-old Spaniard, who played in seven Ryder Cups, last won a Tour event in 2005 but tied for 12th in Doha last year and played well at the UBS Hong Kong Open in November, where he shot an opening 66 on his way to a tie for 15th.
Hassan Al Nuaimi, President of the Qatar Golf Association, believes the addition of Rose, Dufner and Olazábal to the field for the 16th Commercial Bank Qatar Masters will ensure a spectacular event for golf fans in Doha.
“Justin Rose and Jason Dufner are two of the world’s leading golfers, as shown by their high ranking, and both will be among the favourites to win the 16th Commercial Bank Qatar Masters,” Al Nuaimi said.
“José Maria Olazábal is a golfing great and one of The European Tour’s most successful players. He showed his inspirational character as Captain of Team Europe at The Ryder Cup in September, so he is assured of an especially warm reception at Doha Golf Club.”
Andrew Stevens, Group Chief Executive Officer of Commercial Bank of Qatar, said this year’s tournament would have a strong Ryder Cup theme in honour of one of the most memorable sporting competitions of recent years.
“We already have five players from The 2012 Ryder Cup competing in this year’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, as well as the victorious Captain, José Maria Olazábal, which will make this a special event,” Stevens said.
“We are delighted to confirm the presence of so many leading players from Europe and the US, and will be announcing more world-famous players in the coming days.”
Paul Lawrie (1999, 2012) and Adam Scott (2002, 2008) are the only two-time winners of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, while other champions include multiple Major winners Ernie Els (2005) and Retief Goosen (2007).