The 2012 Open Champion Ernie Els and the two-time US Open Champion Retief Goosen will each aim to win the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters for a second time when the two South African legends compete in the tournament’s 16th edition at Doha Golf Club next week, from January 23-26.
Els, the popular four-time Major winner, lifted the Mother of Pearl Trophy on his Doha debut in 2005 and is still bidding to add to that title after returning in 2006, 2007 – when he finished third, two shots behind champion Goosen – and 2009.
One of the greats of the modern game, Els is confident of being among the main contenders in Doha next week, when the 27-time European Tour winner will be seeking to join Adam Scott (2002, 2008) and holder Paul Lawrie (1999, 2012) as a two-time champion.
“I have good memories of the Qatar Masters, especially after I won in 2005 when I played really well on the final day (shooting a 65). I enjoyed going back to Doha the next few years and also played pretty well in 2007, when I came third and Retief was champion,” said Els, a former World Number One who has spent a record 788 weeks in the top ten of the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I’ve played well over the past year and I’d certainly expect to be a contender this time. It would be great to start the year by lifting the Mother of Pearl Trophy for a second time, especially after lifting the Claret Jug for a second time last year.”
Els secured his second Open Championship last July at the age of 42, a decade after first lifting the Claret Jug and a full 18 years after winning his first Major at the US Open in 1994, a title he won again three years later. He also has six runner-up finishes up in the Majors.
Now 43, the ‘Big Easy’ is showing the form that has earned him a staggering 65 titles around the world, including 19 on the US PGA Tour and 16 on the Sunshine Tour.
Along with the The Open, Els came close to winning more titles last year but lost play-offs at the Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in the US, and finished runner-up to Ian Poulter at November’s WGC – HSBC Champions in China.
“I’m really enjoying my golf and it was really special to win The Open again,” Els said. “I was playing well going into that week and had played well at the US Open a month earlier, so I thought something special might happen. It showed everyone I can still do it at the highest level and I was close to winning more trophies last year.”
Goosen, also 43, recorded an impressive wire-to-wire win in the 2007 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, his first appearance at Doha Golf Club since competing in the first two editions in 1998 – when he finished fifth – and 1999.
Although the two-time US Open champion had to withdraw due to injury ahead of his title defence in 2008, he has competed in every event from the following year and is now preparing for his eighth appearance in Doha where he will bid to add to his 14 European Tour victories.
“I always like returning to a course where I’ve won before and it’s nice that Ernie will also be playing this year. We’ve played together in the event a few times and it’ll be good to do that again,” said Goosen, who in 2001 became the first non-European to win The European Tour money list since Greg Norman in 1982, with Els claiming the crown in 2003 and 2004.
“I’m also proud that I competed in the first edition of the tournament in 1998 and here I am 15 years later preparing to play at Doha Golf Club again. It’s a great layout, a well organised tournament and always played in front of a good crowd.”
Hassan Al Nuaimi, President of the Qatar Golf Association, is delighted that Els and Goosen are both returning to the Doha Golf Club, especially with the former as a reigning Major Champion.
“Ernie Els and Retief Goosen are past winners of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and two of golf’s truly great champions, as they have shown with their multiple Major victories. They have been two of the world’s best, most popular players for the past two decades, so we’re delighted they’re both coming back to compete this year,” Al Nuaimi said.
“It will be especially exciting to host Ernie after his thrilling Open Championship win last year. With him and current world number four Louis Oosthuizen, we have two of the three past Open Champions in our field, which is a huge attraction for spectators.”
Andrew Stevens, Group Chief Executive Officer of Commercial Bank of Qatar, is proud that the tournament continues to attract the biggest names in golf.
“It is an honour that Major winners of Ernie’s and Retief´s stature will return to compete in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in Doha,” Stevens said.
“We have a top-class international field for the 16th edition of the tournament and are looking forward to watching so many top-class players battle it out at Doha Golf Club next week.”
Els (2005), Goosen (2007) and compatriot Darren Fichardt (2003) are the three South African winners of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, while defending champion Paul Lawrie (1999, 2012) and Adam Scott (2002, 2008) are the only two-time winners.