After Jamie Donaldson’s thrilling victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship last week, another strong field has made the short journey west to the Qatari capital city of Doha for the 2013 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. Ahead of the Wednesday start, europeantour.com puts the spotlight on five men to watch out for in Part Two of The European Tour’s annual Desert Swing.
This week will also mark the second in the latest European Tour Fantasy Race 2013 so be sure to keep this quintet in mind when you register your team for this season's game, and with weekly, monthly and season-long prizes up for grabs, as well as the all-new Top Ten Challenge, there is sure to be plenty to play for this year.
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Despite his Ryder Cup-winning heroics last September, when the German sunk the six foot putt that ensured Europe retained the priceless trophy at Medinah Country Club, Martin Kaymer has been without a personal triumph since capturing the WGC-HSBC Champions in the autumn of 2011. The ten-time European Tour champion and former World Number One has serious pedigree, though, and has shown signs in recent times of getting back to his prodigious best, not least last week in Abu Dhabi, where the Dusseldorf man shot a three under par 69 in the final round on Sunday to finish in a share of sixth place. Having played the Qatar Masters on five previous occasions, Kaymer will also have good memories of last year, when he finished in a tie for ninth – his highest finish in the event. He was in philosophical mood post-Abu Dhabi but knows his game his heading in the right direction; maybe this could be the week he breaks his win drought? “I played better and hit more fairways in general, had a lot of good chances but hit a lot of edges, so overall, it was okay and it gets me ready for the next couple weeks,” said Kaymer. “Hopefully I can make a better start on Wednesday and be in with a chance again.”
Another man seemingly on the comeback trail after a series of injury woes is England’s Paul Casey. Since breaking his collarbone in a snowboarding fall in December 2011, Casey has struggled to regain the form that saw him climb as high as Number Three in the Official World Golf Ranking in 2009, but the 11-time European Tour winner’s form looks on the up: he has not finished outside of the top 23 in his last six starts on The European Tour. Casey has started his 2013 season with a tied 18th finish at the Volvo Golf Champions in Durban South Africa, followed by a tied 23rd in the star-studded Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship last week in the United Arab Emirates. He missed the 2012 edition of the Qatar Masters while recuperating from his injury, but can call on the good memories of a fifth place finish in 2010 when he tees it up this week in his sixth appearance at Doha Golf Club.
Still without a European Tour victory despite two second place finishes – at last year’s ISPS Handa Perth International and the WGC-HSBC Champions – American Ryder Cup star Jason Dufner last week said he may well consider taking out a European Tour Membership in the near future. The 35 year old, who this week makes his debut appearance at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, finished in a tie for ninth place in Abu Dhabi and said last week he was enamoured by The European Tour and its varied riches: “I think it makes you a better player to come over here and experience golf in different places and compete against different players and on different golf courses. You don’t get too many events with lots of guys playing who in the top 50 in the world, which is the case here in Abu Dhabi and Qatar. To come out and play and increase the strength of the field is a great thing for the game of golf.” With two victories on the US PGA Tour and having reveled in the pressure-cooker environment of his Ryder Cup debut, Dufner is certainly amongst the favourites to do well in Qatar.
Qatar Masters champion in 2007, when the great South African triumphed with a score of 15 under par, Retief Goosen made his European Tour comeback two weeks ago at the Volvo Golf Champions after four months out following back surgery last August. ‘The Goose’, who had a troublesome disk removed after the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, placed tied 20th in his native South Africa and will this year be hoping to better the 45th places he has consecutively claimed in The Race to Dubai. As a previous winner at Doha Golf Club, perhaps the two-time Major Champion is ready to step back into the winner’s enclosure…
Widely regarded as one of the most promising up-and-comers on The European Tour, Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen claimed his first professional victory at the 2012 Sicilian Open en route to a 15th place finish in The Race to Dubai. Last year was only his second full season on The European Tour, having amassed three runner-up finishes in a superb rookie season in 2011. The 23 year old has shown no signs of letting up as he begins his 2013 campaign. After starting the year with a 31st place at the Volvo Golf Champions in Durban, Olesen missed out on a play-off at last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship by the narrowest of margins, when the birdie putt that would have seen the contest go to sudden-death with eventual winner Donaldson slipped by on the 18th hole. Already riding high at fifth in the embryonic Race to Dubai table, this could be well be Thorbjørn Olesen’s year, as he vies to go one better than last week.