Stenson off to flying start

1/23/2013 6:55:00 AM
Henrik Stenson  (Getty Images)
Henrik Stenson (Getty Images)
The 2006 winner Henrik Stenson was amongst the early leaders as the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters began at Doha Golf Club in near-perfect conditions.

The 36 year old Swede turned in a three under par 33 to be part of a seven-way tie at the top, and would have led on his own but for his birdie putt at the long first, his tenth, horse-shoeing out.

In a field with no fewer than 80 European Tour winners in it there was no surprise to see a clutch of them showing the way – Dane Anders Hansen, New Zealander Michael Campbell, Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, Australian Richard Green, England’s Anthony Wall and Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez all joining Stenson on three under.

Between them the top seven had an incredible 31 European Tour victories, and they had stars including Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els chasing them in the morning session. Both the Ryder Cup star and Open Champion were one under in the early stages.

Having played 11 holes, Campbell and Hansen were furthest round – the pair sinking birdie putts of 20 and 12 feet respectively at the second to join the leading pack.

Former US Open Champion Campbell was taking more steps on the comeback trail; only six months ago the 43 year old New Zealander was not even in the Official World Golf Ranking's top 900 and had made just two halfway cuts in the best part of a year.

Then came a third-place finish at the Portugal Masters, an eighth in Hong Kong and three other top-20 finishes - the latest of them in Abu Dhabi last week.

Campbell had a bogey four at the third and Stenson was the one setting the pace by then. 

Winner of the South African Open last month - his first victory since 2009 - the Swede added further birdies at the second and fourth to reach five under.

He led by one from Wall, who covered the front nine in just 32 strokes to make the most of a calm morning on a course known for its wind.

Garcia was alongside Campbell on two under after getting up and down from just short of the green at the 589 yard 18th, but Els was one further back after bogeying the short 17th and defending champion Paul Lawrie remained level par with seven holes remaining.

Stenson could not keep his run going, bogeys at the sixth and seventh being followed by a trip to the water on the short eighth.

The former Ryder Cup player did well to limit the damage to a third successive bogey, but was three behind Wall and Scotland’s Pete Whiteford, both of whom still had seven holes to play.

Campbell rolled in a 15 foot closing birdie putt for a four under 68 and set the early clubhouse target along with Hansen.