World Number Three Lee Westwood heads seven of the world’s top twenty players who have gathered in Doha for the 15th staging of the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy, which gets on Thursday (February 2).
The $2.5 million tournament – the second in the region’s now established ‘Desert Swing’ – will see defending champion Thomas Bjorn aiming to become the first player to retain the Mother of Pearl trophy in the face of a formidable challenge from a clutch of European Tour stars and visiting big guns from the US PGA Tour.
But while the field also includes ten Major winners and no fewer than 91 European Tour winners, it’s Qatar’s notorious desert winds which could prove to be the biggest threat over Doha Golf Club’s challenging 7,414-yard course.
Predicted sandy gusts of up to 55kmph over the weekend will again underline the course’s reputation as the most challenging on the Middle East circuit – although World Number 13 KJ Choi appears calm before the storm.
The TPC Champion is making his first appearance in Doha and, over a course renowned for its biting breeze, Choi (below right) will use all the experience gained from playing at home in Dallas to take on any desert storm.
“When I practice at my home course, the Woodlands in Dallas, the wind blows at 20 to 30mph, so I'm able to predict at what speed the wind is blowing just by looking at the pins and how much they stand when the wind blows,” he said. “For me, I'm able to hit my draws and fade shots depending on how strong the wind is.”
The 41 year-old was one of the first of the many big names to take to the course for some pre-tournament practice today (Tuesday).
Also in action were Westwood, former Major winners John Daly and Paul Lawrie, 2009 Commercialbank Qatar Masters winner Alvaro Quiros, World Number Ten Jason Day and Spanish stars Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Organised by the Qatar Golf Association (QGA) in collaboration with the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) and title sponsor The Commercial Bank of Qatar, the tournament hosts the customary pre-event Pro-Am today (Wednesday).
Among the pros will be Hunter Mahan, the US Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup star who will be another first timer playing in Doha. “I’m excited at the opportunity of playing in Qatar,” he said.
“It’s my first trip to the Middle East and I would be so excited to win the Commercialbank Qatar Masters – it’s one of the great events in world golf. I would be so honoured to be the first American to win here and it’s certainly my goal and what I am here to do. But the field is so strong and I know it will be a great competition.”
As well as world class golf, visitors to the tournament will be able to enjoy trick shot displays, golfing clinics and a variety of entertainment options in the Tournament Public Village.
Spectators looking to enjoy the action can buy tickets now at Doha Golf Club and the Marriott Courtyard with daily tickets priced at QR50, while a season ticket costs QR175, including live nightly entertainment from Billy Ocean, The Beat and Arrested Development in the Tournament Public Village.