Commercialbank Qatar Masters

Dufner, Garcia Impressed by State of Championship Course

Dufner makes first appearance at tourney, seventh straight for Garcia

World Number 11 Jason Dufner is hoping to leave the Middle East a winner as he prepares for his tournament debut at the US$2.5 million Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which tees off at Doha Golf Club on Wednesday.

Dufner, 35, tied for ninth in his first appearance in Abu Dhabi last week and the American star is now focused on recording his first European Tour victory following his breakthrough season last year, when he won his first and second titles on the US PGA Tour.

"I've seen a lot of golf out here on television. It seems very similar to what we see in the States out in the desert in Phoenix or Palm Springs or Tucson, and it has been a little bit different than I thought," Dufner said.

"Last week I played decent, had a good day on Sunday and moved up the leaderboard a little bit. The travel is tough from the States, that's the hardest thing, but I'm getting adjusted to the time change and feeling a little better.

"Now I'm looking forward to just continuing to play well and I'd like to try to win one of these two events over here, so this is my last chance. I'm ready."

During his short time in Doha, Dufner has been impressed by the 7,374-yard links-style Championship Course designed by Peter Harradine, which has hosted the event since its inaugural edition in 1998. However, he admits the course poses a variety of challenges compared to desert layouts in the US.

"I had never seen this golf course before, so I had to do some practise and figure out a strategy by trying to play some holes and see what may work, what might not work, so that I can shoot some low scores," Dufner said.

"It's a very good golf course. It has good variety from tee to green, but the green complexes are quite large and a little bit tricky, so getting the ball close to hole locations might be a challenge.

"Last week the fairways were a good bit narrower than we have in desert golf in the States. It's the same case here, the rough is up a little bit and it's a fairly long golf course. I've heard the wind can be pretty tough, so if the wind picks up it could be quite a challenge."

Dufner is impressed by quality of the 126-player field, which is headlined by World Number Four Justin Rose and World Number Five Louis Oosthuizen, both competing off the back of impressive recent results.

"Justin and Louis are ranked very high, which means they've had good form for the last two years or so. Louis has been playing some great golf over the last three or four months. Justin was close to winning last week and Louis is not too far removed from winning in Durban, so obviously their games are good and it's going to be tough to compete with players of their level," Dufner said.

"When you have higher‑ranked players in events like this, it broadens the horizons of the tournament, brings notice to the tournament and gets the local folk encouraged about the game of golf. It's good for me to experience the world playing in different locations, playing a different field, and I think it's good for the game of golf."

Reigning Open Champion Ernie Els, former World Number One Martin Kaymer and popular Spaniard Sergio are also in the field.

Garcia, 33, has chosen to start his season in Doha, where he has enjoyed a series of high finishes and even appeared in the second edition in 1999 when he was only 19. The six-time Ryder Cup representative tied for fifth last year for his fourth top-10 finish in six straight appearances so is keen to again be in the mix on Saturday.

"It's been a nice place to start the year for me. I haven't been able to win here, but I've had some good success here, a good amount of top-10 finishes. I enjoy the course. It usually plays quite difficult, a little breezy, so it's a good week to start the year and hopefully we'll get it going this year again," said Garcia, who cited defending champion Paul Lawrie as a likely contender.

"Everybody's got a chance here and Paul obviously played very well last year, so he's very happy about this place. We'll see how things turn out. There's a good, strong field this week, so I'll try to give it a good performance and hopefully I'll come good on Saturday."