World Number Five Louis Oosthuizen is quietly confident he can finally lift the Mother of Pearl Trophy at the end of this week's US$2.5 million Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which will tee off at Doha Golf Club on Wednesday.
Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open Champion, won the first European Tour event of the year at the Volvo Golf Champions in Durban then remained in his native South Africa last week to practise before arriving in Doha on Sunday night.
Ahead of his eighth appearance in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, Oosthuizen is relishing the pressure that comes with being one of the world's top players as he bids to go one better than in 2009, when he finished runner-up to Alvaro Quiros at Doha Golf Club.
"Being one of the favourites does bring a bit of pressure, but it's a good opportunity. That's what the hard work is for, so you can come to the event knowing you're one of the favourites to win, knowing your game's there and your swing's there and feels good," said Oosthuizen, who first competed in Qatar in 2004.
"It's nice being back here. I played nine holes earlier and the golf course looks really good. I'm looking forward to the week and hopefully I can keep the form going. I always love coming to the Middle East. I tend to play well here and I love the golf courses."
Oosthuizen soared up the World Ranking last year, as wins in the Africa Open and Maybank Malaysian Open on the European Tour helped him finish a career-best third in the Race to Dubai behind Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, who is also in the field this week.
Oosthuizen recorded a series of high finishes around the world, including playoff losses at the Masters Tournament at Augusta National and the Barclays Singapore Open.
After returning home for Christmas, his new season started off with a flyer in Durban when he shot a closing 66 to win his first tournament of the year for the third straight season.
"I always want to start the year with a good tournament and for the last three years I've managed to win the first one, so hopefully it will continue. It's a perfect start to any season. It gets the confidence up and gets you ready for the next one. It helps you get going again, especially after a win like that," said Oosthuizen, who won the Africa Open in 2011 and 2012.
"I'm ready for the season now and hopefully I can keep that form and take it onwards. Any win early in the season gets your confidence really high. I feel like I'm swinging it really well at the moment and making the odd long putt. This week the greens are really big and I think we'll have a lot of birdie opportunities, so the longer putts will be crucial."
Oosthuizen moved to World Number Four after his win in Durban and only dropped back to five after Rose leapfrogged him following his runner-up finish in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Oosthuizen has cited Rose and World Number 11 Jason Dufner, a two-time winner on last year's US PGA Tour, as two of the top contenders at Doha Golf Club this week.
"You don't really have to say anything more about Justin. The Ryder Cup and the win against Mickelson was very special. He's a great player and played really well in Abu Dhabi last week," said Oosthuizen, who will play the first two rounds with Rose and Martin Kaymer, the former World Number One.
"Justin's a great player and you know he's going to be up there on leaderboards. Jason's a great player as well. He's such a consistent player on the PGA Tour and I think he'll do really well on this golf course."
Oosthuizen missed last year's Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, when high winds shortened the event to 54 holes, but is well aware how challenging the course becomes when the wind gets up.
"The moment the wind gets up the course becomes very tough," he said. "The course changes completely when the wind blows and the scoring is not that low."
The six-time European Tour winner welcomed this year's change to a Wednesday start, which is designed to attract more golf fans to Doha Golf Club for the final two rounds on Friday and Saturday.
"I think everyone will be interested to see what it will feel like, having a Saturday finish. It's great for the event to have a few more people out there watching on the Friday and Saturday. It's going to be different, but all the players are very focused. You've seen a lot more players here on a Monday, as if this was a Tuesday. The mind-set is already there."
Looking ahead, Oosthuizen revealed strong ambitions to climb further up the World Ranking and has even targeted top spot, although he thinks it's unlikely he'll reach it this year.
"I want to climb up the World Ranking to Number One if I can, but I always take it slowly and see how my game is. I never try to set goals that I know is too tough to achieve or out of my reach. I feel like I've got a good shot at getting to Number Two at least by the end of the year. I'll need to work hard on my game to get there and stay there, and then reduce the gap with me and Rory," he said.
"You can't see him not winning Majors in the next three to four years. The rest of us need to do something special to catch him. But if you can apply a bit of pressure by winning a Major or two, you never know. He's a great player and I don't see him moving from that position quickly."
Oosthuizen is seeking to join compatriots Retief Goosen (2007), Ernie Els (2005) and Darren Fichardt (2003) as a winner at Doha Golf Club.
Paul Lawrie (1999, 2012) and Adam Scott (2002, 2008) are the only two-time winners of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, while other champions include multiple Major winners Ernie Els (2005) and Retief Goosen (2007).