Four-time major winner Ernie Els and two-time major champion John Daly are the latest big names to confirm their participation in the upcoming US$2.5 million Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which will be held at Doha Golf Club from 22-25 January.
The popular Els, 44, lifted the Mother of Pearl Trophy on his Doha debut in 2005 and ‘The Big Easy’ is still bidding to add to that title after returning in 2006, 2007 – when he finished third – 2009 and last year.
One of the greats of the modern game, the South African captured his fourth major at the 2012 Open Championship and last June won his 28th European Tour title at the BMW International in Germany, putting him just one trophy behind sixth-placed Ian Woosnam on the all-time list. His triumph in Germany followed a fourth-place finish in the US Open.
Els is now quietly confident of being among the main contenders in Doha, where he will be seeking to join Australian Adam Scott (2002, 2008) and Scotland’s Paul Lawrie (1999, 2012) as a two-time champion.
“I’ve always enjoyed the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters as the Middle East has beautiful weather at this time of year and I enjoy the course layout at Doha Golf Club. It’s a good challenge, but it’s also very attractive and just makes for a really relaxing environment,” said Els, who has 34 top-10 finishes in the majors.
“I won on my first appearance in Doha after playing a really good final round and I’ve come close since then, so I do think I have a chance of repeating that success if my game is on that week. The tournament always has a good field, though, so there will be a lot of competition.”
Els won his first Open Championship title in 2002, having won the US Open in 1994 and 1997, and one of his contemporaries, ‘Long John’ Daly, will be another star draw in Doha, where the American will look to build on his fourth-place finish two years ago.
Daly, 47, has been one of golf’s biggest attractions since gaining global attention with his surprise victory in the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick – where he was competing as a ninth alternate after Nick Price withdrew – and was later named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
One of the biggest hitters in golf, Daly secured his reputation as one of the game’s brightest talents by winning his second major at the 1995 Open Championship at St Andrews, the Home of Golf, when he was still only 29.
The ‘Wild Thing’ won the last of his five PGA Tour titles in 2004, but he remains one of the sport’s biggest attractions and still has the ability to turn on the style, as he showed two years ago when competing in the Qatar Masters for a second straight year.
Daly shot rounds of 67, 73 and 67 to finish behind champion Paul Lawrie and joint runners-up Jason Day and Peter Hanson in a top-quality field.
“Coming fourth at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters was one of my best results in recent seasons, so I’m excited to go back to Doha Golf Club for a third time in four years,” said Daly, who won his last European Tour title in 2001.
“Playing in Qatar is a really nice way to start the season, so I’m looking forward to playing a really good course that suits my game. I want to play well in front of the fans in Doha and hopefully surprise a few people.”
Daly has won titles all around the world, including in South Africa during his early years as a pro and the Korean Open in 2003, and in recent years has split his appearances between the PGA Tour and The European Tour.