Four-time major winner Ernie Els, 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and rising star Branden Grace will lead the South African charge in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which will be held at Doha Golf Club from January 21-24.
Defending champion Sergio Garcia and Ryder Cup teammates Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Thomas Bjørn and Stephen Gallacher are among the stars previously confirmed for the 18th edition of the event.
Els, 45, lifted the Mother of Pearl Trophy on his tournament debut in 2005, and ‘The Big Easy’ is still bidding to add to that title after returning to Doha in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2014. Retief Goosen (2007) and Darren Fichardt (2003) are the only other South Africans to have won the title.
One of the greats of the modern game, Els captured his fourth major at the 2012 Open Championship and has won 28 European Tour titles, putting him just one trophy behind sixth-placed Ian Woosnam on the all-time list. Els won his first Open Championship title in 2002, having won the US Open in 1994 and 1997.
“It’s always fun playing on courses where you’ve won and played well. I feel like I’m due a good result at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and the Doha Golf Club is a great venue, a top golf course and attracts nice crowds,” said Els, who finished third in 2007.
“It’s nice to start the year in the Middle East and I always get a good reception in Qatar. I know there’s a very strong field this year with many of Europe’s Ryder Cup players, so Charl, Branden and myself will do our best to provide another South African champion.”
Schwartzel, who tied for seventh at last year’s Open Championship, has won nine times on The European Tour and is the circuit’s third-most successful South African behind Els and Goosen.
Schwartzel is currently his country’s top-ranked player and will compete at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters for the eighth time, but the first since 2010. The 30-year-old has finished in the top-25 in his past six attempts, including a third in 2008, and is looking forward to tackling the Peter Harradine-designed layout.
Grace, who won four times on the 2012 European Tour, will compete at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters for a fourth straight year and is looking to build on finishing sixth and 13th in his last two appearances.
“I’m a big fan of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and I’ve had a couple of good performances in the last two years, so I want to improve on that after winning again in South Africa,” Grace said.
“Golf is all about confidence and obviously lifting a trophy again will kick-start another good season on The European Tour, so I’ll be wanting to get off to a fast start in Qatar against a very strong field. I’m happy that Ernie and Charl will be among the South Africans and hopefully one of us can lift the trophy.”
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