The European Tour moves from Oman to Qatar for the 23rd edition of the Qatar Masters but we're at a brand-new venue this year. Our man has the lowdown here ahead of Thursday's start...
"All 22 previous winners have played in the week before they won. A high finish doesn’t appear imperative at all but an appearance does."
Scotland's Andrew Coltart won the first edition of the Qatar Masters back in 1998 so this will be the 23rd edition. It used to be the middle leg of the original Middle East Swing, staged in January sandwiched between two higher profile events in the Abu Dhabi Championship and the Dubai Desert Classic. But since the inception of last week's event, the Oman Open, two years ago, the Qatar Masters has been pushed back in the schedule and the field quality has suffered as a result.
Education City Golf Club, Doha, Qatar
Par 71, 7,307 yards
After more than 20 years at Doha Golf Club, the tournament moves across town to a brand-new venue for the first time. Yippee, said not one single golf punter.
I've enjoyed lots of success in this event and that's because I had a nice feel for the previous venue. Hopefully we'll be back in the future but for this year at least, we get to check out the Jose Maria Olazabal-designed Education City.
Information about the new venue is typically scant but Andy Swales has taken a look here.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 7:30 Thursday morning (UK time)
Last Five Winners
2019 - Justin Harding -13
2018 - Eddie Pepperell -18
2017 - Jeunghun Wang -16 (playoff)
2016 - Branden Grace -14
2015 - Branden Grace -19
What Will it Take to Win the Qatar Masters?
There's absolutely no point in analysing the stats at a different venue but given the tournament's being staged in the same city, we can obviously expect the same weather conditions as we've previously experienced and, yet again, we look set for wind to be a factor.
It's not going to be too bad if the forecasts are correct but there will be an ever-present breeze all week, with the only significant drop in the wind coming on Friday morning. A good omen for those drawn PM-AM possibly?
Is There an Angle In?
We don't have anything to go on statistically but we do have a couple of solid looking angles in. Playing last week in Oman looks like it was essential.
I was quite keen on the chances of the 2018 winner, Eddie Pepperell, who didn't get to defend at Doha as he played in the Arnold Palmer Invitational instead last year, but he does tee it up this week, despite not playing in Oman due to fears over the coronavirus, and that looks like being a significant handicap.
All 22 previous winners have played in the week before they won. Last year's victor, Justin Harding, had missed the cut in Oman and of the nine players tied for second 12 months ago, only the high-class Erik Van Rooyen hadn't teed it up the week before. Of the eight to finish tied second, like Harding, three had missed the cut in Oman, four had finished down the field in 27th, 40th, 56th and 67th and Jorge Campillo was the only player in the top-ten to have performed well in Oman. He'd finished second there also. And it was a very similar tale 12 months earlier as the seven players to finish inside the top-five and ties in Qatar all played in Oman the week before but given three of them missed the cut and three of them (including Pepperell) finished only tied for 44th, a high finish doesn't appear imperative at all but an appearance does.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
I know we're playing at a different venue but conditions could be very similar so it may be noteworthy that South Africans have a great record in the event. Justin Harding was the fifth South African to win the Qatar Masters and Branden Grace has won the event twice. In addition to Harding's fine performance last year, three South Africans, George Coetzee, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and the aforementioned Van Rooyen, finished tied for second. The windy, links-like conditions and the Bermuda greens seem to suit them nicely at Doha Golf Course and it will be interesting to see how Education City suits them.
If you're happy to wait until the very last minute, keep an eye on the forecast as the possible draw bias may develop further and it will be worth checking out the forecast again after round one too. If, as appears to be the case at present, the wind is virtually non-existent on Friday morning, those with an early start on day two could steal a march.
Martin Kaymer has been creeping in to form but he hasn't won in almost six years and since throwing away a ten-shot lead in Abu Dhabi, he's been far from reliable in-contention. I'm a huge fan of the likable German and I'd love to see the two-time major winner get back to winning ways but he's too short here to do so.
Last year's European Tour Rookie of the Year, Robert McIntyre, is still looking to get off the mark and this test could well suit him perfectly. The Scots have a fair record in the event but missing last week's event appears to be a big negative and I'm happy to swerve him too.
Matthias Schwab is another looking for his first victory that didn't line up last week and looks to have gone off the boil since his playoff defeat in Turkey anyway. He will win and probably this season but having not played last week and with current form figures reading 20-42-23-44-42, he too is easy to swerve.
Thomas Pieters did play last week but he missed the cut when going off favourite and that encapsulates the talented Belgian perfectly. He had course form in the book last week and he'd been third on his previous outing in Saudi Arabia but predicting what we'll get from Pieters from one week to the next is nigh on impossible. After a break of three years, Pieters won his fourth European Title and his second Czech Masters in August last year so he does have fairly recent winning form but he's not for me.
I'm going to give Joe Dyer's each-way pick Brandon Stone another go after his near miss last week in Oman. As detailed in Monday's De-brief, he did nothing wrong and he was matched at just [1.04] after he'd birdied the last. He's half the price he was last week but he's a class act and he really should draw a lot of encouragement from his finish.
Mikko Korhonen is also chanced again after coming up just shy and he's also my each-way selection this week. And I've also followed Paul Krishnamurty in. He put up Grant Forrest in the each-way column.
Brandon Stone @ [60.0]
Mikko Korhonen @ [60.0]
Grant Forrest @ [95.0]
I'll be back tomorrow or Friday morning with the In-Play Blog.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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