Qatar Masters Preview, Picks & Analysis
Last year, Eddie Pepperell won the Qatar Masters, securing his first victory on the European Tour, which marked the tournament that finally saw him live up to his huge potential.
He held off the challenge of fellow Englishman Oliver Fisher after entering the final day at Doha Golf Club level with his compatriot at the top of the leaderboard and while he opened up a three-shot lead at the turn, an impressive fightback by Fisher meant the pair were separated by a just single stroke as they went up the par five last. It was advantage Fisher after two shots with Pepperell in the rough after both men laid-up but Pepperell kept his cool and struck an excellent third to set up a par which his playing partner could only match.
Pepperell's closing round of 70 got him to 18 under, with Fisher signing for a 71 and Swede Marcus Kinhult finishing at 16 under after a 68. Spanish duo Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño and Pablo Larrazábal, Frenchman Grégory Havret and Italian Renato Paratore were then at 15 under. It was a victory that set Pepperell on his way to the best year of his career, and he was unlucky to miss out on selection for Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup team. His aim now is to kick on and maintain the progress he made in 20-18.
Included among the field is Jeunghun Wang, winner of the Qatar Masters in 2017. After winning the Trophée Hassan II and Mauritius Open in 2016, Wang was named Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, and he then secured his third European Tour victory at the age of just 21 years and 144 days after defeating Joakim Lagergren and Jaco Van Zyl in a play-off. With a birdie on the first extra hole, Wang became the third-youngest player to win three titles after Matteo Manassero and Seve Ballesteros.
“I’m very excited to return to Qatar,” said Wang. “It was my first time playing the Qatar Masters in 2017, so to come away with the win was very satisfying. “It’s never easy when you’re in a play-off, so I was very pleased to come out on top against two very good golfers.”
It was won in 2011 by Thomas Bjorn, in 2012 by Paul Lawrie, in 2013 by Chris Wood, in 2014 by Sergio Garcia, in 2015 and 2016 by Branden Grace, in 2017 by Jeunghun Wang and last year by Pepperell.
Also in the field are former champions Paul Lawrie and Robert Karlsson. Lawrie, winner of The Open in 1999, finished four strokes ahead of Jason Day and Peter Hanson to win in 2012, while Karlsson, European Tour Number One in 2008, beat Alvaro Quiros by three strokes to win in 2010.
Lawrie, who is a two-time champion, is hoping two of his young prodigies, David Law and Sam Locke, can follow in his footsteps and become the leading lights of Scottish golf on the European Tour. Law and Locke signed to Lawrie’s management company Five Star Sports Agency last year and will tee it up alongside him. Law has of course recently made his breakthrough on tour, winning the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Australia in February while Locke plays in Qatar as a tournament invite having won the Silver Medal as the leading amateur at last year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
“Both Sam and David have been involved with the Paul Lawrie Foundation since they were nine or 10 years old, so when they improved to an elite amateur level and were ready to turn professional it felt like a natural progression for them to sign with Five Star,” said Lawrie.
“The work we do with the foundation is not merely to raise golfers to win on Tour – but when one of our kids does win it’s an amazing feeling and we hope that David’s win in Australia will inspire the juniors. I’ve been involved in both Sam and David’s careers right from the word go and they really are both great players with huge potential.”
Lawrie makes his return from injury having missed a large portion of last season with a foot injury which eventually required surgery. It was during this down-time that the former Open champion started the management company. “It’s a different role for me,” he says. “I’ll be the one setting up meetings and arranging deals for the players, and that’s the bit I really enjoy. I’ve been involved with a few different management groups over the years and I’ve learned from them all. We are a very young company, but my plan is to build it as big as it can go.”
Now aged 50, Lawrie plans to share his time across the European Tour, Staysure Tour and the senior majors on the PGA Tour Champions, but he’s happy to be returning to Doha where he has some happy memories.
“Doha Golf Club is one of my favourite courses to play,” said Lawrie, who won the event in 1999 and again in 2012. “It’s a course that asks you to hit knock-down shots and I’ve always enjoyed that. I’ve been pretty good at keeping the ball low and bumping it in to the greens. I’ve won twice in Qatar but I’ve also had some other really good weeks here, so it’s a tournament I always look forward to and try desperately not to miss.”
Paul Waring will be looking to continue the progress he has made over the past 12 months, during which he has become a truly consistent performer. He has already recorded a couple of decent results this season and is clearly enjoying life on the European Tour. Others looking to impress include former BMW PGA champion Chris Wood, who will just be thankful to turn up and play pain-free after a series of debilitating injuries. It all makes for a fascinating week.
Thomas Pieters. Course should suit his game
Paul Waring. Very underrated
Thomas Pieters. Unbeatable when at his best
Paul Waring. A late developer
Chris Wood. Has good memories here
Tom Lewis. Arguably most improved player out there
Bernd Wiesberger. Still looking for his best
Victor Dubuisson. A brilliant player still lurks in there somewhere
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