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Qatar Masters Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 08 Mar 2021 | Comments


THE EUROPEAN Tour returns from its enforced winter hibernation with the Qatar Masters at the Education City Golf Course. A number of tournaments that were due to be played in South Africa were cancelled because of Covid-19.

Spain’s Jorge Campillo will be back to defend his title. The Spaniard overcame David Drysdale of Scotland in a closely-fought play-off to win the 2020 edition and secure his second European Tour title.

He beat Drysdale at the fifth hole of a sudden-death playoff. He secured his first European Tour title at the 2019 Trophee Hassan II in what was his 229th career start. Despite that victory, he struggled for much of 2020 but is determined to make a decent fist of his defence in a tournament where he also finished second in 2019.

With Europe's elite players otherwise engaged at TPC Sawgrass, this is a great opportunity for young guns such as Wilco Nienaber to lay down a marker. The young South African may still be pretty raw but he hits the ball even further than Bryson DeChambeau, and appears to do so with effortless power.

He has massive potential and his future is surely on the PGA Tour. People who know about these rather better than your correspondent predict big things for Nienaber. When he learns how to harness that power and knows when to leave the driver in the bag he will surely become a serial winner.

There are others for whom Qatar is an important opportunity. Brandon Stone has one of the best swings in the game and should have won many more tournaments than he has. If he has a fault it is perhaps the fact that he is rather too laidback. He is just another one of the incredible stable of talented South African golfers.

Thomas Pieters

(Thomas Pieters is Among the Favourites)

Other players with a point to prove? Well how about Chris Wood? The former BMW PGA champion has endured a thoroughly miserable time of it with injury. The Englishman has proved that he can compete with the very best at thew very highest level and will be praying that he can get through 2021 without any further setbacks. There are few golfers on any tour who possess a better short game.

Rasmus Højgaard celebrates his 20th birthday this week. He already has two European Tour victories to his name and will start the tournament as one of the favourites. He is 16th in the Race to Dubai and knows that a win in Qatar may take him into the top 50 in the world rankings. And that would gain him entry to all four majors and the WGC events - and hugely improve his chances of making Padraig Harrington’s European Ryder Cup team. There is little doubt that he would be a huge asset. He has already proved his ability and has a wonderful temperament, able to take everything the game throws at him in his stride.

Keep an eye on China’s Haotong Li and Alex Levy, of France. They have both won on the European Tour and they have both struggled of late. You can be sure that Li will have spent the layoff working hard back home in China and I expect him to win again before too long. Levy is a mercurial talent who only knows one way to play - and that is to attack, attack, attack. He has suffered with injury and loss of form but there have been some encouraging signs recently and he will be looking to contend.

While tournaments on the PGA Tour are starting to allowing serious number of fans back in, there will only be a limited number of spectators in Qatar. “A limited number of attendees will be allowed at the venue keeping the Covid19 safety precautious in mind and keeping the MoPH guidelines in mind,” said Mike Shoueiry Technical Director at QGA.

Shoueiry said that around 500 to 600 people will be coming to Qatar and will be housed in the four designated hotels and operate from the ‘CBQ Qatar Masters medical bubble’.

“We will have to follow Covid guidelines and adhere to European Tour protocols. QGA is working with the European Tour to make the event safe for everybody associated with the tournament,” he said.

The tournament was won in 2015 and 16 by Branden Grace, in 2017 by ,Jeunghun Wang in 2018 by Eddie Pepperell, in 2019 by Justin Harding and last year by Campillo.

To Win:

Rasmus Højgaard. The real deal.

Each Way:

Wilco Nienaber. Huge potential

Each Way:

Brandon Stone. Glorious golf swing.

Fantasy Picks:

Rasmus Højgaard. Already a proven winner

Wilco Nienaber. Most promising of the young South Africans

Brandon Stone. Should win more often

Thomas Pieters. Needs to arrest decline

George Coetzee. Wonderful putter, dreadful chipper

Renato Paratore. Blink and you will miss him

Eddie Pepperell. Time to focus on your golf Eddie

Kurt Kitayama. Underrated American

Alexander Levy. Mercurial talent

Haotong Li. Needs to eliminate mistakes


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