2023 Qatar Masters Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE Commercial Bank Qatar Masters returns to Doha Golf Club this week and it has special significance for a number of players. It is the final tournament of the regular season and thus the last opportunity for players to secure their playing rights.
The top 116 in the Race to Dubai will be safe for another year, with a number of well-known players on the bubble and hoping for a big week to save their year. Of course, some will be able to rely on sponsors’ invites, while others will be headed to either qualifying school or the Challenge Tour.
So this is going to be a pressure-packed week. It is also a chance to climb into the top 64 in the rankings to secure a place in the field for the Nedbank Challenge before the top 50 head to Dubai for the World Tour Championship.
It’s an entirely different story for the likes of Marc Warren, Alex Levy, Oliver Bekker and the big-hitting Wilco Nienaber, who are all outside the crucial top 116.
Warren is a three-time winner but the most recent of those successes came at the Austrian Open in 2020, where he carried his own bag that week on his way to a first victory for six years. The exemption he gained for that win has now expired and the last thing that the Scot wants is to head back to the grind that is qualifying school.
Nienaber is something of a conundrum. He hosts the ball prodigious distances. Many pundits believe that he has what it takes to become a superstar but he needs to learn how to harness that enormous power. He seems to believe that he can bring any golf course to its knees but you cannot win golf tournaments from the rough.
His stats are revealing. He averages an unbelievable 331.71 yards from the tee - nobody hits it further. But he finds only 47.77% of fairways, and that puts him in 155th place in the rankings. And he finds just 66.47% of greens in regulation, which sees him in 85th place. And he is not a great putter either.
Aaron Rai has enjoyed a decent year on the PGA Tour and is in Qatar this week looking for a decent finish to make it to South Africa and Dubai. And Frenchman Matthieu Pavon will be looking to continue the form he showed in winning the Open de Espana.
Rasmus Hojgaard is still smarting from missing out on the Ryder Cup and having to watch his twin brother, Nicolai, play a crucial part in Europe’s success. There is little doubt that the brothers will play in the event together, probably in two years’ time.
Although Warren is struggling, Scottish golf is in a good place. Robert MacIntyre and Ewen Ferguson have both enjoyed some sparkling form in 2023. Ferguson is a mercurial talent who is now finally starting to find some consistency and he could be difficult to beat this week.
Ferguson is the defending champion. Last year the tournament was staged in March and it was Ferguson’s maiden DP World Tour success. He shot a closing 70 to take him to seven under par for the tournament and earned him a one-shot victory ahead of playing partner Chase Hanna.
Ferguson also won the ISPS Handa World Invitational in August last year. He hasn’t won this year but there have been plenty of excellent finishes, including tied third at the SDC Championship, tied fourth at Johnson Workwear Open, tied eighth at the KLM Open, tied fourth at the British Masters, tied 10th at the French Open and tied ninth at the Open de Espana.
And don’t be at all surprised to see Marcel Siem in the shake-up. He is having a wonderful season and came close to being only the second player on the DP World Tour to shoot a 59 at the Open de Espana. Siem wears his heart on his sleeve and is great fun to watch, especially when he is playing well.
It was won in 2015 and 2016 by Branden Grace, in 2017 by Wang Jean-hun, in 2018 by Eddie Pepperell, in 2019 by Justin Harding, in 2020 by Jorge Campillo, in 2021 by Antoine Rozner and last year by Ewen Ferguson.
Doha Golf Club is a par 72 measuring 7,466 yards.designed by Peter Harradine. It was one of the first courses to be built in the Middle East. It features wide fairways, palm trees and several water hazards. And the players will almost certainly have to deal with the wind, which often blows in this part of the world
DP World Tour Form Guide
Ewen Ferguson is the defending champion and is a man in decent form. He is a golfer who can go really low and, as a Scot, will take the wind in his stride. His biggest threat could come from fellow Scot Robert MacIntyre, who has enjoyed a year to remember, including a second-place finish at the Scottish Open
Qatar Masters Picks
Ewen Ferguson. Exciting Scot
Robert MacIntyre. Ready to win again
Marcel Siem. Can make birdies for fun
Qatar Masters Five To Follow
Ewen Ferguson. Will have some good memories
Robert MacIntyre. One of the best putters in the world
Marcel Siem. Fun to watch
Aaron Rai. Has become a world-class golfer
Rasmus Hojgaard. Has every shot in the book
Qatar Masters Four Outsiders
Marc Warren. Massive week
Wilco Nienaber. Too good to be struggling
Oliver Bekker. South African who can mix it with the best of them
Alex Levy. Final throw of the dice
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