2024 Qatar Masters Preview, Picks & Analysis
Twelve months ago Sami Valimaki recorded what turned out to be a career-changing victory in the Qatar Masters, beating former champion Jorge Campillo in a playoff.
Trailing third-round leader Campillo all afternoon, Finland's Valimaki finally hit the front at the 17th courtesy of a seven-foot birdie putt.
But the pendulum swung back in favour of 2020 winner Campillo as the Spaniard birdied the last to join his playing partner on 18 under par and take the contest to extra holes.
Valimaki only needed one playoff hole to seal victory, as a nerveless birdie putt earned him a second DP World Tour title.
He said: "Unbelievable. It's hard to talk. It has been a long journey, it feels great. The course played quite tight today. I feel like I played nicely, but still a couple of mistakes and you always get punished. The course setup and everything was really nice. The birdie on 17, I thought I had it at 15 and 16, I didn't make those putts, but luckily I had that one.
"I work so hard. I feel like I've earned it a couple of times, but it hasn't come my way. That's why it feels so amazing.”
The win set up Valimaki for the best season of his life, which resulted in him being awarded one of 10 PGA Tour cards on offer to the DP World Tour’s best performers.
It means Valimaki will not be in Qatar to defend his title as he has rather bigger fish to fry on the other side of the pond.
(Former Champion Jorge Campillo - Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)
Ewen Ferguson won this event in 2022 and makes no secret of the fact that it is one of his favourite events. He is a hugely gifted golfer, one of several Scots on the DP World Tour who will be hoping to kick on to the next level during 2024.
Ferguson became the first Scot to win the Boys Amateur Championship in almost a decade when he claimed the title at Royal Liverpool in 2013. In 2014, he became the first player to hold that crown as well as the Scottish Boys and Scottish Boys Stroke Play titles at the same time, while he also helped Scotland win the European Team Championship in Sweden.
One of three Scots in the Great Britain & Ireland team at the 2015 Walker Cup at Royal Lytham, he beat Maverick McNealy - the World Amateur Number Two at the time - in the first-day singles.
Playing as an amateur on the Challenge Tour in 2016, Ferguson made the cut at both the Turkish Airlines Challenge and the Montecchia Open by Lyoness before turning professional and making his DP World Tour debut later that season in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, where he also made the cut.
He recorded three runner-up finishes on the Challenge Tour in 2021 as he finished eighth on the season-long Road to Mallorca Rankings, earning promotion to the DP World Tour for 2022.
Ferguson claimed his maiden Tour title with a one shot victory at the 2022 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, overturning a three-stroke final round deficit and birdieing the 72nd hole to win in Doha. Later that season, he went on to become the first Scotsman to win more than once in a single season since Paul Lawrie in 2012 when he was victorious at the ISPS HANDA World Invitational, and he has enjoyed a decent start to the new campaign.
It is also clear that Campillo likes this course. As a student at Indiana University, he won the Big Ten “triple crown” in 2008, was named the Big Ten Golfer of the Year, won the Les Bolstad Award (presented to the Big Ten player with the lowest scoring average), a Big Ten Championship in 2008 and played in the Palmer Cup three times.
He won the Spanish Amateur Closed Championship in 2008 and was ranked as Spain’s number one amateur for six separate years.
Campillo secured his maiden DP World Tour victory at the 2019 Trophee Hassan II in his 229th career start, and he did not have to wait long for his second triumph as, just less than a year later, he emerged victorious from a dramatic playoff duel with David Drysdale to lift the 2020 Qatar Masters title. He won his third DP World Tour title at the 2023 Magical Kenya Open.
There are two huge hitters whose progress I will be following with great interest - England’s Marco Penge and Joshua Grenville-Wood.
Penge turned pro in 2017 after a successful amateur career which included a victory at the Scottish Strokeplay in 2015. He finished 39th in the Road to Mallorca rankings in 2022 and then won the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final and the season-long Road to Mallorca Rankings double to earn promotion to the DP World Tour for the current season. From the tee, Penge averages - wait for it - an astonishing 340 yards. He also finds as respectable 40% of fairways. The Englishman is also a decent putter and a good iron player.
The week that he turns up with everything firing properly the rest of the field may as well pack their cases and head for home. And it has to be said that Grenville-Wood is almost as impressive.
It was won in 2016 by Braden Grace, in 2017 by Jeunghun Wang, in 2018 by Eddie Pepperell, in 2019 by Justin Harding, in 2020 by Jorge Campillo, in 2021 by Antoine Rozner, in 2022 by Ewen Ferguson and in 2023 by Sami Valimaki.
Jorge Campillo would happily play Doha Golf Club 52 weeks a year. He is a past champion here and only lost in a playoff last year. If you believe in horses for courses then you should be lumping serious money on the Spaniard. Personally, I like the chances of Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson, who is due another win.
Doha Golf Club, which has hosted the Qatar Masters since 1998, is a par 72 measuring 7,374 yards. Designed by Peter Harradine, like all courses in this part of the world, it was carved out of desert.
Jorge Campillo. Course specialist
Ewen Ferguson. Past winner
Rasmus Hojgaard. Does everything really well
Five to Follow:
Jorge Campillo. Loves Qatar
Ewen Ferguson. Hugely exciting talents
Rasmus Hojgaard. Wonderful temperament
Callum Shinkwin. Big hitter with a lovely short game
Manuel Elvira. In decent form
Five Outsiders to Watch:
Marco Penge. Will win this season but probably not ready yet
Joshua Grenville-Wood. Duck!
Brandon Stone. Struggling to recover his best form
Eddie Pepperell. A real enigma
Tom Lewis. Looking to restore some confidence
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