The Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club has become a staple of the European Tour. The 7,400 yard par 72 with 600 yard-plus par fives and strong par threes is the sort of challenge that the European Tour’s best players enjoy rising to year-on-year. For a popular course, the tournament has a popular defending champion in the shape of Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard finished second in 2013 before winning a playoff last year and will be hoping to go one better by winning the tournament outright this week. Garcia is by no means the only former champion teeing it up this week and indeed he is partnered in an all-star opening three-ball by ex-champions Ernie Els and Henrik Stenson.
The championship course at the Doha Golf Club is one at which players form a strong bond. Previous good form at the tournament is a strong indicator of future success so it is no surprise to see Garcia a 7/1 favourite to retain his title. Sitting just behind Garcia in the betting is world number six Justin Rose. The Englishman had to battle back from a poor start at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship last week but battle he did to end up tied for 12th. Rose is just a point behind Garcia at 8/1 generally. After those two there are some very big prices floating about for players with good claims for positive weeks and it is to them that we turn our attention.
First up, the man beaten in the last year’s playoff, Mikko Ilonen. The Finn struggled last week in Abu Dhabi but similarly poor form didn’t hold him back last year. Ilonen can deal with the tricky Qatar wind, is a fairly accurate driver and has the sort of short game capable of getting himself up-and-down out of trouble. At 40/1 with Paddy Power Ilonen should be included in your bets to triumph this week.
Another European given a nice juicy price by the bookies is Nicolas Colsaerts. The ‘Belgian Bomber’ struggled on tour last year but pulled it together towards the back-end to guarantee his tour card for 2015. Colsaerts averaged 313 yards for driving last season and converted that power by finding nearly three quarters of all greens in regulation. He has the sort of game to tear through the long par fives at Qatar and is afforded the luxury of hitting shorter irons than most into the course’s three 200+ yard par threes. Sky Bet are best priced about a Colsaerts win at 45/1, the same firm offer 7/2 that he will finish in the top 10. Both are bets to seriously consider.
Henrik Stenson, with his victory in 2006 and strong affiliation with golf in the Arabian Peninsula, would perhaps expect to be at the very top of the market with his Ryder Cup teammates Garcia and Rose. It seems that the market has turned against him due to his poor showing in Abu Dhabi last week with some firms offering him at 20/1 to be first round leader. For a player of his calibre that’s a big price which should be snapped up. If he is in the mind-set to get over last week’s horrors, Stenson could put us in profit by Wednesday night.
The Wednesday start may be strange for the European Tour but the surrounds of the Qatar Golf Club and the players taking part offer a much more familiar feel. Expect the winner this week to end up close to 20 under par and some big swings on the leaderboard as the forecasted wind kicks up. If Ilonen and Colsaerts can cope with the conditions, they should put us in a position of profit come the end of day four.