A preview, stats and tips ahead of this week's Commerical Bank Qatar Masters in Doha
Week two of the Middle East trilogy takes the European Tour to Doha for the 17th staging of the Qatar Masters.
This 18-year-old course is often subject to blustery, coastal wind which, at times, can make life tricky for visiting pros.
And if strong wind is forecast during tournament week (which runs from Wednesday to Saturday to coincide with the weekend in Qatar), the speed of the Bermuda grass greens can be controlled to take into account these difficult conditions
The forecast (on Tuesday) shows: winds light to moderate, becoming stronger on Saturday.
Water is prevalent on the back nine and, as is usual with these Gulf States' events, there are some top names taking part, with Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, US PGA champion Jason Dufner and Martin Kaymer the top four in the betting.
For the second week in a row, the players test their skills on a course designed by Peter Harradine with many of those teeing-up having travelled around 200 miles from Abu Dhabi to Doha.
Sky Sports' live coverage begins on SS4 HD at 06.30 on Wednesday.
PLAYERS with GOOD to REASONABLE FORM at DOHA
Last Eight years
Player: '06 / '07 / '08 / '09 / '10 / '11 / '12 / '13
Thomas Aiken: - / - / - / - / MC / 6 / 69 / 22
Thomas Bjorn: 9 / - / 33 / 60 / 8 / Won / 25 / 59
Rafael Cabrera-Bello: - / - / - / - / MC / 3 / 35 / 22
Alejandro Canizares: - / 22 / - / - / - / MC / 25 / MC
Darren Clarke: 19 / MC / - / MC / - / 12 / - / -
Ernie Els: 13 / 3 / - / 31 / - / - / - / 73
Niclas Fasth: 4 / MC / 47 / 16 / 9 / 28 / MC / MC
Richard Finch: 4 / - / 42 / 37 / 49 / 9 / 25 / MC
Stephen Gallacher: MC / - / MC / 16 / 45 / 12 / MC / 59
Sergio Garcia: - / 19 / 7 / 7 / 24 / 9 / 5 / 2
Ricardo Gonzalez: 4 / - / 67 / MC / 9 / 19 / 5 / MC
Richard Green: MC / 4 / 60 / MC / 49 / - / 25 / 40
Soren Hansen: MC / 27 / 42 / 31 / 20 / 6 / 5 / -
Peter Hanson: MC / 37 / 51 / 31 / 14 / 70 / 2 / 22
Gregory Havret: MC / - / 33 / MC / MC / 19 / 25 / 69
David Howell: 24 / - / 7 / 37 / MC / 5 / MC / 22
Thongchai Jaidee: 24 / 9 / 25 / MC / 32 / 19 / 20 / 9
Miguel Angel Jimenez: 50 / 19 / 67 / 5 / 66 / 74 / 59 / -
Robert Karlsson: 15 / 22 / 60 / 37 / Won / 6 / MC / -
Martin Kaymer: - / - / MC / 31 / 32 / 28 / 9 / 9
Paul Lawrie: MC / 11 / 25 / 46 / MC / 19 / Won / MC
Alvaro Quiros: - / 34 / MC / Won / 2 / 2 / 59 / -
Brett Rumford: - / - / - / 16 / 3 / MC / 20 / 22
Jeev Milkha Singh: 24 / 22 / 56 / 16 / - / 45 / MC / MC
Henrik Stenson: Won / 7 / 2 / 2 / 64 / MC / MC / 16
Anthony Wall: 15 / MC / 25 / 21 / MC / 28 / 25 / 6
Steve Webster: 19 / 61 / 13 / 66 / MC / 45 / - / 4
Chris Wood: - / - / - / - / 14 / MC / 20 / Won
PLAYERS with POOR to MEDIOCRE FORM at DOHA
Last Eight years
(No Top-40 Finishes from three or more starts since 2006)
Player: '06 / '07 / '08 / '09 / '10 / '11 / '12 / '13
Seve Benson: - / 58 / 64 / MC / MC / 59 / - / -
Tano Goya: - / - / - / - / MC / 63 / MC / 49
Gareth Maybin: - / - / - / - / 49 / - / MC / 49
Simon Wakefield: - / - / MC / MC / - / MC / - / 64
Paul Waring: - / - / - / - / MC / 63 / - / 74
Bernd Wiesberger: - / - / - / - / - / MC / MC / 42
TOP-25 Finishers at DOHA in 2013 (Not Already Listed Above)
George Coetzee: (T-2nd)
Branden Grace: (T-6th)
Jason Dufner: (T-9th)
Mikko Ilonen: (T-9th)
Andy Sullivan: (T-9th)
Michael Campbell: (T-16th)
Marcus Fraser: (T-22nd)
Jbe Kruger: (T-22nd)
Damien McGrane: (T-22nd)
Thorbjorn Olesen: (T-22nd)
Ricardo Santos: (T-22nd)
LOWEST 15 STROKE AVERAGES at DOHA
(Last Four Years 2010/13)
69.14: George Coetzee (7)
69.80: Sergio Garcia (15)
69.91: Alvaro Quiros (11)
70.00: Branden Grace (7)
70.13: Thomas Bjorn (15)
70.23: Chris Wood (13)
70.36: Soren Hansen (11)
70.38: Brett Rumford (13)
70.64: Paul Lawrie (11)
70.67: Peter Hanson (15)
70.67: Martin Kaymer (15)
70.69: Rafael Cabrera-Bello (13)
70.71: Ricardo Santos (7)
70.73: Thongchai Jaidee (15)
70.77: Ricardo Gonzalez (13)
Min. No. of Rounds = 7
MIDDLE EAST FORM
(Most Top-10 Finishes in Gulf States since Jan. 1st, 2009 - Last Five Years)
9: Peter Hanson
8: Martin Kaymer
8: Alvaro Quiros
7: Sergio Garcia
7: Miguel Angel Jimenez
6: Thongchai Jaidee
6: Robert Karlsson
5: Thomas Bjorn
5: George Coetzee
5: Stephen Gallacher
5: Henrik Stenson
Table refers to European Tour events staged in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar & Bahrain
LOWEST ROUNDS at DOHA SINCE 2000
61: Adam Scott (2008)
63: Robert Karlsson (2001)
63: Mark Pilkington (2001)
64: 8 times
Note: The lowest rounds prior to 2000 were 64s recorded by Andrew Sherborne and David Carter during the inaugural Qatar Masters of 1998.
Doha: Par 72; 7,400 yards
Winning Totals (Last Three Years):
2013: 270 (Chris Wood)
2012: 201 (Paul Lawrie - 54-hole event)
2011: 274 (Thomas Bjorn)
There's a perception that accuracy is the main requirement at Doha but I've never really had that down as an important priority and that was confirmed in a tweet from the excellent Stanley (@Golf_Stats) at the start of the week:
"#CBQMGolf: winner was in the top-10 for GIR that week in each of last 8 years and top-15 in DD in 8 of last 9 yrs; not since '99 for DA."
Obviously we can't see into the future but we can look back to last week and it helps that Doha was constructed by the same course designer (Peter Harradine).
Interestingly, the search for who finished in the top 10 for Greens In Regulation and the top 15 in Driving Distance in Abu Dhabi throws up four names - a nice number for a staking plan.
The quartet are:
Rafa Cabrera-Bello (5th GIR, 11th DD)
Robert Karlsson (7th GIR, 14th DD)
Stephen Gallacher (3rd GIR, 7th DD)
Danny Willett (4th GIR, DD 8th)
Not surprisingly, due to those strong GIR stats, they all enjoyed good finishes in Abu Dhabi - Cabrera-Bello T4th, Karlsson T8th, Gallacher T8th and Willett T19th - so look good bets to continue that hot form here.
As for course form, Karlsson is the pick as he won this event in 2010, was runner-up in 2001, fifth in 2005 and sixth in 2011.
Cabrera-Bello was third in 2011 and closed with a 64 last year while Gallacher, who defends the title in Dubai next week, has racked up five top 16s at this venue.
Willett is the weak link with two missed cuts on his last two visits but he recovered from an opening 76 to finish tied 28th in 2010.
Karlsson at 28/1 looks an iffy price at first glance but as well as course form he's now finished in the top 10 in three of his last four starts (McGladrey, OHL Classic at the back end of 2013 and Abu Dhabi) so, after all his injury problems and loss of form, he really looks to be getting his act together again.
Remember this is a player who has won 11 times on the European Tour, the two most recent here in Qatar and in Dubai (both in 2010) so he can really thrive in this neck of the woods.
As well as the four 'formula picks' I'll add in one more.
Karlsson's Swedish compatriot Johan Carlsson is tempting at 80s after his top 10 last week and his four European Tour starts since graduating from the Challenge Tour have produced two tied sevenths and a tied 18th.
But, I'll go for another former Challenge Tour star Tommy Fleetwood at 50s to complete the staking plan.
The Englishman was the 54-hole leader in the Volvo Champions in Durban a few weeks ago before finishing third and was also 19th in Abu Dhabi last week - a venue where he'd previously missed his two previous cuts.
At this venue he didn't make the final 36 holes in 2012 but played well on the weekend when 37th last year and I think it's just a matter of time before he lands another win.
Fleetwood said in South Africa that his short game was surprisingly sharp and that's backed up by the stats which show him ranked 1st in Scrambling for the last two weeks.
When he's 50/1 in a decent but not outstanding field, that's worth snapping up.
1.5pts e.w. Robert Karlsson at 28/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Rafa Cabrera-Bello at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Stephen Gallacher at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Danny Willett at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Tommy Fleetwood at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)