By Mai Akkad
The 2013 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters got under way properly this morning, as the Doha Golf Club buzzed with activity and a few top seed contenders, including world number four Justine Rose and world number five Louis Oosthuizen.
This year, the 16th edition of the annual golf tournament runs through Jan. 26 with a $2.5 million prize up for grabs.
For fans looking to attend, daily tickets are available via Virgin Megastore or the Doha Golf Club, and are priced at 50 QR – including evening entertainment – and 125 QR for closing day.
Many of the pro players coming into town expressed positive views about competing in Qatar, and defending champion Paul Lawrie told Doha News he finds desert courses suit his game more. “It is a little bit drier and tends to be a little bit windier, which I enjoy,” he said.
After going without a win for nine years straight, the Scotsman came back to winning form after taking the Open de Andalucía de Golf trophy in 2011 and the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in 2012.
“There was a lot of hard work obviously, and I decided it was time to have another go. I was too young to stop playing and pack in,” the 44-year-old told Doha News.
‘A little bit tricky’
Former world number two Sergio Garcia said he has always enjoyed performing in Qatar, and has had four top-10 finishes in his last six visits to the event.
“It is a nice place to start the year. I have not been able to win here but I have had some good success here, a good amount of top-10 finishes,” the Spaniard said.
Like Lawrie, Garcia had some setbacks in his game throughout the 2009 and 2010 season but came back to form by winning Castelló Masters and Andalucía Masters in 2011 and winning the Iskandar Johor open on the Asian tour in 2012 as well as qualifying for the Ryder Cup.
Making his first debut in Qatar, world number 11 Jason Dufner also had positive words for the course.
“It’s a very good golf course. It has good variety from tee to green, but the green complexes are quite large and a little bit tricky, so getting the ball close to hole locations might be a challenge,” said the American, who tied for ninth in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championships last week.
Dufner’s golf game made strides last year as he has won a couple of PGA tour championships and tied for fourth place at the U.S open.
“I have been consistent with my practice, consistent with my preparation, learning from experiences that I had over the years,” the 35-year-old said about his peaking game.
The course and the prize money were not enough to attract the likes of Tiger Woods though, who Qatar Golf Association President Hassan al Nuaimi said charges $3 million just for an appearance.
Two Qatari golfers – 18-year-old Saleh Al Kaabi and 30-year-old Ghanim Al Kuwari – will be competing this year after performing in the WAGR-2013 Qatar Open Amateurs Championship last week.
The four-day Masters tournament will feature nightly entertainments at the Public Village in the Doha Golf Club, including a performance by Grammy-nominated artist Natasha Bedingfield along with Congo Faith Healers on the 25th. Following the awarding ceremony of the tournament on the 26th, The Stars of the Commitments will perform along with Madhen.
You can follow the latest scores on qatar-masters.com.
Will you be going out to watch the tournament?
Credit: Photos courtesy of Commercial Bank Qatar Masters