Second stop on the Desert swing is Doha GC - one of the first grass golf courses built in the middle East. I always say this event is just like an extension of Abu Dhabi with course designer Peter Harradine responsible for both tracks. Leaderboards of the two tournaments generally have a similar look to them and this year could mirror last week's test even more, with Ewan Murray confirming some subtle changes to the Doha GC track.
Sergio Garcia will defend after beating Mikko Ilonen in a playoff here last year and the Spanish tee to green expert heads the betting at 9.00. Other big names teeing it up in the desert include Middle East specialist and former resident Henrik Stenson - 13.00 - who owns outstanding form in Qatar from 2005 through to 2009. Justin Rose - 9.00 - will be looking for better than last week while Charl Schwartzel - 19.00 - was lurking at or around the top of nearly every vital stat in Abu Dhabi; somehow he only managed a T9, and this was just off the back of a narrow miss on home soil.
The course - Doha GC
As mentioned there have been some under the radar changes at Doha GC this year and after some Twitter research I've found that a new greenkeeper has incorporated a fresh water treatment regime, giving the grass textures a more pristine Abu Dhabi GC feel; these greens will be set to run around 12' on the stimp. The track plays over 7,400 yards incorporating lengthy fairways and many are dog-legged. Corners can be cut bringing a risk reward strategy into play but the short grass can be hard to find in inevitable cross winds here, hence why premium this week will be on total driving. The rough has been described in the past as both "lengthy" in places and tough but fair, both along the fairways and around the greens so GIR%, like last week, will also be vital. The par 3s at Doha are testing and water features on six holes including 18.
If it's one of the guys at a half decent price towards the front of the market you're after, I'd point you in the direction of Branden Grace - 21.00. Since his win in SA, Grace has continued his form in the both the South African Championship and in Abu Dhabi. Just one poor round in each event has cost him a chance to challenge. Branden has form in Qatar and excels in the driving department.
Three from the pack
The aforementioned Mikko Ilonen - 41.00 or 9.00 - was very unlucky not to bag a win here last year and he came into the event after a MC in Abu Dhabi. He talks about being in much better shape in the lead up this year and the fact that he was only hitting it 90% in 2014 while carrying a slight injury. "I would definitely expect to play well again in Qatar, as there are more tee shots there that suit my eye compared to last week in Abu Dhabi. I definitely feel good ahead of this week, as my game is in good shape.” said the Finn who also mentioned the course should play shorter for him this year now he's fully fit. Ilonen averages around the 290 mark off the tee with a GIR clip of just under 70%. A putting average of 28.8 through 2013/14 means he has all the attributes required for Doha GC. Mikko opened with a 66 last week in Abu Dhabi.
Richard Green - 151.0 or 26.00 - has been simmering nicely form wise with a number of recent top 30 finishes. He was in contention at some stage in at least two of these events. Earlier in 2014 Green went close on a similar length to Doha GC, PGA Catalunya track, narrowly missing out in a three-way playoff. The Aussie is extremely wind competent and hits a high percentage of fairways year in year out. He also sits in the upper echelons of the annual putting stats and combining these two stats is probably the reason he owns good consistent form in Qatar including two top five finishes.
Kristoffer Broberg - 200.0 or 36.00 - got my attention early on in Abu Dhabi. The Swede has been gradually putting his swing back together after some issues towards the back end of 2014. With numerous injury troubles behind him we finally saw what Broberg had to offer following his automatic promotion to the main tour in 2012. A near miss in Ireland was followed by a T12 in France and then a runner up Finish at the Scottish Open where he looked a top player. Kristoffer also posted a top 30 in Qatar last year and is familiar with the course. The 29 year old raises an eyebrow in the tee to green stats and has hit 75% of GIR so far this season. I feel he is worth a stab at such a big price this week.
Bet on the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters