The European Tour hosts six events in the Middle East and while they all have their merits, it’s fair to say that there is a distinct hierarchy. The Qatar Masters used to be regarded as one of the premier events in this part of the world – thanks in no small part to some chunky appearance fees paid out to big name players – but its reputation has slipped a fair amount over the last couple of years.
A lack of prize money relative to other events in the area has seen the quality of the field reduced but, just like last week’s Oman Open, this does present an opportunity for those who turn up. Whilst it was a youngster in Sami Valimaki who won in Oman, the much more experienced Martin Kaymer may seize his opportunity to return to the winner’s circle this week in Qatar.
The Qatar Masters was something of a trailblazer as one of the first golf tournaments in the Middle East to be sanctioned by the European Tour. Several big name players competed in some thrilling renewals over the years, each of which took place at Doha Golf Club. It’s all change though this year with the Qatar Masters’ first change of venue.
Experienced and rookie players alike will need to do a lot of work with their caddies early this week to try to get to grips with Education City Golf Club. Designed by European Tour legend, Jose Maria Olazabal, Education City GC looks very different to the course it replaces. The lush fairways, plentiful trees and water hazards make this look like something of an oasis in the desert. It’s also more parkland in style compared to the links style layout at Doha GC.
It’s only a short drive between the two courses but Education City is more inland than Doha GC. Whilst that should mean a reduction in the amount of wind, it still fits the bill of a typically exposed course out in the desert. Fortunately for the players, the weather forecast doesn’t suggest too much in the way of high winds during the event.
|Education City Golf Club||Doha, Oman||7,307 Yards||$1,750,000|
The list of recent Qatar Masters winners includes some very well-known and high quality golfers. That reflects the regard with which the event was once held amongst European Tour players. Whilst the event no longer has big headline names such as Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott or Henrik Stenson (all of whom have won the tournament before) each of the last three winners at Doha Golf Club are competing in Education City this week.
|Year||Winner||Course||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2019||Justin Harding||Doha Golf Club||-3||2 Strokes|
|2018||Eddie Pepperell||Doha Golf Club||-18||1 Stoke|
|2017||Wang Jeung-hun||Doha Golf Club||-16||Playoff|
|2016||Branden Grace||Doha Golf Club||-14||2 Strokes|
|2015||Branden Grace||Doha Golf Club||-19||1 Stoke|
Analysis: All Round Players Taken on This New Venue
You can look at pictures of Education City Golf Club, study the scorecard and listen to players talk about their early views but everybody is going into the 2020 Qatar Masters in the dark. The one chink of light is that the whole purpose of Education City is to provide young Qatari golfers with the facilities they need to develop into world class golfers. Everything about Education City is top class and focused on development so it makes sense that the championship course has been designed to test as many different elements of a golfer’s game as possible.
That should hand an advantage to the more experienced, well-rounded players in the field. Those who have shown an ability to adapt their game to different courses, in different parts of the world and played in different conditions should be able to make their experience count over the week.
Kaymer’s Positivity Can Pay Off
As you would expect with a tournament of this ilk, there’s been a lot of good things said about the change in venue by some high profile people. Martin Kaymer is one of those who has come out in support of the idea behind Education City and in praise of the set up in Doha. He has also spoken highly about the tournament in general and said that it was a no brainer for him to return to compete in the Qatar Masters again.
Kaymer’s enthusiasm can probably be put down to a couple of reasons. Firstly, he never really found Doha Golf Club to his liking despite multiple appearances at the venue. Secondly, he’s been playing some good golf of late suggesting that a career which has had some severe peaks and troughs is about to yield more big results. Kaymer’s improvement has not been missed by the market but he remains a worthy favourite at odds of 16/1 with Betfred.
Molinari to Think His Way Around
According to many people within golf, Edoardo Molinari is one of the best thinkers in the game. He was analysing stats long before it became de rigeur amongst his competitors and always has a new way of looking at the game. He has veered into overthinking territory at times but Molinari’s analytical approach could pay dividends this week.
It’s a fair assumption to make that Molinari will be better versed than many of his opponents about what it takes to win at Education City. He’ll do a lot of work pre-tournament and have a clear game plan come Thursday. In a week when his brother, Francesco, is getting all the attention as he defends the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Edoardo Molinari is well priced for a run at a fourth European Tour victory at 150/1 with bet365.
Final Verdict: Martin Kaymer to Win
Martin Kaymer is up there with the most popular players on the European Tour. A great many people have been heartened to see his game return to him lately and will be cheering him on all the way in Qatar. He is clearly feeling good about the way he’s playing and about this tournament so can make his class tell by winning at 16/1 with Betfred. Those looking for a longer odds shot for an each way bet should also consider Edoardo Molinari at 150/1 with bet365.
About the Qatar Masters
Compared to some of the more established tournaments in the world of golf, the Qatar Masters is very much a new kid on the block. It was established in 1998 and was first played at the Peter Harradine-designed course at the Doha Golf Club, located in the capital of Qatar (on the Arabian Peninsula), until 2019.
From 2020 though, a new course has taken over hosting duties: the Education City Golf Club. Designed by Spanish golfing great and Ryder Cup legend Jose Maria Olazabal, the new course is located about 20km away from the previous venue.
With a prize fund of $1,750,000 it is also not one of the richest tournaments around, even by European Tour standards, but it manages to attract plenty of big name players, perhaps some of whom are eager to experience a little winter sun. It used to offer more in the way of prize money until politics got in the way and caused the tournament to be effectively downgraded in terms of its prestige.
With the weather not being exactly clement in the early months of the year in many countries in the northern hemisphere, the Qatar Masters is one of a number of tournaments that are located beyond Europe’s shores. Until 2017 the Qatar Master took place between the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the Omega Desert Classic, which together made up the three-legged Desert Swing (sometimes referred to as the Middle East Swing).
Alas, an ongoing diplomatic dispute between the rulers of Qatar and those of Saudi Arabia has spilled over into the world of sport. As such, since 2018 the Qatar Masters has been shunted along the schedule to avoid travel restrictions between Qatar and the UAE becoming problematic for the golf pros and their entourages. As such, the Qatar Masters now takes place in March each year.
Three Two-Time Winners
From the initial event in 1998 up to and including the 2020 tournament, there have been three players who have won the Qatar Masters twice: South Africa’s Branden Grace (in 2015 and 2016), Aussie Adam Scott (in 2002 and 2008), and Paul Lawrie of Scotland (who won the second renewal of the tournament in 1999 and then not until 2012).
The fine Swedish golfer, Henrik Stenson, is another to look out for when considering your bets though. The 2016 Open champion, who won the Qatar Masters in 2006, has come close to making it two wins (or more!) as he’s finished in second place (or tied for second place) on three occasions, in 2005, 2008 and 2009.
It hasn’t just been Stenson that has flown the flag for Sweden, with a number of other players from the Scandinavian nation also thriving in Qatar. It is hard to find any real explanation for this, although perhaps they are just happy to escape the almost permanent nigh time of their homeland.
Harding Outruns Chasing Pack
It is one thing for a player to win a golf tournament when out in the lead on his own or with perhaps one or two players snapping at his heels. But when South African Justin Harding won the Qatar Masters by two strokes in 2019, a quite astounding total of nine players tied for second spot!
The pressure on Harding, who was chasing his first European Tour victory, didn’t appear to be taking its toll when he birdied three of the last four holes on the final round to edge ahead of the substantial chasing pack. Born in 1986, Harding had a long wait for this moment and he did very well to hold off the rest of the field.
The nine who weren’t able to quite equal Harding’s exploits came from a wide range of nations, and were as follows:
- Oliver Wilson (England)
- Mike Lorenzo-Vera (France)
- Erik van Rooyen (South Africa)
- Anton Karlsson (Sweden)
- Nacho Elvira (Spain)
- George Coetzee (South Africa)
- Choi Jin-ho (South Korea)
- Jorge Campillo (Spain)
- Christiaan Bezuidenhout (South Africa)
Major Winners Add Class to Qatar
The Qatar Masters might not be the most prestigious event on the calendar but even so, there have been some top drawer winners over the years. Of the 20 different victors in this tournament’s relatively short history (up to 2020), six of them have become (or were already) Major winners. Only one player has won this tournament and landed a Major in the same year: Paul Lawrie in 1999. In terms of Majors, Ernie Els is the most successful player to have won the Qatar Masters: he has an impressive four victories in the tournaments that count to his name.
- Sergio Garcia – The Masters (2017)
- Paul Lawrie – The Open Championship (1999)
- Adam Scott – The Masters (2013)
- Retief Goosen – US Open (2001, 2004)
- Henrik Stenson – The Open Championship (2016)
- Ernie Els – US Open (1994, 1997), The Open Championship (2002, 2012)
As mentioned, the greater allure (and prize money) offered by the PGA Tour, coupled with the reduced prize fund offered in Qatar have meant the very best players in the world often opt to give this tournament a miss these days. Despite that, the above represents an impressive list of achievements from players who have delivered the goods here.
Many Nationalities Represented Amongst Winners
As is the way in many European Tour events the mix of nationalities of the winners of the Qatar Master is varied. Also typical of a fair number of events on the European Tour, there are no winners from the USA of the Qatar Masters, which is mainly a result of the best Americans tending to stick to events on the PGA Tour instead and only the very biggest elsewhere.
Winners of the Qatar Masters By Nationality (1998-2020)
|Nationality (Wins)||Players (Years)|
|Spain (3)||Jorge Campillo (2020), Sergio Garcia (2014), Alvaro Quiros (2009)|
|South Africa (6)||Justin Harding (2019), Brandon Grace (2016, 2017), Retief Goosen (2007), Ernie Els (2005), Darren Fichardt (2003)|
|England (2)||Eddie Pepperell (2018), Chris Wood (2013)|
|South Korea (1)||Wang Jeung-hun (2017)|
|Scotland (3)||Paul Lawrie (2012, 1999), Andrew Coltart (1998)|
|Demark (1)||Thomas Bjorn (2011)|
|Sweden (3)||Robert Karlsson (2010), Henrik Stenson (2006), Joakim Haeggman (2004)|
|Australia (2)||Adam Scott (2008, 2002)|
|Zimbabwe (1)||Tony Johnstone (2001)|
|Netherlands (1)||Rolf Muntz (2000)|
20 Under Par the Score to Beat
Up to and including the 2020 tournament, the record score at the Qatar Masters has been 20 under par. This has been achieved on two occasions: once by Scotsman Paul Lawrie back in 1999 (when he won by seven strokes from Soren Kjeldsen and Phillip Price), and then again in 2008 when Australian Adam Scott won this for the second time, getting the better of multiple runner-up Henrik Stenson by three strokes.
The inaugural tournament at the new venue in 2020 resulted in an impressive winning score of 13 under par when Spaniard Jorge Campillo edged past Scotsman David Drysdale in a playoff.