The European Tour hosts six events in the Middle East, the Qatar Masters is currently the fifth of those tournaments, following January’s Abu Dhabi Championship and Dubai Desert Classic, and February’s Saudi International and Oman Open.
The Qatar Masters was first played in 1988. The host course was the Doha Golf Club until 2020 when it moved 12km across Doha to the Education City Golf Club.
While the tournaments on the Arabia Peninsula 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 and is currently played alongside The Players Championship on the PGA Tour.
That said, the Qatar Masters gives those on the European Tour who don’t travel to Florida for the Players a good opportunity to take the spoils in a what is normally a highly competitive event.
|Championship Course, Education City Golf Club||Education City, Qatar||7,400 Yards||$1,500,000|
Qatar is serious about sport. Via the Qatar Foundation, the country has invested huge amounts in sport around the world as well as much closer to home. Golf has long been a sport that is taken seriously by the Qatar Foundation so it is no surprise that there are world-class golfing facilities (amongst the other incredible facilities at Education City) at the rather unimaginatively named Education City Golf Club. It was, however, a bit of a surprise that the European Tour decided to move the Qatar Open from Doha Golf Club in 2020.
Doha had become a popular stop-off for European Tour players since the inaugural edition of the Qatar Masters in 1998 but the investment in Education City Golf Club meant a venue change was pretty much inevitable.
The move took the tournament away from the coast but, as with many other courses in the Middle East, the wind remains a serious factor. Players must be able to control their ball flight in the wind if they are to have any chance of contending even though they’ll be greeted with what looks like a parkland oasis in the desert. The winner will also need some very good approach play to leave themselves in the right part of the large greens.
Qatar Masters Recent Winners
|Year||Winner||Course||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2021||Antoine Rozner||Education City Golf Club||-8||1 Stroke|
|2020||Jorge Campillo||Education City Golf Club||-13||Playoff|
|2019||Justin Harding||Doha Golf Club||-13||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|
|2014||Sergio Garcia||Doha Golf Club||-16||Playoff|
|2013||Chris Wood||Doha Golf Club||-18||1 Stroke|
|2012||Paul Lawrie||Doha Golf Club||-15||4 Strokes|
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.