Check out Dave Tindall's in-depth preview and best bets for the Commercialbank Qatar Masters.
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 22/01/13 12:55pm
The second leg of the Gulf Swing takes us to Doha for the 16th edition of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
And it's a pretty impressive line-up fighting it out for the US$2.5million purse with Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Jason Dufner all lining up again after finishing in the top 10 in Abu Dhabi.
They're joined by more big names as Louis Oosthuizen and Sergio Garcia also make their way to the Middle East.
Garcia tees off alongside last year's winner Paul Lawrie and Open champion Ernie Els in the morning while the big afternoon group features Rose, Oostuizen and Kaymer.
It's important to note that the tournament starts on Wednesday this year. The change has been made to take into account the weekends in the Gulf region and organisers hope the switch will avoid the usual falling off of spectator numbers on Sunday.
Sky Sports has live coverage each day, with SS2 HD on air at 6am on Wednesday morning.
Doha Golf Club is a 7,412 yard par 72 located five miles north west of Doha. Each nine starts and ends with a par five and water is a factor on six of the 18 holes. The fairways are average width although can be hard to find due to the way they dogleg plus the fact that the course is exposed to crosswinds.
The winds can play havoc here but the forecast for this week has them down as "light and mild". When the winds do lie down, the course doesn't play that long but there's always a chance they will kick up in the afternoon.
Last year - Paul Lawrie
The veteran Scot chipped in twice during a superb closing 65 to beat Australian Jason Day and Swede Peter Hanson by four. Strong winds on Friday meant the tournament was reduced to 54 holes but, unperturbed, Lawrie bettered his score each round (69-67-65) to win the event for the second time (first in 1999), a victory which helped book his place in Europe's triumphant Ryder Cup team.
The leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds)
Justin Rose (8/1): Two clear going into the final round in Abu Dhabi last week, Rose looked all set to kick his 2013 campaign off with a victory. However, a closing 71 wasn't good enough to get it done and Jamie Donaldson came past him on Sunday although Rose could still have forced a play-off by birdieing the par five last. Still, for his third tournament running, Rose topped the greens in regulation stats and the second place lifted him up to world number four. Surprisingly he's missed four cuts out of four here although the first three were from 1999-2001 when he was still making his way in the pro game. The other was after shooting 74-72 in 2009.
2013 form: 2
Course form: MC-MC-MC-MC
World ranking: 4
Louis Oosthuizen (8/1): After a run of near misses at the back end of 2012, Oosthuizen proved you can't keep a good man down by coming out and winning the Volvo Golf Champions in his native South Africa two weeks ago with a final round 66. As well as current form, the former Open champion also has course form. He's played in this event seven times previously and can boast a runners-up finish in 2009 as well as an eighth in 2005 and a 14th in 2010. He was ranked top of the putting stats in the Volvo Golf Champions so he'll have a great chance if he can rattle them in again here.
2013 form: 1
Course form: 37-14-2-25
World ranking: 5
Martin Kaymer (11/1): Kaymer couldn't add a fourth win in Abu Dhabi last week but a sixth place finish was further evidence that 2013 could see a big return to form in the wake of his iconic Ryder Cup putt. The German has already won since then - a victory in the 12-man Nedbank Golf Challenge - and surely a victory in a full-field win will follow soon. Of the Middle East events this has always been the one in which he hasn't really performed but, after a string of midfield finishes, he was ninth in last year's 54-holer so maybe he's getting the hang of it.
2013 form: 6
Course form: 9-28-32-31
World ranking: 28
Sergio Garcia (12/1): The Spaniard, perhaps surprisingly to some, finished 2012 with two wins, a third and a fourth in his final seven outings. The victories were achieved in the PGA Tour's Wyndham Championship and the Asian Tour's Johor Open and inbetween, of course, he helped Europe take Ryder Cup victory. The Johor win came in the middle of December so there shouldn't bee too much rust and his record on this course is outstanding. He's made the top 10 in four of his last six appearances while his other two finishes in that run were both in the top 25.
2013 form: n/a
Course form: 5-9-24-7
World ranking: 19
Jason Dufner (16/1): The American is becoming quite the globetrotter these days and his last five starts have taken place in Australia, Malaysia, China, Hawaii and the United Arab Emirates. He's performed extremely well too in those foreign climes with two second places, a ninth (last week) and two top 20s. There was more evidence of his wonderful tee-to-green game in Abu Dhabi and it will be a big surprise if he's not prominent on the leaderboard yet again this week as this course should play into his hands.
2013 form: 9-18
Course form: n/a
World ranking: 11
Peter Hanson (16/1): The Swede we think of as 'steady' was anything but last week as he mixed 22 birdies (including 10 in round three!) with 12 bogeys and a double. It all added up to a score of eight-under which was good enough for tied ninth. Hanson has been a regular visitor here although for much of that time he wasn't seeing any results. However, in the last three years he finished 14th in 2010 and runner-up last year after rounds of 69-69-67. His putting stats were again good last week so he's certainly one for the shortlist.
2013 form: 9
Course form: 2-70-14-31
World ranking: 18
Branden Grace (22/1): After his amazing four-win season in 2012, there's a general feeling that Grace might suffer a reality check this year. However, he's certainly not experiencing a dip yet. In his two starts in 2013, Grace has finished seventh in the Volvo Golf Champions and a fast-finishing fifth in Abu Dhabi last week. He's putted extremely well in both those events (ranked 1st last week and 4th at the Volvo) so it's fair to see him at these odds. Played here last year and finished in midfield.
2013 form: 5-7
Course form: 47
World ranking: 30
Thorbjorn Olesen (25/1): Despite it being set up to be Rory, Nike almost got their wish of a bright, young new signing winning in Abu Dhabi - that man being Olesen. The Dane may not be in McIlroy's class yet but the more we see of him the more he convinces us that he's got a massive future. Had he holed an 18 footer for birdie at the last, Olesen would have reached a play-off but Abu Dhabi was still a great week for him and he'll hope to go one better here. Proved his short-game prowess by finishing second in Scrambling last week.
2013 form: 2
Course form: 59-MC
World ranking: 42
Best of the restPaul Lawrie (28/1): The Scot defends his title this week after a superb four-shot win last year. That came 13 years on from his first win here although, strangely, he didn't manage a single top 10 inbetween. A big fan of the course so will surely improve on last week's subdued tied 52nd in Abu Dhabi.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (40/1): The Spaniard briefly held the lead in round three of last week's Abu Dhabi Golf Championship before losing his rhythm when put on the clock and never getting going after that. Still, a ninth was nice improvement on his 20th (out of 30) in the Volvo Golf Champions and he says he "loves" this week's course in Doha. His best showings were a seventh in 2009 and a 12th last year after shooting a stunning first-round leading 66 in the fierce winds.
Jason Dufner should find Doha GC right up his street and looks a strong punt at 16/1.
The American's game will be reaping the benefits of playing in different parts of the world and he's already shown he's very adept at turning up somewhere new and playing his best golf.
"I feel like my game is right there," said Dufner last week in Abu Dhabi where a ninth place would have been a fifth place had he birdied rather than bogeyed the par five last.
Market leaders Rose and Oosthuizen are obviously class acts but Dufner is in their bracket too and shouldn't really be twice the price. Snap up that 16/1.
Swedes have an excellent record in this event with Joakim Haeggman (2004), Henrik Stenson (2006) and Robert Karlsson (2010) all walking away with the Mother of Pearl Trophy.
So how about Peter Hanson joining his compatriots on the board.
Stenson's win in 2006 came on the back of a second place 12 months earlier so, after finishing runner-up last year, hopefully Hanson can do the same.
Hanson shot nine-under on the weekend in Abu Dhabi (two shots better than winner Jamie Donaldson and only bettered by one other player) so hopefully that showed only Christmas rust was to blame for the iffy start.
Fifth in the putting stats last week, his much improved play on the greens is now turning him into a more regular winner and he can strike again here.
His amazing number of birdies last week suggests he's in attacking mood and if he can tidy up the errors he'll be a big player this week.
I'll also add in 40/1 shot Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
GFC is a big fan of the course and looks fairly reliable on the greens at the moment with a claw grip, feet together technique that is working for him.
When the putts drop and combine with his outstanding long game it becomes obvious why he's already racked up six European Tour wins.
The 40/1 could look an excellent price.
2pts e.w.Jason Dufner at 16/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
2pts e.w. Peter Hanson at 16/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano at 40/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)