Who Will Master Their Gulf Swing?
The European Tour remains in the Persian Gulf after last week's thrilling conclusion in Abu Dhabi. The action though heads to Doha, home of the Commercialbank Qatar Masters, and a course that Henrik Stenson is very familiar with. He will lead the betting in a stellar field that includes seven of the top fourteen ranked players on the tour.
The Swede (10/1) will be looking to continue his outstanding recent record on the Doha course, admitting himself that he "knows this course inside out." Since 2005 he has won on one occasion and finished second on a further three visits, where his long, straight game is ideally suited to the desert conditions. A solid 10 under par last week that included final rounds of 69 and 67 will have encouraged punters that Stenson can add to his tour victory here in 2006.
Vying for favouritism alongside Stenson will be the trio of Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter and Retief Goosen.
Kaymer will believe that he can better last year's 31st place finish in Doha after his triumph at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championships. A 6 under last round on Sunday finally edged out Ian Poulter, who himself had played some fine golf over the course of the weekend.
Kaymer is priced at 11/1 to continue his terrific form on the desert swing and is no stranger to back to back wins after he followed up defeating Lee Westwood via a play-off in the French Open with the Scottish Open in July of 2009. His record on this particular course though isn't as fantastic as some of his counterparts and will need to be at his very best to take down the title.
The player pushed into second last time out, Ian Poulter, will be looking to go one step further and add the Qatar Masters to his CV and consolidate his place in the top ten of the Official World Golf Rankings. He is priced at 18/1 and it will be interesting to see how the flamboyant Englishman responds to being denied the win last week after playing some of the most impressive golf of his career.
Retief Goosen has certainly been overlooked by some punters but comes into the Qatar Masters at 14/1, there have been some encouraging signs recently.
Since the autumn, Goosen has quietly gone about his business winning several smaller tournaments. As another former champion at Doha, he cannot be discounted.
Putting has been a problem but some work at home on his winter break seems to be paying dividends as he has posted good efforts on the PGA Tour already in the two events staged in Hawaii. The second of those at the Sony saw him finish with a blistering 62 - the round of the week - on the way to a fourth-place finish.
Other big names that warrant a mention are Englishman Lee Westwood, the current Race to Dubai title holder, is 14/1 to add to his World Championship success not too far from here in Dubai in November. Fellow Englishman Paul Casey and Ross Fisher are 20/1 as is Charl Schwartzel. The South African will try to make it three wins from three appearances after successes at the Africa Open and the Joburg Open. The last player to achieve this feat on the European Tour was a young man named Tiger Woods...no pressure there then Charles.
For an outside bet, you could do worse than take a look at Steve Webster, who is no stranger to the conditions of Doha and at a price of 125/1 could be well worth an each way punt.