Doha, Qatar: A star-studded field comprising 14 former Ryder Cup players will sprinkle their magic on the fairways of Doha Golf Club at the 22nd Commercial Bank Qatar Masters starting Thursday.
Captain Thomas Bjorn, who masterminded Europe’s 17.5 - 10.5 defeat of the United States in last year’s Ryder Cup in Paris, returns to Qatar for the 15th time, having won the event in 2011.
Bjorn, who appeared in three Ryder Cups, played in the very first edition of the Qatar Masters back in 1998, and so too did fellow past champion and Ryder Cup star Robert Karlsson. The tall Swede won the Mother of Pearl trophy in 2010, two years after he made his second Ryder Cup appearance at Valhalla.
Paul Lawrie is another two-time Ryder Cup star, with both his appearances in the biennial event coming in the same years he won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters - 1999 and 2012. The former Open Champion will be joined by his Scottish compatriot Stephen Gallacher who is no stranger to winning in the Middle East with two victories at the Dubai Desert Classic to his name. Gallacher played in the victorious 2014 Ryder Cup Team on home soil at Gleneagles.
Chris Wood, Andy Sullivan and Thomas Pieters all represented Team Europe three years ago at Hazeltine National while the likes of Victor Dubuisson (2014), Nicolas Colsaerts (2012), Peter Hanson (2010, 2012), Edoardo Molinari (2010), Ross Fisher (2010), Oliver Wilson (2008) and David Howell (2004, 2006) have all donned European colours in the past.
World Number 76 Pieters has made a solid start to the season, finishing inside the top 30 in his first five events, including a share of sixth place last week at the Oman Open, and he believes there’s more to come this week in Qatar.
“My game has been feeling really good for a long time now,” said the Belgian. “I’m playing tournaments again and getting my confidence back is the main thing. I haven’t had a bad tournament yet, but last week is the first time I’ve contended in a long time and it felt great. Winning the World Cup last year was different - in an individual tournament I hadn’t been in contention and it was frustrating. I hope I can keep this feeling going.”
One of the most popular stops on Tour, the field for the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters is also full of young stars hoping to add the iconic Trophy to their silverware collection. England’s Jordan Smith finished sixth in Doha on his debut two years ago and is looking to bounce back after missing the cut last year.
“I always enjoy coming to Doha Golf Club,” said Smith. “The first year I played here I had a really good performance but unfortunately I missed the cut last year so hopefully I can make that right this time around. I love the course; it’s tricky because of the windy conditions but I really enjoy the challenge.”
The Peter Harradine layout also holds fond memories for Challenge Tour graduate Erik Van Rooyen, who enjoyed a fine rookie campaign on the European Tour in 2018.
“I played really well over the first two rounds here last year but struggled at the weekend so I’d like to change that this year and continue to play well for all four rounds,” said the South African. “It’s a golf course where you’ve got to hit a lot of drivers, which suits my game, so I’m really looking forward to teeing off on Thursday. I love playing out here in the Middle East and Qatar is always a great destination on the European Tour calendar.”
With 144 players blending an intriguing mix of youth and experience, this year’s edition is set to be another memorable addition to the tournament’s storied history.