Following on from last week's stellar field in Abu Dhabi, the Qatar Masters has attracted several of the golfing world's biggest names with top-class representatives from the US, Africa, Asia and Australia in addition to all the European Tour regulars. Inevitably the result is a very competitive, tough puzzle to solve. In fact just resolving which player should start favourite is anything but straightforward. Do we go for World No.2 Sergio Garcia, who finished strongly with 67/64 to reach the top-10 in Abu Dhabi? Or defending champion Adam Scott, twice a winner from two starts on this course? Or then there's former Doha champions Ernie Els, Henrik Stenson and Retief Goosen, along with several others whom I'll mention in due course. One plausible means of solving the puzzle is to examine the tee-times. Doha GC is a very exposed course, and the local 'Shamal' wind is usually a significant factor in the afternoon. Previous results, at least prior to Scott's amazing final round 61 last year, suggest 'catch-up' golf is very difficult here. It stands to reason therefore that an early round one tee-time is even more of an advantage than usual. I should point out that these tee-times have played havoc with my staking plan. Four of my five initial selections were drawn to start in the afternoon, prompting a complete re-assessment. At least my main pick, ROBERT KARLSSON, has a plum early draw. Karlsson's 18/1 odds confirm that he remains seriously under-rated. Clearly the best player in Europe last year, deserved Order of Merit champion and up to seventh in the world rankings, I can find no rational explanation for how he can start a bigger price than compatriot Stenson, (who missed last week's cut), or the rapidly deteriorating Els.
With a strong emphasis on driving distance and putting, this set up is ideal for Karlsson. Some might question whether he will be a little rusty on his seasonal debut, but I can't recall him turning up under-prepared once last year. And having finished runner-up here eight years ago, when frankly no more than a Euro Tour journeyman, and 5th in 2005, there is plenty of evidence that 'Sir Bob' likes this course.
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