Their replacements are early starters LEE WESTWOOD and ROSS FISHER. Westwood finished 5th here last year, by far his best effort yet at Doha. As this is usually Lee’s opening event of the year, I suspect previous failures could have been due to under-preparation and that must once again be a fear. Hopefully the Race to Dubai will ensure a more professional approach, and if he is right then this course is absolutely ideal.
Fisher is awarded another chance, as I’m assuming last week’s mid-division effort was about blowing away the winter cobwebs. After all, he blew any winning chance with an opening day 75 in Abu Dhabi, and saved his best round till last. The consequence is a drift to a far more attractive 40/1 quote, that would be massive on last autumn’s outstanding form when he was in contention most weeks. And as we know from his runaway victory in the European Open, (arguably the performance of the year), Ross has the perfect game for hitting the ball beneath the wind.
Only one of my five selections starts in the afternoon, CHARL SCHWARTZEL, and thats because at 50/1, we need only have a small bet. Schwartzel has shown at least some promise on each of his last four trips to Doha, with last year’s 3rd his best yet. Ever since the end of last summer, when he won in Madrid, Schwartzel has been a regular contender, and may have won again but for some untimely mistakes. In truth, this ‘prospect’ is still nowhere near the finished article despite several years on the tour, but remains worth following when available at decent odds on the right type of course.
Numerous other candidates at decent prices came in for consideration. Abu Dhabi winner Paul Casey must come into the argument on that basis, though as usual I’m loathe to back anyone chasing back-to-back titles. Johan Edfors has a nice tee-time and ideal conditions, but looks a little too short at 33/1 in this exalted company, largely due to a good performance last week. Fellow Swede Alexander Noren was another early selection to be dropped after getting the worst of the draw. Still, both of those appeal more than Aaron Baddeley, a high class performer who showed little encouragement last week. Or otherwise classy Scandinavians Peter Hanson and Soren Hansen, who have repeatedly struggled at Doha. Likewise, Jeev-Milkha Singh is hard to fancy after registering a best of 22nd in seven attempts here.