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This year sees the 18th staging of the Qatar Masters, but while the most recent winners have been some of the game’s biggest names, it wasn’t ever thus
For the last decade the Qatar Masters has been won by some of the biggest or most in-form players of the time, among them Ernie Els, Henrik Stenson, Retief Goosen, Adam Scott, Robert Karlsson, Thomas Bjorn, Paul Lawrie and Sergio Garcia. But in its earlier years some slightly less-heralded names got their hands on the unusual clam trophy…
1998 – Andrew Coltart
A splendid weekend performance gave the Scot his first tour title in style. Rounds of 65 and 67 were good enough to see him home two clear of Andrew Sherborne and Patrick Sjoland. Coltart would go on to claim just one more tour title in 2001’s Great North Open, but also represented Europe in the infamous Brookline Ryder Cup in 1999.
2000 – Rolf Muntz
The Dutchman was a tour regular from 1994 until 2005 when he lost his card, with just limited appearances since then, mostly an annual return to the scene of his finest hour but with a significantly less successful outcome. Back in 2000, Muntz took a six-shot lead into the final round and was never really threatened, eventually finishing five clear of a fast-finishing Woosie.
2001 – Tony Johnstone
The 44-year-old Zimbabwean’s sixth and final main tour title came just weeks after his woeful putting had taken him to the brink of quitting. His gutsy final-round 70 with the famous Shamal wind that often sweeps across the Doha course at its most fierce was enough to see him home two clear of Robert Karlsson.
2003 – Darren Fichardt
The four-time tour winner was enjoying a pretty torrid 2003 when he showed up at Doha having banked scarcely enough to cover his air fares. He walked away €227,000 richer after successfully seeing off James Kingston in an all South African play-off en route to a career-best 39th on the Order of Merit.
2004 – Joakim Haeggman
The first Swede to play in the Ryder Cup hadn’t won for seven years when he arrived in the Qatari desert in 2004. An opening 75 gave little cause for hope, but Haeggman followed it with rounds of 64, 68 and 65 to pip Japan’s Nobuhito Sato by one. It would be the Swede’s most consistent, and only ever €1 million season, making 26 cuts out of 29 for 18th place on the Order of Merit.
Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...
Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf
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