Several of the world’s top golfers teed off in Doha this morning, marking the beginning of the 18th edition of the Qatar Masters golf tournament and the start of the professional season for many of the participants.
Some of the top names contending in the $2.5 million championship are Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose – ranked No. 2 and No. 5 in the world, respectively – as well as defending champion Sergio Garcia, who is making his 10th appearance at the Qatar tournament.
In a press conference earlier this week, Garcia – who has finished in the top 10 during his last four appearances at the Qatar Masters – complimented the condition of the local greens.
“I’ve started my season in Qatar for the last few years, and I always enjoy coming back. I just feel very comfortable here,” he said. “The weather’s usually great, although it’s a bit breezy today … (but) I’m looking forward to playing in my short sleeves with the sun on my back and hopefully a smile on my face.”
Rose expressed similar sentiments about starting his season off in the Gulf:
“I have seen the fields get stronger and stronger. It’s a place where players want to start their season,” said the 34-year-old in a press conference yesterday. “I think they are such reliable tournaments from that perspective. You always know what you are going to get down here. You are going to get good golfing weather; you are going to get good course conditions.”
The public praise will be welcomed by local officials who are working to raise Qatar’s profile by turning the country into a global sports hub through hosting major international tournaments.
That includes major swimming meets, tennis matches and the Men’s Handball World Championships that’s currently taking place. Local organizers are also gearing up for the 2019 World Championships in Athletics and the 2022 World Cup.
Organizers of the Qatar Masters call their event “The Pearl in Qatar’s Sporting Crown,” and at least one long-time spectator observed how much the country has changed since the first tournament in 1998:
Remember being at 1st Qatar Masters in late 90s. Hotel bar, Pizza Hut, KFC and golf course. The rest was desert. Didn't get out much!
— Richard Kaufman (@KaufmanRichard) January 21, 2015
For the third time, amateurs Saleh Al Kaabi and Ali Al-Shahrani – both 20 years old – are aiming to become the first-ever Qataris to make the halfway cut at the tournament.
National team coach Mike Elliot said he is optimistic that the local players will turn in a solid performance if they execute on the strategies they’ve learned over the past year.
“If they get their course management going and stay concentrated, they should do really well,” said the former professional golfer.
Admission and entertainment
Tickets are still available and can be purchased through Virgin Megastores in person and online as well as at the Doha Golf Club and the Doha Rugby Football Club.
With limited parking at the golf club, organizers are hoping spectators take advantage of the free return ride with taxi company Uber that comes with each ticket.
Prices range from QR150 to QR250 for single-day passes or QR450 for admission during all days.
Following the conclusion of play on Friday, ticket holders can watch a concert headlined by British reggae/pop band UB40 that also features Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey.
Entry is free for children under the age of 14. For more information, visit the Qatar Masters website.
Will you be going to the tournament? Thoughts?