The Qatar Commercial Bank Masters kicked off this morning, following a 30-minute delay due to today’s early-hours fog. The tournament has drawn 126 top golfers to Qatar, including World No. 3, Henrik Stenson, World No. 11 Sergio Garcia and defending champion Chris Wood.
In a statement, the golfers expressed optimism about the competition, which offers a $2.5 million prize to the top-scoring athlete.
“I really like the golf course,” said Garcia, who is making his eighth consecutive appearance in the tournament. “It’s played nice and tough down the years, and it’s a very good tournament to start the year off. So hopefully, I can have another good week here and see if I can get a win. That would obviously be great, but at the least I want to have a nice, solid week.”
Wood, the 26-year-old Englishman who won last year’s tournament with a sensational eagle, said he is looking forward to becoming the first player to mount a successful title defense at the Master’s, which is part of the European’s Tour Middle East leg.
“As soon as I arrived here, it brought back some great memories,” he said. “Obviously my first win on The European Tour is always going to be special to me, and Qatar is going to always be up there as one of my favorite events.”
Two Qatari players will participate in this year’s tournament. Saleh Al Kaabi and Ali Al Bishi, both 19, are hoping to become the first Qataris to advance in the tournament.
Speaking to journalists, Al Kaabi acknowledged the challenge ahead, saying, “They make the course much longer, the rough is really high and the greens are really fast. Now that it’s windy, it’s going be really tough.”
The quieter Al-Bishi exhibited more of a hopeful attitude about competing in the star-studded tournament. “I just hope I can make the cut. I’m really happy that both Saleh and I are playing this time, so at least if I don’t play well, I hope he can play well,” he said.
Al Kaabi made his tournament debut last January, one year after Al Bishi competed in the 2012 event when he was only 17 years old.
The tournament runs through Saturday, Jan. 25, and evening entertainment will be held on Thursday and Friday, starting at 6pm. Tickets are still on sale online and at Virgin Megastore outlets in Villaggio and Landmark malls, as well as the Doha Golf Club.
Both single-day (Thursday/Friday) and season tickets include entry to the concerts, which will feature American performers Divas of Soul on Thursday, and Scottish band Texas on Friday.
Golf fans can also still buy season tickets that provide access to all four days of golf action, the public village and all evening entertainment for QAR325 – a 40 percent discount on single-day tickets.
Are you planning to watch the action? Thoughts?