By Sports Reporter/Doha
Open champions Darren Clarke and Paul Lawrie will head a strong
challenge from some of European Tour’s most experienced players when
they are joined by Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn and his vice-captain,
Robert Karlsson, at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
A strong field will once again assemble at Doha Golf Club for the 21st edition of the event, which boasts a star-studded list of former winners including the 1999 Open champion Lawrie, who has twice triumphed in the Qatari capital.
The Scot’s first win came in the early stages of a season which would define his career, when he soared to a seven-stroke victory in February 1999, before mounting a late charge to famously defeat Jean van de Velde to the Open Championship later that season.
Clarke, meanwhile, plays the event for the seventh time but for the first time since 2011, when he finished in tied-12th before lifting the Claret Jug later that season courtesy of a dominant display at Royal St George’s.
The Northern Irishman played in the inaugural edition of the event back in 1998, when he claimed his best finish to date in the event, a tied-ninth, even as Andrew Coltart earned his maiden European Tour victory.
The 2018 Ryder Cup captain Bjorn will land in Qatar confident of a strong performance on a course upon which he has played 13 times, and claimed victory in 2011.
The great Dane has made the weekend in ten of those 13 appearances, with two top-ten finishes to add to his win seven years ago. He has been playing his way back into form early in the 2018 campaign with eight of his ten rounds thus far this season under par, six of them sub-70.
While a second victory in Qatar will undoubtedly be at the forefront of Bjorn’s mind in Doha, his fierce competitive spirit will also mean he always has one eye on September’s showpiece in Paris as he leads Team Europe into battle against Jim Furyk’s USA team.
His close friend and former European Tour number one Karlsson is the only vice-captain Bjorn has selected thus far, and the Swede will also be present in Qatar for his 17th appearance in an event which he has also won.
Karlsson emerged victorious in 2010 after finishing two strokes clear of Spain’s Alvaro Quiros for the tenth of his 11 European Tour titles.
Having made the cut in 15 of his 17 appearances at Doha Golf Club, he will surely be confident of rekindling the kind of form which earned him two Ryder Cup appearances as a player.
Other former Ryder Cup stars in the field for this year’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters include Englishmen Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan, who appeared in the most recent contest at Hazeltine in 2016, while Nicolas Colsaerts – a star of the famous Miracle at Medinah in 2012 – also plays.
Jamie Donaldson, who famously struck the winning shot of the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, is also joined in the field by his teammates for that triumph under Paul McGinley, Victor Dubuisson and Stephen Gallacher.
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