Antoine Rozner holed an incredible 60 foot putt on the last hole to win the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters last year at the Education City Golf Club (ECGC), but the Frenchman knows he has to conquer the re-structured greens at the Doha Golf Club (DGC) to defend his title.
“I want to get used to the greens as well because I’m sure the grass is going to be very different to what we had last year at the ECGC and recently in South Africa and Kenya. I’ve heard good things about the course, so we’ll see. I’m really curious to see what it’s like,” said Rozner, ahead of today’s first day of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
The tournament was played at the DGC since 1998, but with the course undergoing renovation, it was moved to the Education City Golf Club (ECGC) for 2020 and 2021.
All the holes have been reconstructed with four new greens being redesigned and some alterations have been made to a few pin positions. “I think you have to find a good technique that you’re comfortable with around the greens chipping wise, and see how the ball reacts when you roll it, maybe the grain will affect it or not, so you’ve just got to get used to this grass, find a good technique and that’s it,” Rozner added.
The Frenchman’s victory was his second in six events and came just three months after his maiden win at the Golf in Dubai Championship.
It meant he had recorded two wins in 29 events – making him the fastest French player ever to two victories – with just four missed cuts in an incredible start to his European Tour career since graduating from the Challenge Tour in 2019. “Amazing feeling. Winning a golf tournament is the best feeling in the world. It was an once-in-a-lifetime putt to win a tournament. You don’t get a putt to win a tournament every week in our job but to have a 60-foot putt to win is even more special so it was definitely the biggest putt of my career,” the 29-year-old Rozner said.
That 2019 campaign brought him back to back wins on the Challenge Tour, and he had moved into the top 70 in the world ranking – a career high. Rozner is seeking to join a select group of players to have won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. Only South African Branden Grace (2015, 2016) has ever won the tournament in consecutive years, while Major champions Adam Scott (2002, 2008) and Paul Lawrie (1999, 2012) are the only other players to have won the title on multiple occasions.
Since his win in Doha, Rozner, who graduated from the Challenge Tour in 2019, has struggled to produce his best golf on a consistent basis, making just one top-10 finish on Tour. “I think the more you play on this Tour, the more you realise how hard it is to win a golf tournament. It’s so competitive nowadays. I’ve only been here two years, but hopefully I’ll be here in ten or 15 years and I’ll tell myself what you’ve done is very, very good and winning a tournament is so hard. Every single part of your game has to be perfect to win a golf tournament.”
South African Justin Harding, the last winner at the DGC course in 2019, former champion’s Spain’s Jorge Campillo and Englishman Eddie Pepperell are also vying for the title. “I’m feeling good. My game has been okay, I’ve been playing solid in the last few events but my putting has been a little bit off. I’m feeling good coming into this week,” Campillo said.
“It’s always nice to come back to a tournament where I’ve been the champion, even though it was on the other course. I’ve finished second here once, so I’ve played well here too, so it’s a nice track as well and I’m glad we’re back here where I can play well as well.”
Another South African Dean Burmester, who finished second in the last week’s Steyn City Championship, is in top form and is a top contender for the winner’s cheque of $333,330. “I’m glad I made a competition last week. I was four shots behind going into the final round and I had a two-shot lead for quite a while there. I’m a bit gutted to have thrown it away. I’ve been playing solid. I take a lot of positives out of that. I was tied for the lead with two holes to go, had a chance to win a tournament on Sunday and that’s what we practice for really. I’m here in Qatar trying to do it again,” Burmester said.
Saleh al-Kaabi and Abdulrahman al-Shahrani, who were part of the GCC Championship-winning Qatar team are among the four wild cards in the fray. Qatar Open champion Denmark’s Mikkel Mathiesen is also a wild-card entry for the event.
“My preparations for the Qatar Masters have been great because we played a lot of tournaments in recent months,” al-Kaabi said on the eve of Qatar Masters.
“I am going into the tournament with confidence. My first target will be to make the cut and I am hopeful of doing that. This will be my last event of the season and I am looking forward to finishing this good season on a high note,” he said.
Al-Kaabi also expressed his delight as Qatar Masters returned to the DGC after a two-year gap. “It is really to return to your home golf course. Doha Golf Club has been my home course for a long time and I think I will get advantage of that,” he said.