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Commercialbank Qatar Masters preview

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The European Tour heads to Doha this week, for the 2nd part of the “Middle East Swing”, this time for the Commercialbank Qatar Masters, a prestigious event, with a cool prize fund of $2.5 million on offer. This of course attracts some of Europe’s best players, and also some players from the U.S most notably Jason Dufner, who played here 12 months ago.

This is, along with last week the strongest field of the year so far, and it really grabs your interest from the start, which by the way is Wednesday this week! Due to the quality of the players in the field this week, it makes for another interesting betting prospect, one we all hope to take advantage of.

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Doha Golf Club, 7,400 yards, Par 72. This golf course will test a number of key areas of the players games here, and like last week there are some very challenging holes. There are water hazards that come into play on holes, 3, 8, 9, 13, 15 and 18 and the players will have to keep in wind, should it pick up over the week. The course is exposed, and if the wind is a factor, the course will obviously play a bit longer, something good wind players deal with. The par 3s are often challenging, and will no doubt cause players some trouble this week. With dog legs featuring on a fair few of the holes, an emphasis will be put on shot shaping this week, and to add to that, you will want to leave yourself the right angle heading into the green. Players who play well tee-to-green will give themselves plenty of chances, and it is the one’s that can keep the putter warm that will benefit this week.

Chris Wood won this event twelve months ago, in what was his first and still only win on Tour, and he will be keen to make an impact once again. He finished the week off with a superb eagle on the last, which in turn denied both George Coetzee and Sergio Garcia a chance of a play-off. Wood’s form has been up and down of late, but there is no doubting what a superb talent he is, and he’s a fair 66/1 (StanJames) to retain his trophy this week.

There are some superb players, some who will be wanting to put their name on this fantastic trophy for the first time, and some who want their name etched on their once again, and there are some great contenders to do just that this week.

The market leaders this week are: Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia (8/1), Jason Dufner (18/1), and both Martin Kaymer and Thomas Bjorn (20/1). It is 25/1 and bigger the rest, and as per in these events, there is value to be had, due to the strength of the top end of the market.

Here are my tips for the 2014 CommercialBank Qatar Masters.

Jason Dufner 18/1 (PaddyPower, SkyBet, Sportingbet) 3pts win: Jason Dufner had a great 2013, which was a capped off by his first major win, at the USPGA. This was a bitter sweet victory for Dufner, who two years previously lost the very same event in a play-off wth his close friend Keegan Bradley.

Sometimes a player can struggle coming off the back of a major win, with form dipping, which could be due to a number of reasons, but Dufner has kept steady ever since. Some struggle to deal with the added attention and publicity straight after winning a major, and whether it is temporary or for a long period of time, their form suffers. Not Jason Dufner though.

He is known for his laid-back attitude on the course, and he often looks disinterested, however this is not the case. It’s just who he is as a character and as Twitter users reading this will know, #Dufnering was a huge craze for a long time, and he embraces it.

Jokes aside though, his calm demeanour leads to some very good play, and consistency creeps in from time to time. Since his major win, back in August, Dufner has not missed a cut, and has had some pretty good finishes along the way. He ended 2013 with a pair of top-10’s in the FedEx Cup playoffs and a President’s Cup victory, something he was very instrumental in. He finished the week with 3 points, and lost just once en-route to victory for the American side.

2014 has started in familiar fashion for Dufner, as he finished 5th at the Hyuandai Tournament of Champions, and then T29th a week later at the Sony Open. With one good finish, and another decent showing to build on, Dufner returns to European Tour action, where he has enjoyed some success over the last couple of years.

He played in both the Abu Dhabi Championship and the Qatar Masters back in 2013 and finished T9, which once again I am confident he can build on. Fresh from a week off, Dufner returns to a course he has already played well at, and if his putter gets hot there is no reason why he can’t win this time around. He shot -11 at this very course last year, and with no changes made since his last outing, he should be able to better his last effort and really push the main contenders here.

I think he is very comfortable playing European Tour events, he showed that last season, and with his 2nd place finish at the Perth International in 2011, and I hope he can go well again. I imagine he feels a lot less pressured playing outside of America, and he welcome the chance to play here, whilst his fellow PGA Tour pros battle it out at Torrey Pines.

In summary, he is a world-class player, he has been for two years now (since his first win), and I really do think on his day he is as good as anyone in this field.  He is such a good Greens in Regulation player (5th here last year in GIR) and 18/1 he isn’t overpriced, but such is his quality, I am willing to take a chance he gets a win here in Doha.

George Coetzee 30/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w: I actually pondered this decision for quite some time (he was the last confirmed player on my list) but in the end I felt it was wrong to leave him out.

George Coetzee, the enigma. Can this man win a tournament? Of course he can, he has more ability than a lot of players that have won on tour, so why is he yet to find the winners circle? He never seems to convince anyone, most obviously himself under pressure, and at 30/1 he may seem short for someone who’s never won, but the fact of the matter is, he’s a superb player.

At this course 12 months ago, Coetzee stood by, and watched Chris Wood eagle his 72nd hole and snatch yet another opportunity of a win away from him, not even giving a chance to do his thing in a play-off. This will no doubt play on his mind, but what he should do is focus in on the positives, and carry them over to this week.

Talking of carrying positives over, he played extremely well again last week, again putting himself in contention and again ultimately falling short. A Friday 70/Saturday 72 wasn’t good enough in Abu Dhabi last week, but an opening round of 68 and a closing 66 were very positive, and he looks to of got over the worst of his injury.

Coetzee spent a lot of last season dealing with a wrist injury, and really did limit his season, but if he can spend a whole year on tour healthy in 2014, you would have to think a win is on it’s way.

He led the field in both Putting Per GIR and Putts Per Round here last year, so a repeat of that would be ideal, and if he can improve on his Driving Accuracy (71st) and Greens in Regulation (42nd) from his effort in 2013, you would give him a great shot of not only competing again, but winning his first event.

Coetzee is a player very difficult to work out, but what is plain to see, is his obvious natural talent for the game, and I feel if he could get one win, he could go on to win many more. I have seen comparisons this week between him and Jimmy Walker of the PGA Tour, and he went years without a win, before getting one at the end of last year, and one last week in Hawaii. So two wins in recent months, when coming up empty over several years was the style in which Walker went about his business, and it’s not impossible that Coetzee does the same thing.

Alvaro Quiros 45/1 (Betfred, ToteSport) 1.5pts e/w: Alvaro Quiros is a six-time winner on the European Tour, and after a very difficult 2012 season, he finally started to show glimpses of his best form towards the end of last year.

Quiros finished T5 at the Irish Open, and T8 at the Open D’Italia last year, but it was his performance at the Portugal Masters that really highlighted his return. You might find that a funny statement to make, considering he collapsed in the final round, shooting 74 and dropping T22, but I think there is more to it than that.

It was both a confidence builder, and a killer at the same time, as he put himself in position, 3 shots back going into the final round, and looked set for a big finish. It wasn’t to be however, and he failed to capatalize on a great opportunity to win the Portugal Masters for a 2nd time.

This week, I am backing him to do what he failed to do in Portugal last year, and win his 2nd Qatar Masters. He won at this course in 2009, and followed that up with consecutive 2nd place finishes in 2010 and 2011, so he’s got plenty of course form. On top of that he has won in Dubai twice since, so he obviously likes the Middle East, and this could be a happy return for him.

A big part of Quiros’ game is obviously his big-hitting, but other areas of his game go largely unnoticed. “When you hit the ball well, that’s when you feel that you are a top 50 player,’ he said. ‘I’ve been hitting the ball very well for a long time but the scores never arrived. Today was a great day all round – especially with my putting – as I want to show people that I am not just a big hitter.’ This was Quiros at the end of his 3rd round in 2009, and he certainly has proved that since. You cannot win six times on tour, just by averaging 300.0 yards off tee year after year, and although it certainly helps, the rest of his game had to click into place when winning.

I am confident Quiros will return to form, adding more titles to an already successful career, as he has still just turned 30. There are players in the field who have got more wins, but he has done it over a short period of time, and looking at his compatriot Miguel Angel Jimenez, age isn’t always a factor. He has plenty of years ahead of him, and whilst he may not always be able to rip it over 300 yards, he will always have that winning mentality, something that should serve him well.

He watched fellow countryman Pablo Larrazabal win last week, and both Jimenez and Sergio Garcia have won in recent weeks, so he’ll be keen to keep the Spanish flag flying. This is a course he clearly negotiates well, and at 45/1 for a six-time winner, I was willing to take a chance he can go well again in Doha.

Richard Finch 150/1 (Betfred, SpreadEx, Totesport) 0.5pt e/w: Richard Finch is a two-time winner on the European Tour, and despite the fact his last win came in 2008, he has shown some interesting form of late.

Ultimately, Finch did not do enough to retain his European Tour card for 2014 last season, this however tells me he will be as motivated as any to get the win here.  He failed to get through Q-School, so he is now on many occasion at the mercy of sponsors invites.

He’s got an invite this week, and I expect him to put a decent performance here at Doha GC. Finch has played here seven times in the past, and although inconsistent, he’s missed the cut just once (2013), but placed in the top-10 on two occasions. He came 4th in 2006, and 9th in 2011 and although he’s been up and down in between, they are certainly positive finishes to have on your course résumé.

Since playing without a card, Finch has missed a cut at the South African Open, finished T8 in the Hong Kong Open, and most impressively 2nd place at the Alfred Dunhill Championship. This is impressive stuff, from a player who needs to get a win to get his playing rights back, and with the form he’s shown, it would be naive to rule out another good showing here.

He hits the ball pretty accurately tee-to-green, ranking 46th in Driving Accuracy and 39th in Greens in Regualtion on tour in 2013, and with his current form, you could see him playing at an even better level than that. If he can warm up on the greens, converting his chances, around a course he’s familiar with, it could prove another successful week.

It might be an ask for him to win it, he didn’t when the Alfred Dunhill when playing superbly and this field is stronger, however at 150/1 he’s a good price to put himself in contention, and hopefully he gives us a run for our money come Sunday.

Points Staked on the European Tour this week: 10

Profit/Loss for 2014: +115.75

Although we drew a total blank on the European Tour last week, Patrick Reed won on the PGA Tour, at the Humana Challenge, and at 100/1 he provided a very early boost to 2014. I hope this form conitinues, but this time on both tours, and I am confident of that happening. I really like the event, and the field this week, and also the Farmers Insurance Open (PGA Tour even this week) appeals. My preview for that will be out tomorrow, but for now I hope you have enjoyed this preview of the Qatar Masters, and best of luck with your bets. Be sure to check out my Twitter @TJacobsGolf and get in contact if you have any feedback or questions.