I was a little rushed this week but luckily the test at Doha Golf Club isn’t too dissimilar from last week in Oman. The Qatar Masters is nearly always won by a brilliant links golf exponent and with last week’s event turning into a links golfer benefit, its leaderboard is a perfect starting point for those looking for a bet this week.
While ability to play in the wind and still hit greens is usually important in these events I always keep coming back to scrambling when they are playing on links courses. Greens will certainly be missed and a different sort of imagination is required to play the low bump and run recoveries we see so much of in Scotland and indeed here in Doha. Former winners Ernie Els, Paul Lawrie, Thomas Bjorn and Branden Grace are all capable of flighting the ball down in the wind but they also possess a razor-sharp short game. With Qatar having wide enough fairways and minimal rough, what happens off the tee isn’t usually too crucial so perhaps another good form gauge is the Open venues with wider fairways. St Andrews and Kingsbarns, which host the Alfred Dunhill Links, are perfect examples of that. However it is played in October so the course isnt always as hard and fast as we will see this week in Qatar. Therefore I’m sticking with my original plan and will be looking for good wind players who excel as they get closer to the green.
Bjork to be Violently Happy in Doha?
My starting point is unfortunately going to be the same headline pick as last week. Alexander Bjork finished 12th in Oman but he only started with a level par opening round on a day where scoring was at its lowest. That meant he was up against it the rest of the weekend but played very solidly. The main reason I’m playing him again is that he ranked 1st in scrambling so we know his short game is as good as ever. The faster, grainier greens will be more to his liking as well and if he can just hole a few more putts on Thursday this week then he can get himself into contention at a course where he finished 28th last year on his debut. A second look might be the boost he needs and the list of Swedes who have gone well at Doha is a long one with them accounting for 3 of the 21 events to date and several more runner-up finishes.
Chris Wood is the obvious pick after his runner-up finish to Joost Luiten on Sunday. But given that he had been so poor for so long I’m not convinced his price fairly reflects the chances of him holding his form another week despite being a former winner at the course and an excellent links player.
There were a few links veterans that popped up at various times in Oman and they should be respected again here this week. But possibly more so in the place markets where Thomas Bjorn looks a fair bet at 6/1 in the top 20 market. In terms of other each way prices I’m quite keen on George Coetzee (what’s new? shout the regular blog readers) but he is starting to look a little short now at just 25/1 even with his excellent course record.
It’s usually not a bad betting event in Qatar given the amount of course form to pour over but I’m not seeing a great deal to shout about this year. Wang has shown enough recently to suggest he will put up a solid defence but I’d be happy enough to watch him go back to back without any money down at just 20/1. The fact only one player trades below that number means the bookies believe it to be a wide open event and it certainly has that feel this year. But I’m going to chance last year’s runner-up Joakim Lagergren despite his pretty poor run of form. He is another short-game wizard who is perfect for the course if he is playing well. His run of three missed cuts means we get a decent price of 100/1 and he could just bounce back to form returning to the scene of his best finish to date on Tour. His form wasn’t much better coming in last year as he had missed his only cut of the year. He’s also another Swede which might just count for something as they are generally brought up playing in a fair bit of wind back home.
Thomas Bjorn’s short game was excellent last week ranking 18th in scrambling and 9th in putting so I think I will have a Top 20 bet on the Ryder Cup captain who will no doubt have got his competitive juices flowing last week when finishing 33rd having sat 16th with a round to go. He has won at the course before and while playing well he can certainly still be a threat here, particularly if the wind blows.
Alexander Bjork – 1pt ew @ 40/1
Joakim Lagergren – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1
Thomas Bjorn – 1pt Top 20 @ 6/1
Weekly pts advised = 4pts
Total 2018 pts advised = 45pts
Total 2018 pts returned = 33.94pts (prior to Qatar)