Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Qatar Masters Tips 2019

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A week to forget in Oman with my team quickly getting blown out of contention and headline pick Alex Levy, who started brightly with a 4-under first round to sit 4th after the opening 18 holes, retiring with back issues as the event ended without so much as a whimper from a betting perspective.

On to this week then and we move north-east from last week’s venue in Oman to complete our early-season Middle East events, as the Tour heads back to Doha for the final event in the Gulf until much later in the year. An early attendee list that included the likes of Joost Luiten, Alex Levy and Paul Dunne has suffered some late changes and it’s left a rather disappointing field in comparison to some years with the enigmatic Belgian Thomas Pieters leading the betting at a best price of 11/1. Jordan Smith is the next player on all of the bookmakers’ lists at around 20/1, followed by the likes of Alexander Bjork, Tom Lewis and Mike Lorenzo-Vera in what looks to be a wide open affair.

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Before we talk the Qatar Masters, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System is increasing in the inevitable build-up to The Masters. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) our Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here. Masters lovers will also enjoy our Ante-post Masters Podcast.

Doha GC. Designer: Harradine, 1996; Course Type: Desert; Par: 72; Length: 7,400 yards; Water Hazards: 6; Fairways: Bermuda; Rough: Bermuda; Greens: Bermuda/Poa Trivialis, 11’6″ on the stimp.

Course Overview. The final leg of our Middle-East adventure takes us to the Harradine-designed Doha Golf Club which has hosted this event since its inauguration in 1998, giving us plenty of course history stats to review. At 7,400 yards in length, the course has historically favoured longer hitters when conditions are tranquil; wayward drives aren’t punished as severely as other courses on the European Tour circuit with relatively thin rough, allowing the bombers to attack more freely. However the exposed layout is particularly susceptible to wind and even the most tranquil of forecasts in the region can still result in a fair breeze blowing over the track at times, which brings the more controlled ball-strikers into the mix.

The par-72 layout is a conventional pair of 9s with the outward 9 measuring 230 yards longer than the inward 9. The par-5s play amongst the easiest of the holes as you might expect with even the 639 yard 9th playing under par generally, however the driveable par-4 16th is also a birdie and eagle opportunity for most of the field.

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Qatar Masters that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Top 20 Finishes | Combined Form Stats.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Winners & Prices. 2018: Eddie Pepperell, 70/1; 2017: Jeunghun Wang, 33/1; 2016: Branden Grace, 8/1; 2015: Branden Grace, 25/1; 2014: Sergio Garcia, 8/1; 2013: Chris Wood, 100/1; 2012: Paul Lawrie, 50/1; 2011: Thomas Bjorn, 200/1; 2010: Robert Karlsson, 66/1.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the Doha region in Qatar is here. Clear skies and temperatures in the high-70s Fahrenheit will greet the players this week. The wind is often a factor here at Doha and this year is expected to be no different, particularly for the start of the event where average wind speeds on Thursday are expected to be 20-25mph before dropping to 15-20mph by Sunday.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

Analysing the final stats of the past 9 winners here gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2018: Eddie Pepperell. 268 yards (77th), 67.9% fairways (3rd), 80.6% greens in regulation (16th), 71.4% scrambling (9th), 1.66 putts per GIR (9th).
  • 2017: Jeunghun Wang. 292 yards (37th), 50% fairways (40th), 77.8% greens in regulation (26th), 68.8% scrambling (7th), 1.71 putts per GIR (15th).
  • 2016: Branden Grace. 306 yards (6th), 46.4% fairways (44th), 76.4% greens in regulation (19th), 76.5% scrambling (3rd), 1.71 putts per GIR (4th).
  • 2015: Branden Grace. 296 yards (9th), 48.2% fairways (61st), 83.3% greens in regulation (3rd), 66.7% scrambling (23rd), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2014: Sergio Garcia. 300 yards (5th), 51.8% fairways (54th), 75.0% greens in regulation (32nd), 72.2% scrambling (12th), 1.72 putts per GIR (18th).
  • 2013: Chris Wood. 297 yards (13th), 62.5% fairways (17th), 81.9% greens in regulation (6th), 53.8% scrambling (58th), 1.65 putts per GIR (3rd).
  • 2012: Paul Lawrie. 300 yards (9th), 54.8% fairways (23rd), 79.6% greens in regulation (7th), 72.7% scrambling (6th), 1.63 putts per GIR (3rd).
  • 2011: Thomas Bjorn. 288 yards (34th), 42.9% fairways (56th), 77.8% greens in regulation (3rd), 68.8% scrambling (9th), 1.69 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2010: Robert Karlsson. 296 yards (15th), 57.1% fairways (49th), 77.8% greens in regulation (4th), 68.8% scrambling (11th), 1.63 putts per GIR (4th).

High GIR and decent enough putting are the common themes in the analysis above with slightly less emphasis on accuracy from off the tee. Scrambling isn’t overly difficult here as is reflected by the high percentages, therefore bogey avoidance in general is quite high – indeed last year’s winner Eddie Pepperell dropped just 4 shots on the week which is similar to Wang’s 5 Bogeys from 2017 and Grace’s 4 bogeys and a double the year before that.

The par 3s are the toughest element of the course in my opinion, so picking players with a strong mid-iron game is a positive. This venue is particularly susceptible to the wind so siding with strong ball-strikers or those with a proven wind/coastal pedigree if the forecast suggests anything other than a flat calm week isn’t a bad move either

Incoming Form: It’s worth noting that all winners featured in the analysis below had recorded at least one top-10 finish in their previous 7 starts and all had played the week before:

  • 2018: Eddie Pepperell: 3/3/MC/7/10/6/34/48/MC/MC/MC/44
  • 2017: Jeunghun Wang: MC/MC/MC/43/MC/13/29/70/13/2/17/MC/11
  • 2016: Branden Grace: 17/3/47/30/17/5/22/3/8/4/4/5
  • 2015: Branden Grace: 46/MC/MC/46/25/21/16/19/9/13/1/15/20
  • 2014: Sergio Garcia: 40/61/29/37/4/18/9/11/4/2/1/19
  • 2013: Chris Wood: 36/12/1/26/WD/43/MC/15/7/10/26/70
  • 2012: Paul Lawrie: 59/35/16/45/59/11/49/MC/46/2/10/8
  • 2011: Thomas Bjorn: 15/MC/MC/11/17/38/5/MC/WD/52/MC/44
  • 2010: Robert Karlsson: 53/71/32/16/MC/MC/33/MC/MC/2/9/60

Event Form. With the exception of 2017 winner Jeunghun Wang, all winners going back to 2010 had recorded at least one top-20 finish in Qatar prior to their victory here:

  • 2018: Eddie Pepperell: MC/63/4/MC
  • 2017: Jeunghun Wang: Debut
  • 2016: Branden Grace: 47/6/13/1
  • 2015: Branden Grace: 47/6/13
  • 2014: Sergio Garcia: MC/19/7/7/24/9/5/2
  • 2013: Chris Wood: 14/MC/20
  • 2012: Paul Lawrie: 48/1/27/34/36/69/MC/11/25/46/MC/19/
  • 2011: Thomas Bjorn: MC/MC/23/9/33/60/8
  • 2010: Robert Karlsson: 40/2/MC/25/5/15/22/60/37

A cursory look through the list of winners here screams links golf which makes a level of sense given the often windswept nature of the course here at Doha. This is of course desert golf, however when the breeze picks up it tends to favour a certain type of wind-positive player and with a fairly strong breeze forecast at various parts of the week, I don’t see any reason to overly oppose that train of thought this week.

For me, some positive event form is one element to look at, as is a smattering of recent form without the need for anything too spectacular. Bermudagrass-positive players should also shine on these greens and those players who perform well on par 3s – the toughest part of this track as I’ve mentioned above – should excel.

My selections are as follows:

Tom Lewis 2pts EW 28/1 (6 Places EW, 1/5 Odds) with Unibet

Of those players at the top end of the market, my preference is for Tom Lewis. Thomas Pieters was always going to rate as the favourite for this event once Joost Luiten had dropped out, however my reservations this week are much the same as last week – at the price on offer he’s not truly contending enough to take a chance on him. 6th place last week Oman is his best regular-event finish since the US PGA Championship last August, however I can pass on a player who is likely to feature but equally likely to not get over the line when push comes to shove.

Jordan Smith is the second favourite, however at nearly 70 places higher in the OWGR, I’d personally rate Tom Lewis as having the better chance of winning this week’s event and I’m happy to back him accordingly as he looks to edge into the world’s top 50 ahead of Augusta. If we’re looking for a links pedigree given the history of this event and a windy forecast, then the Welwyn Garden City man’s sparkling amateur career, which featured wins at both Royal St George’s and St Andrews, has to be taken into account, as does the fact that he led the 2011 Open Championship as an amateur. The 28 year-old went on to turn professional later that year and promptly won on the European Tour on his 3rd attempt at the Portugal Masters, however it was seemingly all downhill from there as his form and confidence disappeared.

Nearly 7 years in the doldrums was halted when a 6th place finish at the Czech Masters last year hinted at a return to form and quickfire wins at the Bridgestone Challenge (Challenge Tour) and Portugal Masters (again) completed his comeback and a complete u-turn in form. 5th at the British Masters behind last season’s Qatar champion Eddie Pepperell, 7th on the Bermudagrass greens of the Earth Course and 9th and 3rd in the Middle East this term in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia respectively earmark Lewis as a real contender here his week.

Perhaps not making the Match Play in Perth and finishing 65th in Mexico after an 11th hour call to make up the numbers has made the bookies less wary of the Engishman, however if he’s in anything like the form he showed prior to that in the Gulf then he’ll go very close here. Although Tom has no outstanding results here to draw back upon, finishes of MC/59/37/52 at Doha came in a period of time when he was struggling with his game and that 2014 effort, which marks his best finish, saw him sit 6th at the halfway point after opening rounds of 68/67 to suggest he gets on with this track just fine. RESULT: MC

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Jorge Campillo 2pts EW 33/1 (7 Places EW, 1/5 Odds) With Coral

Last week’s fast-finishing 2nd place in Oman was the 5th time that Jorge Campillo has finished 2nd in a European Tour event and surely the door will open soon enough for him. The Tshwane Open, Avantha Masters, Nelson Mandela Championship and last season’s Maybank Championship are the other near misses that the Spaniard has endured over the years, however those efforts, combined with a 3rd place finish at last season’s Irish Open when he finished a shot outside of the play-off and ahead of the likes of Jon Rahm, suggests to me that he’s well capable of winning at this kind of level if not higher.

The 32 year-old was striking the ball nicely last week in Oman despite the challenging conditions, ranking 2nd for GIR with 79.2%, 3rd for scrambling and 2nd for putting average. The fundamental reason he didn’t win was that he made a 6-over-par 9 on the par-3 5th hole in his second round when big numbers were being thrown around like confetti as the weather closed in. Take that hole away and award him a par and, everything else being equal, he wins by 5 shots. Of course that’s not how this game works with Sunday pressure and all, however he’d have undoubtedly had a better chance without that hole wrecking his card as 66/69 over the weekend was 2 strokes better than anyone else in the field.

Late winter to spring last year saw Jorge finish inside the each-way places on 5 occasions in just 7 starts and it’s clear that he can both hold his form and perform well in this segment of the golfing calendar. 6 attempts here at Doha have seen a gradual progression and he recorded his best finish around these parts on his last start in 2017 when a 3rd round 75 scuppered his chances having opened with rounds of 69/67 and closed with a 66. If he can keep that one bad round or one disastrous hole off of his card this week then he could well go one better this time around. RESULT: T2

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Andrea Pavan 1pt EW 66/1 (5 places EW, 1/4 odds) with Ladbrokes

Although not as lofty on the final leaderboard as Jorge Campillo, another player who impressed in tough conditions last week was Andrea Pavan with the Italian faring well from a ball-striking perspective (8th for accuracy, 4th for GIR) which will set him in good stead given the forecast this week.

The 4-time Challenge Tour winner finally broke his duck at European Tour level last year in the Czech Republic, masterfully holding multiple Major Champion Padraig Harrington at bay on the back 9 to secure his first trophy. The 29 year-old has been a little slow to get going this year with missed cuts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, however 34th in Saudi Arabia was a significant improvement with 3 rounds in the 60s and 31st last week in Oman saw him close with a joint-best-of-the-day round of 69.

A decent wind player who finished 5th at last year’s Dunhill Links if we’re looking for some correlation, Pavan finished 13th here 12 months ago which was a marked improvement on the two missed cuts he’d produced on this track earlier in his career. 4th going into Sunday last year, 81.9% of greens in regulation and 11th for putting average on these tricky Bermuda greens are statistics I like, and if he combines that flat stick performance with last week’s ball-striking he’ll go closer still this week. RESULT: MC

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Thongchai Jaidee 1pt EW 150/1 (8 Places EW, 1/5 Odds) with Boylesports

I’ll complete this week’s team with a bit of experience in the shape of Thongchai Jaidee. At 49 years of age, the Thai might not have won on the European Tour since 2016, however a challenging weather forecast plays into the hands of more experienced players who can deal with adversity and with the likes of Robert Karlsson, Thomas Bjorn and Paul Lawrie all having won this event since 2010, there’s enough to suggest that a player of Jaidee’s ilk can make the frame here.

The Thai has a wealth of experience here at Doha having played this event 16 times over the years, recording two top-10 finishes and a further 7 top-25 efforts. 18th last week from an identical price point hasn’t seen the bookies blink, however in this field I think he has a better chance than that and I’m happy to take them on. 15th for GIR and 16th for Putting last week was encouraging, as was 4th for Putting on the Bermudagrass greens of Dubai in his effort prior to that (finished 47th). Like Pavan and Campillo, Jaidee was one of the 6 players to produce a confidence-boosting round of 69 to close their account in Oman and that could spark further momentum this week.

Wins at the Indonesian Open (-12), Ballantine’s Championship (-4), Wales Open (-6) and Open de France (-11) have all come when scoring has been on the trickier side and whilst I don’t see this being as attritional as last week, I still feel that a player like Jaidee can shine in these types of event despite his advancing years. RESULT: T72

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:30GMT 4.3.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.