Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Qatar Masters Tips 2021

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After a 5-week break on the European Tour, the schedule resumes this week in Qatar before Karen Country Club in Kenya takes centre stage for the following fortnight.

As per last year’s Qatar Masters, we’re not playing at the Harradine-designed Doha Golf Club this week which we’d become accustomed to since the event’s inauguration in 1998; instead we’re heading back to the Jose Maria Olazábal-designed Education City Golf Club, so do bear this in mind when using this week’s event stats.

Before we talk through my Qatar Masters tips, 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) and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Course Overview. On paper, the Education City layout doesn’t differ massively to Doha GC with the Jose Maria Olazábal design stretching to 7,307 yards from its tips for its par of 71 and it’s still fundamentally an exposed, desert layout. Whereas Doha Golf Club shared a number of almost linksy features and sat just a mile or so inland, Education City sits at on the western outskirts of the Qatari capital and is a little more parkland in style with more green space and colourful landscaping.

In constructing the course which opened in 2018, Olazábal retained as many of the original features as possible, including an ancient wadi wall and water well. The track itself was designed in line with USGA standards with Platinum Paspalum grass used throughout the layout, including on the greens.

The 36/35 split features 3 par-5s measuring 539, 593 and 592 yards in length. 2 of the 4 par-3s are over 200 yards long and only 2 of the par-4s play under 400 yards. The par-4 18th hole is a brute at 513 yards, following another couple of stern par-4s in what proved to be a testing close to the round last year.

qatar masters tips

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.

As previously noted, Education City Golf Club was used for the first time last year, so the tournament form should be considered accordingly: Current Form Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats Combined Stats.

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

Winners & Prices. 2020: Jorge Campillo, 125/1; 2019: Justin Harding, 55/1; 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 mid-80s Fahrenheit will greet the players this week. The wind may well be a significant feature, as it often is in this part of the world, with the breeze picking up to 15-20mph from Friday onwards with gusts topping 30 mph at times.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

Analysing the final stats of the leading finishers at last year’s event here gives us a little insight into the requirements for this week’s test:

  • 1st: Jorge Campillo (-13). 293.1 yards (60th), 71.4% fairways (19th), 76.4% greens in regulation (15th), 70.6% scrambling (9th), 1.69 putts per GIR (7th).
  • 2nd: David Drysdale (-13). 299.6 yards (48th), 69.6% fairways (31st), 72.2% greens in regulation (36th), 75.0% scrambling (5th), 1.70 putts per GIR (8th).
  • 3rd: Niklas Lemke (-12). 312.6 yards (14th), 64.3% fairways (49th), 79.2% greens in regulation (8th), 80% scrambling (3rd), 1.81 putts per GIR (53rd).
  • 3rd: Kalle Samooja (-12). 291.0 yards (63rd), 76.8% fairways (5th), 75.0% greens in regulation (25th), 61.1% scrambling (30th), 1.72 putts per GIR (13th).
  • 3rd: Jeff Winther (-12). 290 yards (66th), 64.3% fairways (49th), 69.5% greens in regulation (48th), 54.5% scrambling (48th), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd).

What was evident last year was that the generous fairways meant for less variance across the field in terms of driving accuracy and GIR figures were also bunched, which put the emphasis on short game performance first and foremost.

The top 5 finishers all ranked inside the top 25 for Stroke Gained Around the Green and, of the top 5, only Niklas Lemke failed to impress with the flat stick statistically.

Those same top 5 scored an aggregate -34 for the par-4s over the course of the week, as opposed to -32 for the par-5s, and combined with the relatively low rankings for Driving Distance from the top performers, this layout didn’t play into the hands of the bombers 12 months ago.

Incoming Form: It’s worth noting that all Qatar Masters winners featured in the analysis below had recorded at least one top-13 finish in their previous 7 starts:

  • 2010: Jorge Campillo: MC/MC/MC/34/28/13/18/34/MC/MC/67/MC
  • 2019: Justin Harding: 43/46/14/4/MC/MC/51/7/11/4/26/MC
  • 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. Last year’s switch in venue didn’t impact Jorge Campillo who continued his progressive form at this event from the previous few years:

  • 2020: Jorge Campillo: 25/MC/MC/62/20/13/2
  • 2019: Justin Harding: Debut
  • 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

With a new course and no previous professional tournament results to peruse last year, it was interesting to see Jorge Campillo back up progressive Doha GC form with his victory here. We’re just a further couple of miles or so inland, however dismissing all event history prior to 2020 may be a little extreme.

Paspalum grass is used throughout which also gives us a clue as to what to expect, particularly on the greens where results from events like the Mauritius Open, Saudi International and the Oman Open may help narrow the field.

A breezier forecast this year though may well bring down the winning score from what was already a fairly stern -13 last year, so those players more comfortable in a breeze – which brings in coastal form, naturally – and those with a strong recovery and short game may well be favoured.

My selections are as follows:

Matthew Jordan 1.5pts EW 50/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

As we’ve seen quite consistently in these run-of-the-mill European Tour events over the past few months, Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry lead the betting once again this week. As talented as the Belgian pair are, their supporters must be getting a little frustrated at the lack of conversion given their obvious class.

For me, this sort of event sets up nicely for a breakthrough win and one player with some solid coastal form who should be able to handle the breezy conditions forecast over the weekend is Matthew Jordan.

The 25 year-old spend his formative golfing years in the Wirral and he clearly took the skills he learned as a youngster as he progressed through the amateur ranks, capturing the St Andrews Links Trophy and Lytham Trophy before turning professional.

Of course links form doesn’t map perfectly to desert form, however dry, exposed tracks that are susceptible to the wind often demand a similar skillset.

Career-best finishes in terms of OWGR points accrued on the European Tour include 5th at the Dunhill Links in 2019 where he led at the halfway point, 3rd at the Wales Open last year when Celtic Manor was playing tough, and his 9th & 12th place finishes in Cyprus which may well prove to be another good pointer, given that a number of last year’s leading players here performed well in one or other of the Cyprus events last autumn.

28th here last year on his course debut was a solid outing – he was 57th for putting that week which was his main hindrance; a year on and he’s much improved with the flat stick in my view, ranking inside the top-10 for putting average on 5 of his last 8 European Tour starts. He also topped the field for GIR at the Joburg Open – it’s clear that any or all aspects of his game can fire on any given week, which encourages an investment and a hope that he can put it all together here this week.

12 straight cuts made to end the year for the Englishman was impressive and full-season rankings of 21st for SG Around the Green, 12th for Sand Saves and 28th for Par-4 scoring all tally nicely with the test ahead of him here this week. RESULT: WD

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Chris Paisley 1.5pts EW 66/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

At 66/1, there’s a lot to like about England’s Chris Paisley this week.

7th here last year was powered by gaining almost 9 strokes on the field on these Paspalum greens; more of the same is going to be required this time around I suspect, with the conditions likely to require more par-saving putts than 12 months ago, whilst making the most of any birdie opportunities that do arise.

Chris’s game is centred around his short game which I like for this week – 15th overall for Scrambling, 2nd for Sand Saves and 9th for SG Around the green last year says it all – however there were positive signs with his long game at Rolex Series level in Abu Dhabi a few weeks ago, where he ranked 12th for GIR on his way to a 7th place finish in far better company than this. 21st in Saudi on his last start was in better company still and although he can be erratic with his results, he’s well capable of featuring in an event like this.

In terms of Middle East form, the 34 year-old has recorded top-5 finishes in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, as well as that aforementioned 7th from January and last year’s effort here; 9th in Oman in 2019 has also got to be considered positive for this week’s task on the Paspalum surfaces there.

Since lockdown was eased the Hexham man has missed 8 from 15 cuts, however 3 top-7 finishes makes him a punt at the price on offer where the risk of another weekend off is balanced by a good mid-range price on a player who’s more than capable of threatening a win in this kind of company. RESULT: T7

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Pablo Larrazabal 1pt EW 100/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

Wet and windy doesn’t work for Pablo Larrazabal and you’ll often see the Spaniard hunkering under the nearest umbrella at the first spot of rain, however sunny and windy is just the ticket for the Barcelona man and I suspect he can outperform his odds considerably this week.

Unless at the very top of his game, Pablo needs either some width and forgiveness from off the tee, or a breezy forecast that levels the playing field, and this week he should get a bit of both with relatively light rough expected and the wind picking up as the event progresses.

When everything aligns, the 37 year-old is more than capable of winning an event of this stature, and then some. 2 wins at the BMW International Open saw him beat Major Champions Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson in 2011 and 2015 respectively, and his 2014 Abu Dhabi Championship success saw him hold off another pair of Major winners in the shape of Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. You can almost, but not quite, say the same about his maiden European Tour title in 2011 when he beat Colin Montgomerie by 4 strokes at Le Golf National, and it’s only his most recent win at Leopard Creek in 2019 that was in less lofty company.

Relative to the field, Larrazabal has undoubtedly one of the best CVs, however incoming form of MC/51/53 from his 2021 starts goes some way to explaining his price when you consider he finished 7th here last year, topped the field for putting, and shot the joint-best round of the week on Saturday with a 63. His incoming form a year ago wasn’t dissimilar though with MC/MC/13/64/65 from 5 outings in the year, and him finding some form this week isn’t beyond the realms of possibility given his streaky nature and the work he’s been putting in back at home.

Assuming that the forecast breeze arrives, everybody will be missing more fairways and greens which helps Pablo. His wedge and short game often bail him out – he ranked 2nd for SG Around the Green last year – however, that said there were encouraging signs with his approach play on his last outing in Saudi where he finished 9th for SG Approach. RESULT: MC

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Adrien Saddier 1pt EW 250/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

The incoming form of Jorge Campillo last year – which read MC/MC/67/MC over his last 4 starts – was enough to put me off, despite the fact that he’d finished second in this event the year before. That was at the previous venue of course and it was logical to take that effort with a pinch of salt, despite the relative proximity of Education City to the old Doha track.

The most tangible pointer that you could have found for overlooking Campillo’s poor incoming form was his record at the Oman Open. A similar length track in the same part of the world using Paspalum greens was of course on the radar as a comparable track and, in hindsight, his 4th and 2nd place finishes at Al Mouj in 2018 and 2019 respectively deserved more credit. On both occasions he ranked inside the top-3 for putting on the week and he went on to dismiss a poor run of results to take this title 12 months ago at 125/1.

If lightning were to strike twice and another seemingly out-of-form player were to triumph here, then perhaps Adrien Saddier is our man. 4 straight missed cuts to close 2020 have put the bookies off his scent this week, however there was enough form prior to that to give us some encouragement and he’s also twice finished 3rd in Oman, once at the Challenge Tour Grand Final back in 2016 and then again last March for his best finish of 2020.

6th at the Scottish Championship at Fairmont St Andrews and 9th at the Cyprus Open before his string of missed cuts suggests that his game hasn’t been in too bad a shape in the not-so-distant past, and 12th here last year where he got to grips with the long game demands of this layout, where he ranked 8th for SG Approach and 6th for SG Tee-to-Green, suggests this layout suits his eye. 1 solitary bogey on that aforementioned 9th place finish in Cyprus – he got up-and-down 15 times from 16 attempts – also tells us that his short game has been in good shape before his end-of-season decline.

No competitive action since the start of December leaves us guessing as to where his game is right now, however his Social Media seems positive enough about his preparations in Dubai for his season debut and at the price on offer I’m happy to take a chance on a bounce back to form. RESULT: MC

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SSP Chawrasia 1pt EW 300/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Coral

Last year’s stats, where 3 of the top-5 finishers ranked 60th or worse in terms of Driving Distance of those who made the weekend, combined with the promise of a breezy few days to complete the event, suggests to me that length off the tee won’t be the be-all and end-all this week.

Of course backing SSP Chawrasia may be taking that assertion to the limit as the diminutive Indian is perennially the shortest player on Tour with the driver, however there’s just about enough evidence to suggest that he can overcome that hurdle – as he has done in the past – and threaten an each-way place at huge odds.

4 career European Tour victories have all come in his homeland over the years and he could have added a fifth to that record when losing out in a play-off to compatriot Anirban Lahiri in 2015 at the Indian Open, however when he’s playing well he’s threatened overseas too at times. Top-10 finishes in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Valderrama suggest that he can compete when the stars align and with a course that could turn into a chipping and putting grind this weekend, ‘Chipputtsia’ could be a real dark horse.

The thing with Shiv is that with his limitations from off the tee, he has to hit the ball straight – and that’s not always a given. Between October 2019 and October 2020, the 42 year-old was in good form in that respect and his results impressed with just 1 missed cut in 12 months and a 2nd place finish at the PGTI Tour Championship at the end of 2019. A regression with the driver saw him miss the cut in Italy and Cyprus (twice), however a return to India has seen finishes of 13/4/3 over his last 3 starts, and with it we can infer some improvement from off the tee.

Of course, when he’s not fishing the ball out of the water or hacking out of trees, the rest of his game is outstanding with a wedge and short game that most professionals can only dream of. He’ll need to put it all together to get close to rewarding us this week, however 28th on this track last year where he sat in 9th place heading into Sunday offers some considerable encouragement given his most recent efforts. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:45GMT 8.3.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.