Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Qatar Masters Tips 2024

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Dylan Frittelli abruptly halted the string of short-priced winners that we’d seen on the DP World Tour last week in Bahrain, converting his first win for a little over 6 years at prices as high as high as 175/1 on Monday. Sebastian Soderberg was our each-way saviour having got himself into contention on Sunday, eventually settling for a tie for 6th place at 30/1.

On to this week and the final leg of the early-season Middle East swing takes us back to Doha for the Qatar Masters, an event and venue that we’ve seen on Tour as recently as the end of October last year. The objective for many players last autumn was to gather enough ranking points from this event to either secure a card or qualify for the big-money closing events of the season; with the change in scheduling this time around there are no such complexities.

The field this week is almost of a carbon copy of Bahrain and Ras al Khaimah bar a few omissions and additions, with Rasmus Hojgaard once again leading the field at a best-priced 10/1. Yannik Paul, Zander Lombard, Thriston Lawrence and Keita Nakajima all rate as sub-30/1 chances in this 132-man affair.

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Odds above used for illustrative purposes and were correct at 10:50GMT 6.2.24, but are naturally subject to fluctuation.

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Doha GC. Designer: Harradine, 1996; Course Type: Desert; Par: 72; Length: 7,466 yards; Water Hazards: 6; Fairways: Bermuda; Rough: Bermuda; Greens: Paspalum, 11’6″ on the stimp.

Course Overview. Another change in the calendar for the Qatar Masters, but a thankful return to the Harradine-designed Doha Golf Club which had hosted this event since its inauguration in 1998, until the event moved to Education City in 2020 for 2 renewals before returning in 2022, giving us plenty of course history stats to review.

At 7,466 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 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 238 yards longer than the inward 9. The par-5s play amongst the easiest of the holes as you might expect with even the 659 yard 9th playing under par generally, however the driveable par-4 16th is also a birdie and eagle opportunity for most of the field.

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, Doha hosted this event up to 2019 and then again from 2022, so the 2020/21 events held at Education City 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. 2023: Sami Valimaki, 80/1; 2022: Ewen Ferguson, 150/1; 2021: Antoine Rozner, 22/1; 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 low-70s Fahrenheit will greet the players this week. The wind doesn’t appear to be as much of a feature here as it was last week in Bahrain, although 10-15mph is expected on Thursday and Friday before the breeze drops away a little over the weekend.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Analysing the final stats of the past 12 winners here at Doha gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2023: Sami Valimaki. 318 yards (7th), 55.4% fairways (38th), 86.1% greens in regulation (3rd), 80.0% scrambling (6th), 1.74 putts per GIR (22nd).
  • 2022: Ewen Ferguson. 297 yards (46th), 57.1% fairways (21st), 72.2% greens in regulation (14th), 65.0% scrambling (18th), 1.75 putts per GIR (10th).
  • 2019: Justin Harding. 300 yards (31st), 53.6% fairways (20th), 69.4% greens in regulation (50th), 72.7% scrambling (13th), 1.72 putts per GIR (10th).
  • 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).

With the exception of Chris Wood in 2013, scrambling ranks are generally high here at Doha and that makes sense in an event where keeping a card as clean as possible is of paramount importance given that birdies aren’t that easy to come by.

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.

Strokes Gained: From a Strokes Gained perspective, the 3 winners since 2019 all performed similarly from off the tee, complimented by solid approach and tee-to-green stats:

  • 2023, Sami Valimaki. T: 22nd; A: 3rd; T2G: 2nd; ATG: 29th; P: 16th
  • 2022, Ewen Ferguson. T: 26th ; A: 12th; T2G: 18th; ATG: 55th; P: 6th
  • 2019, Justin Harding. T: 26th; A: 22nd; T2G: 3rd; ATG: 1st; P: 40th

Key: T: SG Off the Tee; A; SG Approach; T2G: SG Tee to Green; ATG: SG Around the Green; P: SG Putting.

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, and if you isolate the events here at Doha specifically, that can be refined to a top 10 or better.

Last year’s winner Sami Valimaki follows that trend perfectly, despite his 80/1 price last autumn, having finished 6th at the Dunhill Links 3 weeks before:

  • 2023: Sami Valimaki: MC/18/34/76/68/4/MC/23/74/6/41/MC
  • 2022: Ewen Ferguson: MC/20/15/17/52/37/21/39/MC/8/61/40
  • 2021: Antoine Rozner: 3/36/28/10/21/24/20/1/36/16/9/26
  • 2020: 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. For the events held here at Doha, event history was mixed and certainly not a prerequisite:

  • 2023: Sami Valimaki: 38/40
  • 2022: Ewen Ferguson: MC
  • 2021 (Education City): Antoine Rozner: 53
  • 2020 (Education City): 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

A cursory look through the list of winners here screams coastal and links golf, which makes a level of sense given the often windswept nature of the course here at Doha. With a breeze forecast for the first two days at least, that’s probably no bad place to start here this week.

For me, some positive Middle East form is one element to look at, as is a smattering of recent form without the need for anything too spectacular. Paspalum-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 McKibbin 2pts EW 28/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

A similar top end of the market to recent weeks encourages the same debate we’ve had recently about supporting the likes of Rasmus Hojgaard, Yannik Paul and Zander Lombard at relatively short prices, and for me the same question results in the same answer so I’ll happily leave the market leaders alone.

The first player who does interest me though is Tom McKibbin who continues to impress as he begins his second full season on the DP World Tour, having already made his breakthrough at this level at last year’s Porsche European Open.

The Belfast boy’s ceiling is far higher than most of those in attendance here in Qatar, and despite only celebrating his 21st birthday in December, Tom’s showing increased maturity and consistency with every passing week.

9 consecutive cuts made is a streak that stretches all the way back to the middle of October and he’s started 2024 in fine fashion with finishes of 25th at the Dubai Invitational, 14th at the Rolex Series level Dubai Desert Classic, then 16th most recently at the Harradine-designed Al Hamra course in Ras al Khaimah.

Those most recent efforts, fuelled by progressive SG Approach figures of 41st, 19th and 5th as well as SG Tee to Green rankings of 26th, 14th and 3rd, suggests that McKibbin is increasingly comfortable in this part of the world, an assertion reinforced by his 9th place finish here at Doha GC in October where closing rounds of 65/70 turned a middling week into an impressive one on course debut.

The putter may well be the key to the success or failure of this bet with largely neutral SG Putting performances very much the norm for Tom, however there’s enough hope from his 4.4 Strokes Gained putting here 3 months ago, ranking 14th in the field on that count, to suggest that he enjoys these greens and can seriously contend for a second DP World Tour title this week. RESULT: 4th

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Pablo Larrazabal 1pt EW 45/1 (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

At almost twice the age of my headline selection, Pablo Larrazabal finds his way back onto my teamsheet having missed the cut when carrying my money at Al Hamra the week before last.

As one of the more open and active DP World tour golfers on social media, the 40 year-old gave us all a virtual shrug of the shoulders to explain his no-show in Ras al Khaimah, whereas a disastrous start last week in Bahrain threatened a repeat performance before he rallied to eventually finish in a tie for 29th. A crisp iron performance over the weekend offers some encouragement, as does his best putting round of the week on Sunday where the Barcelona man closed with a round of 68 and was beaten by just two players in the field.

Larrazabal’s prowess in the Middle East isn’t up for debate: he held off Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson at the 2014 Abu Championship for what is arguably the most impressive of his 9 career victories at European/DP World Tour level, and he reminded us as recently as last month of his ability in the region when finishing 4th at the Dubai Desert Classic in a far stronger Rolex Series level field than this week’s affair.

Pablo’s last 7 visits to Doha GC have all ended up in a paid weekend, with 4th in 2018 and 5th in 2022 the highlights. Life’s good for the Spaniard right now with fatherhood looming large and the prospect of joining an elite club of European players to have won 10 titles on Tour a distinct possibility, with this week offering a great chance for him to do just that. RESULT: T24

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Marcus Helligkilde 1pt EW 45/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Danish golf is in rude health at the moment with the Hojgaard twins impressing both sides of the Atlantic and Thorbjorn Olesen securing an 8th Tour title in the past fortnight, and I suspect it won’t be too long before Marcus Helligkilde adds his name to the list of winners from the country.

Similar to the aforementioned Tom McKibbin, Marcus is also on an impressive run of consecutive cuts made, stretching all the way back to last July when he tried his hand to no avail at the two co-sanctioned PGA Tour events at the Barbasol and Barracuda Championships. Since then best finishes of 4th at the ISPS World Invitational and 9th at the Spanish Open have impressed, as did a personal best 25th at Wentworth in the early autumn.

Progressive 2024 form of 53rd at the Dubai Invitational, 51st at the Dubai Desert Classic and 23rd at Al Hamra the week before last suggests that the 27 year-old’s game is heading in the right direction and Strokes Gained positive performances in all long game aspects on that last start in Ras al Khaimah sets him up nicely for this week’s task.

12th here at Doha on his one and only start around these parts in 2022 is encouraging, particularly as he was in far patchier form heading into that week than he has been of late, plus he’s proven that he can putt on Paspalum greens having ranked 2nd for SG Putting on similar surfaces at Al Hamra in 2022 on his way to a 13th place finish. RESULT: 77th

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Aaron Cockerill 1pt EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

A little further down the betting board we find Aaron Cockerill who’s shown enough form in the opening Middle Eastern events of 2024 to suggest that he can go well here in nearby Qatar.

4th at the Emirates at Rolex Series level to kick off his 2024 campaign continued the progressive form line that we’d seen from the Canadian at the back end of 2023 which read 47/32/25/15, with the first result in that sequence coming here at Doha after a challenging few months of poor results and missed cuts.

4th for Driving Accuracy and 3rd for GIR were the key components to that Dubai Desert Classic effort and he’s followed that up with 23rd in Ras Al Khaimah and 6th last week in Bahrain where he was Strokes Gained positive on every metric.

The 31 year-old has shown us in the past that his best form comes in short, sharp bursts so there’s a risk that the boat has already sailed, however on the flip side there’s no reason to suggest that he can’t complete this early-season spell with another strong performance before the Tour takes a break ahead of its African swing.

21st here on debut back in 2022 is noteworthy as it once again came in one of his spells of better form, wedged in between finishes of 2nd,  28th and 3rd, which bodes well for this week in my view. RESULT: MC

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Scott Jamieson 1pt EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

Finally I’ll take a chance on Scott Jamieson who ticks enough boxes to suggest that he can squeeze into an each-way paying place this week, much the same as he did here at Doha GC in October.

Having turned 40 in November, the Glaswegian is still looking to add to his solitary victory on Tour from a little over 11 years ago, when he won the eventual 36-hole affair that was the Nelson Mandela Championship. Plenty of opportunities have come and gone since that success – 29 top-10s in total and a pair of runner-up finishes included in that time – however perhaps having hit that age milestone recently we’ll see Scott join that growing club of players who eventually find a win after many fallow years.

3rd here at Doha GC in October matched his season’s best finish from 2023 earlier in the year in Korea, and he impressed both from off the tee and on the greens, ranking 4th for SG OTT and 5th for SG Putting on the newly laid Paspalum surfaces.

Jamieson is undoubtedly comfortable in this part of the world, racking up a series of solid finishes in the Middle East over the years with top 10s in Oman, Ras al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai (Emirates) to his name over the years. 31st at the Dubai Desert Classic last month kicked off his 2024 campaign in solid fashion, and he backed that up with a 16th place finish last week in Bahrain to suggest that another solid finish – and perhaps that elusive second Tour victory – isn’t out of the question here this week. RESULT: 3rd

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 13:55BST 5.2.24 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.