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Montgomerie hoping to regain form in Qatar

Colin Montgomerie, who has struggled to find form this season, will make his first visit to the state of Qatar for this week's Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club.

The Scot is yet to make a cut after playing just three times on the 2002 European Tour, and badly needs to rediscover his touch with the first major of the year -- the U.S. Masters at Augusta -- less than a month away.

Montgomerie had to withdraw from the Johnnie Walker Classic in January with a recurring back injury.

He then threatened to stop playing in the United States from next year onwards after he was heckled by American fans during his first-round loss at last month's World Match Play Championship in California.

The seven times European number one changed his mind about his American boycott, though, after receiving assurances from the PGA Tour and several letters of support from people he described as "genuine U.S. golf fans".

"I have so many friends and supporters over there that it would be a pity to let a tiny group sour the great experiences to be had competing on the PGA Tour," he said.

"I think the issue of my playing schedule has been blown a little out of proportion. I am really looking forward to just focusing on my golf, both in the Middle East and then in the U.S."

But Montgomerie's first outing on the European Tour's Middle Eastern swing backfired when he missed the cut at last week's Dubai Desert Classic after dropping six shots over the final six holes.

He followed an opening 71 with an ugly 79, his worst score since his third-round 79 in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

It was also the first time since last September's Lancome Trophy the Scot had missed a halfway cut.

This week, however, he hopes to find inspiration by playing the Doha course where two of his compatriots, Andrew Coltart (in 1998) and Paul Lawrie (1999), have won in the recent past.

Lawrie is back at Doha once again and also in the field are defending champion Tony Johnstone of Zimbabwe, Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, Volvo PGA champion Andrew Oldcorn of Scotland, 1991 U.S. Masters winner Ian Woosnam and nine-time major champion Gary Player of South Africa.

"I am very much looking forward to returning to Qatar," said Clarke, who plays in Doha for the first time since he tied for ninth at the inaugural tournament in 1998.

"I will be intrigued to see how the course has developed since then.

"I thoroughly enjoy competing across the world and, having won in both Japan and South Africa last year as well as in Europe, I hope I can add to my collection of titles with victory at Doha Golf Club."

Also playing this week is reigning British amateur champion Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland, who tied for 12th in the Dubai Desert Classic.

The 23-year-old Hoey, who automatically earns a place in next month's U.S. Masters field as British amateur champion, plans to turn professional once the first major of the year is over.

The fifth edition of the Qatar Masters begins on Thursday.

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