Scots lead challenge
Bearing in mind that two Scots have triumphed in Doha - Andrew Coltart took
the title in 1998 and former Open champion Paul Lawrie followed him a year later
- theres something about the Qatar
Masters that brings out the best in players who excel in breezy conditions.
As many Scots are introduced to the game on a seaside links and learn how to
keep the ball low in the wind, its no great surprise that a succession of
professionals from the home of golf have felt at ease on the blustery oasis in
Last year, Paisleys Dean Robertson finished fourth behind Tony Johnstone
and in 2000 Hollands Rolf Muntz, who won the Amateur title at Muirfield,
demonstrated how the kind of skills needed to succeed in East Lothian could also
be useful assets in the Gulf.
The bookmakers installed Darren Clarke as 7-1 favourite yesterday to lift the
title on Sunday. The Ulsterman is one of the most astute wind players in the world
- he was third behind David Duval in the Open at Lytham last year and runner-up
to Justin Leonard at Troon in 1997 - and can make an impact on an event where
he took ninth place when Coltart won. Clarke finished in Dubai with a 68 and 69
and believes hell recapture his best form once the putts start to drop.
With prize money doubling since last season - the winner will collect £175,722
- the field is stronger than in previous years. Colin Montgomerie has joined fellow
Scots Lawrie, Coltart and Andrew Oldcorn in search of a boost before he heads
across the Atlantic to Florida next week for the Players Championship at Sawgrass.
Although the Troon man jetted out to Australia, California and the Middle East,
Monty has yet to complete a 72-hole stroke-play event this season. Hes more
determined than ever after suffering the indignity of missing the cut in Dubai.
With unexpected time on his hands, the Scot put in a lot of time practising
pitching and putting after running up a 79, which he blamed on a chronic failure
to get up and down. "You were going to miss greens because it was firm [in
Dubai]," he recalled.
"I left myself seven opportunities to get up and down and missed them
all. The I turned on my TV and watched Joey Sindelar miss 18 greens in America
and he didnt drop a shot. Theres a big difference there."
Apart from refining his short game, Monty has a point to prove to himself this
week as much as anyone. "Your pride hurts, very much so, especially when
you havent missed a cut [in Dubai] since 1990," he said.
Plagued by back trouble in Perth and harangued by spectators at the World Match
Play in Carlsbad, Montgomerie would prefer to make headlines for his golf in Qatar.
After a long absence from competitive golf, Oldcorn caught the eye with his
seventh place in Dubai while Sam Torrance could have finished higher than 12th
if he hadnt thrown in a third-round 75.
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