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Ernie Els commits to Qatar Masters

South African star Ernie Els, the smooth-swinging world number three, will be the top attraction at this year’s Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club from March 10-13.

The "Big Easy" will make his maiden appearance in Qatar and his presence will complement an already strong field led by last year's winner Joakim Haeggman. Els, who has won the European Tour Order of Merit for the past two seasons, is an undisputed golfing superstar, having won over 50 tournaments around the world since turning professional in 1989.

His victories include 11 US PGA Tour Events, 16 European Tour Events, the US Open Championship twice (1994 and 1997) and the British Open in 2002.

Last year, Els won five tournaments, three on the US PGA Tour, one in Australia and a record sixth win in the HSBC World Match Play Championship at Wentworth in October. But it could so easily have been more, with second place finishes in both the US Masters and the British Open where Els lost in a play-off to American Todd Hamilton.

In confirming his entry to the 2005 Qatar Masters, Els said: "While I have never played previously in Qatar, I have heard very good things about the Doha Golf Club and I am really looking forward to playing there and meeting Qatar Golf Association president Hasan al-Nuaimi and everyone else who have done so much to develop this tournament."

Els will be the highest-ranked player in the world to have ever played in Qatar. He will fly in from Dubai after taking part in the Dubai Desert Classic, which precedes the Qatar Masters.

The Qatar Masters, which was a part of the European Tour, will be co-sanctioned for the first time by the Asian Tour and several of the region's top stars, including reigning Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee, will be competing.

QGA chief al-Nuaimi was pleased to welcome Els, who finished runner-up in the recent Sony Open in Hawaii, to the event. "Ernie is one of the best players ever and his participation in the Qatar Masters is a positive sign for the tournament.

"He was keen to play in Doha and his participation will boost the event’s standing," said al-Nuaimi.

The QGA chief said the presence of several Asian players would be a boon for the tournament and would attract spectators in large numbers. "We expect players from India, Philippines, Korea and Japan which would add a lot of spice and excitement," said al-Nuaimi.

The QGA’s marketing chief Abdullah al-Kuwari said it would be wrong to label the Qatar Masters as just a sporting event.

"The tournament is also important from the point of view of tourism that will boost the economy of the country and make it one of the most attractive golfing destinations," said al-Kuwari.


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