The European Tour emerges from its slumber with the 24th edition of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. While a few in this week’s field got to play the co-sanctioned WGC-Workday Championship in Florida, most of Europe’s rank-and-file have had to wait it out for over a month. The last regular tour event – the Saudi International – was back in early February when World Number One Dustin Johnson rode into town to scoop the first prize although at least this time there are no big-name Americans to carve up the purse. In truth, it’s a modest one (just $1,500,000 so less than half of Saudi) but most of these guys will just be happy to be playing competitive golf again. This is the final stop in the Middle East following the usual early-season events in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi. Next stop as the European Tour continues to chase the sun? Back-to-back tourneys in Kenya.
The Golf Course at Education City
Up until last year, #teamcourseform had plenty to go at. The tournament had been played at Doha Golf Club every year since 1998. However, a switch to the grandly-titled Education City GC in 2020 meant there was a new course for golfers and fantasy players to learn and, potentially, that meant a problem. So it was with some relief that the man who won the inaugural event at Education City had finished runner-up at the Doha GC the previous year. In short, past tournament form remains relevant.
Education City GC was designed by two-time Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal so perhaps it was fitting that a Spaniard, Jorge Campillo, should be the first to hoist the silverware there. Visually, it’s a different test to Doha but it can get gusty. And that’s one of the reasons why form from Doha stands up: being able to control your ball in the wind is key at both venues. It also explains why Scottish golfers have done well in the event. The 1998 Open champion, Paul Lawrie, was a double winner at Doha, Andrew Coltart won the very first edition in 1998 while another Scot, David Drysdale, contested a play-off against Campillo last year.
In terms of correlating course form, Education City uses Platinum Paspalum grass, the same strand used at the recent Saudi International and another past European Tour event, the Mauritius Open. The 7,307-yard par 71 isn’t overly-testing off the tee while the large, undulating greens are protected by huge bunkers and plenty of water hazards. The play-off number was 13-under last year so the course was certainly no pushover.
The weather in Doha is what you’d expect: a mix of sunshine and wind. The most extreme day, on both fronts, is Friday. Temps max out at just under 100 degrees while NNW winds will blow at 21 MPH. Those challenging gusts persist on Saturday although there may be some slight respite for Sunday’s closer.
Past Champions at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters
As well as the good record of Scots, the South African flag flies proudly when perusing the list of former winners. Branden Grace won back-to-back in 2015-2016 while Ernie Els (2005), Retief Goosen (2007), Darren Fichardt (2003) and Justin Harding (2019) have emerged victorious. All those wins, of course, came at the previous venue.
Along with Els and Goosen, other major winners include Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson. However, it’s fair to say the tournament has lost some of its prestige in recent years – note the drop in purse and field quality – so it’s an easier event to win.
Here’s an entirely free golf picks for you this week with MORE for subscribers (DraftKings Prices)
|Player #1||G. Coetzee||$9,600|
|Player #2||D. Burmester||$9,000|
|Player #3||J. Luiten||$8,700|
|Player #4||C. Paisley||$7,900|
|Player #5||S. Jamieson||$7,600|
|Player #6||W. Ormsby||$6,900|
Remaining cash $300
George Coetzee ($9,600) The South African is a course horse or rather a tournament horse. At the old venue, he had two second places and a further three top 10s. At the new one, a debut top seven. Put him in Doha and the dude delivers. He also owns a perfect 3-for-3 slate on the European Tour this year and two of those were top 11s. The T-10 in Saudi last time bodes well given the similar grass types and Coetzee has a history of enjoying being a big fish in a small pond and eating up his rivals in events like these.
Dean Burmester ($9,000) Given the tournament history, there’s plenty of logic in getting a second South African on board. While most of his rivals have been dormant, Burmester shook off some rust by contesting a home Sunshine Tour event last week. The plan worked out perfectly: he opened with 65, closed with 66 and finished runner-up. He’s made the cut in four of his last five European Tour starts and played all four rounds when seeing Education City for the first time last year, opening 69-67. He’s a little on the pricey side but that hidden current form makes him worth the investment.
Joost Luiten ($8,700) If you want a cut machine with the possibility of some nice upside then look no further than the Dutchman. Luiten has played the weekend in 31 of his last 37 worldwide events and is currently on a cut streak of six. At this event, he hasn’t finished outside the top 25 in his latest three appearances and that run includes T-21 at the new course last year. Joost is just about as reliable as they come.
Chris Paisley ($7,900) A little riskier in terms of cut making as he’s had the weekend off in three of his last seven events. However, two of those were on the same course in Cyprus in November and one of those was under a funky format. I’m more taken by the Englishman’s play in the desert. He was an excellent T-7 in Abu Dhabi in a far classier field than this and added T-21 in Saudi last time. He also boasts form of 7-48-13 in this event, the first and best of those coming on this week’s course 12 months ago (69-70-67-68). A good Middle East Swing performer with plenty of upside.
Scott Jamieson ($7,600) The windy forecast and tournament history suggests it would be remiss of me not to get at Scot on board. Jamieson didn’t cash in Saudi but he’d banked fantasy points hauls of 72.5 and 78 in his previous two events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and, stretching further back, he’s made eight of his last nine cuts. That’s impressive reliability at the price. Jamieson has another trick up his sleeve: he was tied 12th at Education City last year so is a good course fit too.
Wade Ormsby ($6,900) One of the few in the field with a recent run. The Aussie didn’t pull up any trees at the no-cut WGC-Workday Championship but it kept the engine running and meant he completed 72 holes for the fourth tournament running. The previous three were all in the Middle East and included T-12 in Abu Dhabi and T-22 at the Dubai Desert Classic. A good wind player, he’s a nice, sub-$7,000 option.
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Here’s Another Lineup For The Commercial Bank Qatar Masters
|Player #1||M. Schwab||$10,400|
|Player #2||A. Sullivan||$9,700|
|Player #3||W. Nienaber||$8,400|
|Player #4||C. Hill||$8,300|
|Player #5||S. Kjeldsen||$6,800|
|Player #6||G.F Castano||$6,300|
$100 leftover salary
Matthias Schwab ($10,400) The classy Austrian averaged a hair under 72 fantasy points in the early-season Middle East Swing events but is very capable of driving that up dramatically here. As well as five top 25s in his last seven worldwide starts, Schwab enjoyed learning the intricacies of Education City last year, firing three 70s and a 67 to land in T-21. I also like the angle of him stewing at not being in the WGC event in Florida. Schwab finished T-4 at the HSBC Champions on his World Golf Championship debut (2019 HSBC Champions) so will have a point to prove. He can show it by getting the better of a bunch of modest rivals here.
Andy Sullivan ($9,700) It’s easy to justify paying the high salary for Sullivan. Why? His upside in desert events. The Englishman has logged second places at the DP World Tour Championship, the Dubai Desert Classic and the Golf in Dubai Championship, the latter as recently as December. Toss in T-11 and two other top 20s in this event along with T-21 at Education City GC last year (held the halfway lead) and he’s a good bet to pile on the points.
Wilco Nienaber ($8,400) The young South African bomber is capable of emulating the feats of his compatriots in this event. Nienaber is a future superstar and flashed his talents in the European Tour’s three SA events at the back end of 2020 with a run of 2-12-11. He’s taken nicely to desert golf with T-23 at the DP World Tour Championship, T-33 in Saudi and T-28 at this course last year. A top 16 back on his local Sunshine Tour last week was a useful rust-removing exercise and he looks a decent mid-price option.
Calum Hill ($8,300) We’ll have to compensate at some point but there’s scope to get another strong option in at Number Four. With the Saudi International being played on the same Paspalum grass, Hill’s fourth place there last month widens the eyes. That’s now three top 15s in his last four events so the youngster looks capable of adding to the strong record of Scottish golfers in Doha.
Soren Kjeldsen ($6,800) My first dip into the bargain basement is the diminutive Dane but, make no mistake, his status as a makeweight is unfair. Kjeldsen is an excellent performer in the wind, was tied 12th in the Saudi International on his latest start and played all four rounds at Education City in 2020. He’s played this event since the start, compiling six top 20s and cashing in seven of his last nine visits.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano ($6,300) It didn’t really work out for Gonzo when he moved his family to the U.S. but this seven-time European Tour winner has shown signs of revival back on his home Tour the last couple of years. It’s his first look at Education City but GFC was fourth at Doha GC in 2018 and top 20 on three other appearances. Crucially, he’s also making cuts: the Spaniard is 8-for-10 since September. It’s his first start in a while but a strong pedigree in windy conditions adds another tick.
• The two Belgian bombers – Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry – cost $10,900 and $10,700 respectively but I’m not convinced either are worth the money. Both should crash the top 25 but you want more bang for your buck than that.
• Antoine Rozner could be a better option at $10,000 plus. He won’t be as widely owned as Pieters and his results are arguably more impressive. The Frenchman was a recent winner in Dubai.
• I have George Coetzee in my 50-50 line-up and could easily add him in all formats. Perhaps the most interesting proposition is Danish wunderkind Rasmus Hojgaard. He’s too boom-or-bust for 50-50 but may be worth chancing in GPPs.
COVID-19 is as real as a heart attack, and players in all sports are being pulled from action. Keep an eye out for anything fishy, and make changes as needed. This is why we have alternative picks for you offered here.
Go win your lineups and then tell us how you did. Twitter (@FantasyDFSX) is a good place for that.
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