DOHA // Qatar threw down the golfing gauntlet to the UAE in making the assertion that the second leg of the desert swing in Doha is superior to the adjoining European Tour events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Organisers of the Commercialbank Qatar Masters declared their tournament which takes place between from Jan 22-25 to have the most attractive entry list, the best golf course and to be the most popular with visiting professionals from all around the world.
Andrew Stevens, CEO of the sponsors Commercialbank announced at the official media launch yesterday: "I think we can safely say that we have the strongest field of any of the events in the desert swing of tournaments. "It is an indication of the growth of our tournament that in-demand professionals like Adam Scott [the defending champion from Australia] and [the Americans] Brandt Snedeker and Boo Weekley have opted to play Doha over the two European Tour events staged either side of our event week in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
"With former winners like Henrik Stenson and Retief Goosen also competing alongside Sergio Garcia, the top ranked active player in the world at present, it proves what we say year after year that this is an event that will grow in strength. And every year we aim to raise the bar even further. "The feedback we get from the players is they genuinely regard it as the toughest course of the three that make up the desert swing. The climatic conditions [a stiff wind was blowing yesterday] that we experience make it generally regarded as the most difficult."
Stevens then passed the baton to tournament manager Chris Myers, who warned that "there will not be a course record this year" as he and his colleagues have prepared the stiffest of 7,388-yard tests for the 120 players. Myers added: "There is always a feeling between the Gulf courses that you want your winning total to be a higher aggregate score than the other two courses to demonstrate that it is a more difficult course to play. That's what we are looking for."
Myers then insisted that Doha is not engaging in oneupmanship with Abu Dhabi and Dubai. "We all depend on each other," he said. "We need to get top-class players in the region. The fact that there are two other events brings people here. It's a long way to come for one tournament. We are in the happy position of being in the middle of the desert swing. It means we get a high level of attention from the touring players."
Nick Tarratt, an international director of the European Tour, sought to dilute any suggestion of animosity between Qatar and the UAE. "Healthy rivalry among the tournaments and tournament promoters is in my opinion helpful towards raising the standard of all of our events," said Tarratt, who is based in Dubai. "Every tournament will claim to have a better field than their local neighbours. That's just a bit of bravado.
"As for the claims about the course, I genuinely feel that our tour professionals will not play a better-conditioned course in the desert swing." firstname.lastname@example.org