Goosen top SA player in Qatar this week

While two South Africans start in the US PGA Tour’s Waste Management Open this week, there are eight players in action in the Commercialbank Qatar Masters which gets underway on Thursday at Doha Golf Club.

Two of the three South Africans to win the event since its inception 14 years ago in 1998 are in the field: Darren Fichardt won in 2003 and Retief Goosen in 2007.

The third South African winner was Ernie Els in 2005, but he is taking a break ahead of his return to competitive golf in the PGA Tour’s Florida Swing before the Masters in April.

The other six in the field at Doha are Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, SA Open champions from 2007 and 2008 James Kingston and Richard Sterne, Thomas Aiken, Keith Horne and Hennie Otto.

Oosthuizen is fresh from a week’s break after he missed the cut in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the first tournament of the European Tour’s ‘Desert Swing’.

In that event, Goosen finished third, lamenting his inability to put together four good rounds in a single tournament to give him a victory instead of yet another top 10 finish.

Last week, in the Volvo Golf Champions in Bahrain, Kingston has a similar problem as his final round saw him slip from contention into a share of 13th with Aiken.

Sterne makes the Commercialbank Qatar Masters field on the strength of his medical exemption, and,while his troublesome back is still plaguing him, the signs from Bahrain last week where he finished 30th were encouraging.

Otto missed the cut last week, but it was the result of a poor first round, and he appeared to have rectified things with his second-round three-under-par 69.

For Fichardt and Horne, it’s a first venture into a European Tour event this year outside South Africa where the first four events of the 2011 Race to Dubai were played.

Fichardt is in the field as a previous champion, and he will want to hone his game ahead of the R3-million Dimension Data Pro-Am on the Sunshine Tour from February 17-20, where he is defending champion and where a spot in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August is the bait for the winner.

Horne made the field on the strength of his 92nd-place finish in last year’s Race to Dubai – a solid performance he will be looking to repeat, or, better yet, improve on.

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