South Africa’s Retief Goosen celebrated his 42nd birthday in style yesterday (Thursday) by taking a slim early lead in the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy at Doha Golf Club.
While biting winds of up to 50kmph blew away the early chances of many of the star names on display in the third leg of The European Tour’s famed Desert Swing, Goosen was calmness personified as he opened with a three under par 69 to take a one-shot lead on a day when just seven players shot under par.
“It was tough out there today,” said Goosen, whose last Tour win was in the same tournament back in 2007.
“I drove it nicely off the tee, so I hit a lot of shots off the fairway. But it was tough to get it close to the flags because of the windy conditions. Putting wasn’t easy as you’re getting blown all over the place, so it’s tough. It’s not a bad birthday present – I was born in 1969 and I shot a 69 so it’s a good opening score on a tough day.”
Considered the toughest of the four Middle East European Tour events, the Doha course again bared its teeth as the biting desert winds played havoc with the score cards.
Goosen posted five birdies and two bogeys to end the day just one stroke ahead of defending champion Robert Karlsson of Sweden, 2003 champion Darren Fichardt of South Africa and unheralded Englishman Richard Finch, all on two under par (70).
“Around here you never know what’s happening with the weather forecast or what the wind is going to do,” admitted Karlsson, after starting his bid to become the first man to successfully defend the Commercialbank Qatar Masters.
“You just have to keep patient – you’re going to get your odd bogeys and missed putts – so it’s not easy to just keep going. You need to keep your head up, keep going and try to enjoy it as much as possible.”
World Number One Lee Westwood found the going tough carding a one over par 73 as did fellow big guns Sergio Garcia and Open Champion Louis Oosthuisen. Other star names struggling with the conditions included World Number Two Martin Kaymer (77), two-time Major winner John Daly (77) and fellow American and World Number Seven Steve Stricker (76).
Thanks to the weather slowing up play, not everyone in the 132-man field managed to complete their opening rounds. The suspension of play means a handful of players will return to complete their opening round first this morning, including Swede Niclas Fasth who was on three under par after sixteen holes.
Organised by the Qatar Golf Association (QGA), the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) and title sponsors Commercialbank, the 14th Commercialbank Qatar Masters resumes at 6.30am today (Friday).