Els Completes Gulf Double With Qatar Masters Triumph

Sun 13 Mar 2005

Els Completes Gulf Double With Qatar Masters Triumph


Doha, March 13: Ernie Els achieved a memorable Gulf double when he claimed the US$1.5 million Qatar Masters by one stroke after a stunning seven-under-par 65 in the final round at Doha Golf Club today.


The South African superstar overcame an overnight five stroke deficit and blustery conditions to land his second successive title following his triumph at the Dubai Desert Classic last Sunday.


Els, the world number three, sank seven birdies for a winning total of 12-under-par 276 to overhaul overnight leader Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who carded a roller-coaster 71. Stenson courageously fought back from three dropped shots on the 13th and 14th holes and birdies on 15, 16 and 18 left him just short of matching Els.


The Qatar Masters is jointly sanctioned for the first time by the Asian Tour and European Tour.


"I wanted to give myself a low score and as it turned out I shot low which you don't normally do. I got lucky and got a win. I must say the middle of the front nine when I made three birdies on the bounce (from the fourth hole) was big as the wind was really playing up at that time.


"I really feel good. My rhythm feels really good at the moment and I'm in a good position at the top of the backswing. When that happens, I can freewheel it and go for the ball. My iron play was a lot better. I feel like my game is right there and I can't wait to get to America now," said Els, who pocketed US$250,000.


After opening with a lacklustre 73 on Thursday, Els grew in strength and saved his best for last. With high winds causing scores to soar, Els showed his class yet again with a masterful performance. His final round effort was the low round of the week and gave him just as much satisfaction from his Dubai win where he won it then with a closing eagle at the 72nd hole.


"Last week was a great win and this is great too. I will now play Bay Hill, The Players Championship and then have a week off before the Masters. The way the game is going, I'm looking forward to playing golf," said Els, whose victory was his 20th European Tour triumph.


Stenson paid tribute to the winner. "I'm happy with the way I finished. I fought well and one hundredth of an inch on the 17th hole cost me a chance for a play-off. I have to say it was a fantastic round by Ernie. I knew he would be chasing. I hit a couple of bad shots at the 13th and just missed my drive on 14th and the double bogey was crucial. I was pleased that I was able to regroup and almost birdied the last three holes for a play-off," said the Swede.


Australian Richard Green and first round leader Pierre Fulke of Sweden shared third place on nine-under, three back, while Asia's best finisher was Jyoti Randhawa of India, whose closing 69 earned him a share of 12th place on 283.


The former Asian number one, who finished tied 11th last week, earned US$23,737 and has got one hand on a European Tour card for next season. "I played really well, considering the wind which made it a different course today. Overall, I'm happy. With two starts in the World Golf Championship events later this year, I should have enough money now to earn my card in Europe. My focus now would be to get my world ranking higher," said Randhawa, who was runner-up in the Carlsberg Malaysian Open last month.


Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant, the reigning Taiwan Open champion, walked off with a level par round on Sunday but felt like he shot well under par as he finished equal 16th. "The wind was just so strong out there. We don't play in these conditions except in Taipei, so a 72 is a very good round for me," he said.


Thaworn started with birdies on the first and third before dropping shots on the fifth, sixth and 14th. A birdie on 16 saw him sign off with a 284 total. "This week has been better than I'd expected. My putting was good this week and it helped," said the Thai, who had earlier booked earlier flight home in anticipation of missing the cut.


Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee closed with a 73 to finish tied 39th on 288 while India's Arjun Atwal faded with a 75 to settle for 20th place.


Leading final round scores

276 - Ernie Els (RSA) 73-69-69-65

277 - Henrik Stenson (SWE) 67-73-66-71

279 - Richard Green (AUS) 67-68-73-71, Pierre Fulke (SWE) 66-70-73-70

280 - James Kingston (RSA) 70-72-69-69, Barry Lane (ENG) 71-69-69-71, Robert Karlsson (SWE) 69-67-74-70

281 - Raphael Jacquelin (FRA) 70-68-73-70, Louis Oosrhuizen (RSA) 72-71-70-68, Gregory Havret (FRA) 71-67-72-71

282 - Steve Webster (ENG) 73-69-69-71

283 - David Park (WAL) 68-70-74-71, Jyoti Randhawa (IND) 73-70-71-69, Graeme Storm (ENG) 71-71-72-69, Marcus Fraser (AUS) 69-71-70-73

284 - Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 69-68-75-72, Ricardo Gonzalez (ARG) 69-70-74-71, Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 70-75-70-69, Niclas Fasth (SWE) 68-71-69-76

285 - Nick Dougherty (ENG) 73-68-71-73, Bradley Dredge (WAL) 70-74-70-71, Steven O'Hara (SCO) 70-74-71-70, Simon Yates (SCO) 71-73-71-70, Miguel Angel Martin (ESP) 70-71-74-70

David Lynn (ENG) 72-71-72-70, Arjun Atwal (IND) 70-69-71-75

286 - Clay Devers (USA) 70-71-72-73, Anders Hansen (DEN) 71-71-71-73, David Drysdale (SCO) 70-73-71-72, Richard Sterne (RSA) 72-71-73-70, Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 71-73-73-69