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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Wondrous Wang can conquer in Qatar again

Thorbjorn Olesen must be respected

Jeunghun Wang has rediscovered his swagger
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Tournament starts 3.30am Thursday
Live on Sky Sports Golf from 7.30am

Chris Wood has been a popular choice for the Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club, the lanky Bristolian looking to follow up his near-miss last week in Oman with something even better.

Wood, runner-up to Joost Luiten in the Oman Open, has been cut to 22-1 for Qatar glory. Wood was Qatar champion in 2013, but he is in the midst of swing changes, so it is difficult to be confident about consistent performance.

Palmer's top tip
Jeunghun Wang 22-1

Lowered prize money means a weakened field for the Qatar Masters and a fantastic opportunity for Korean youngster Jeunghun Wang to retain his title in Doha.

Wang beat a much better field to win the Mother of Pearl trophy last year, immediately falling in love with Doha GC in an incredible debut effort. He forged a three-shot lead through three rounds, then bravely birdied the first extra hole to win a three-man playoff.

The conquering of Qatar put Wang in elite company – at just 21 years and 144 days of age he became the third youngest player in European Tour history to win three titles. As a rookie in 2016, he was triumphant in the Hassan Trophy and the Mauritius Open, two other narrow victories where he showed immense courage.

Nobody since Tiger Woods needed fewer European Tour starts than Wang to register three wins. Tiger did it in 12, Wang required 29. It is a remarkable achievement and the Seoul swinger must be respected. Seve Ballesteros played 38 events before completing his hat-trick.

A fallow period after that astonishing start was to be expected for Wang – there were few fireworks in 2017 after Qatar – but the Christmas break did him the world of good. Refreshed and refocused, the 22-year-old has been swinging with assurance this year.

Wang carded four under-par rounds in Abu Dhabi, dropping just one shot in 72 holes to share 15th place, then another quartet of under-par rounds in Dubai, dropping just three shots, sharing sixth spot. Scoring par or better for 140 of 144 holes was rock-solid Gulf form and this gritty competitor can do more damage in the desert this week.

A tie for 26th in Oman last week was a decent warm-up and Wang has struck his ball beautifully all year, suffering on the greens. Traditionally his short-game has been a great strength, so it will probably not be long before he resumes rolling his rock with confidence.

If he carries his long-game form to Qatar and combines it with a more typical putting performance, Wang can keep the trophy. The tournament has been running since only 1998, but already there have been three repeat winners – Adam Scott, Paul Lawrie and Branden Grace.

Next best
Thorbjorn Olesen 16-1

The most serious danger for the defending champion is Thorbjorn Olesen, who has also proved he can tame Doha. Olesen, third in the 2014 Qatar Masters and second in 2016, relishes Gulf golf and nearly always threatens silverware on this leg of the European Tour.

Olesen, who tied for second in the 54-hole strokeplay element of the Perth Super 6 last time out before falling at the last-16 stage of the matchplay, has won four European Tour titles and is deadly in contention. A Wang versus Olesen Sunday duel is entirely feasible.

Other selections
Hadyn Porteous 55-1
Adrien Saddier 150-1
Lucas Bjerregaard 125-1

South Africans have a great record in this event, with Darren Fichardt, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and two-time champ Grace on the honours board – they have won a quarter of all Qatar Masters – and Haydn Porteous is well capable of making the statistic six from 21.

Powerhouse Porteous, twice a Tour champ at the age of 23, enjoys desert golf and was third after three rounds of the Dubai Desert Classic last month before getting off to a horror start on Sunday and dropping to 19th. A missed cut by a shot on an unsuitable track in Malaysia was nothing to worry about next time out, and a four-under-par weekend for a share of 26th in Oman was encouraging. A missed cut by a shot in Qatar last year when amid swing changes and in terrible form is easily forgiven.

Adrien Saddier is a sweet-swinging 25-year-old Frenchman who regained his place on the European Tour thanks to a solid Challenge Tour campaign in which he finished runner-up three times. He won the Fred Olsen Challenge on that circuit by three shots in 2016.

Saddier looks likely to stay on the European Tour this time and greatly impressed in the SA Open a month ago, firing a second-round 63 and finishing seventh. He was second for greens in regulation that week and prefers tough courses, a breezy Doha being one of them. His only previous visit, as a rookie in 2014, saw him only a shot off the lead after three rounds, before an understandable fade to 16th place as Sergio Garcia triumphed.

Rounds of 76 and 70 meant a missed cut for Lucas Bjerregaard in Oman last week, but the significant Friday improvement is enough for the great Dane to be chanced again in Qatar, where he closed with a 66 for 11th spot last year. The Portugal Masters champ, working hard again after becoming a father in December, should soon rediscover his form.

Others to note

Jordan Smith
Won a Challenge Tour event in the UAE and was sixth in the Qatar Masters last year. The European Open champ is clearly comfortable in this part of the world, but has been largely unimpressive for six months.

Marcus Kinhult
The baby-faced assassin was derailed by a seven at the third hole in round three last week in Oman, but 16th place was another solid effort. The talented young Swede is finding his feet on the European Tour and could enjoy his Doha debut.

Thomas Detry
The Belgian has started this year in fine fettle and should give another decent account of himself in Qatar. Tied for 28th last season.

Julien Guerrier
The 32-year-old Frenchman, twice a winner on the Challenge Tour last year, impressed in Oman last week, finishing third, hitting his ball with great authority.

Sean Crocker
The Zimbabwe-born American youngster has made an extremely bright start to his professional career and could be worth chancing at big prices.

Shubhankar Sharma
The assured Indian is a fine player, but is yet to prove himself on desert layouts, representing no value on his Doha debut.

Staking plan
J Wang
3pts each-way 22-1 Betfred
T Olesen
3pts each-way 16-1 general
H Porteous
1pt each-way 55-1 bet365
A Saddier
0.5pt each-way 150-1 Coral
L Bjerregaard
0.5pt each-way 125-1 Coral

The Lowdown

Course Doha Golf Club, Qatar

Prize money €1.4m (€233,235 to the winner)

Length 7,400 yards  Par 72  Field 138

Course records – 72 holes 268 Paul Lawrie (1999), Adam Scott (2008) 18 holes 61 Adam Scott (2008)

Course winners taking part Paul Lawrie (twice), Darren Fichardt, Alvaro Quiros, Robert Karlsson, Thomas Bjorn, Chris Wood, Jeunghun Wang

When to bet By 3.30am Thursday

Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 7.30am Thursday

Time difference Qatar is three hours ahead of the UK and Ireland

Last week – Oman Open 1 J Luiten (25-1), 2 C Wood (90-1), 3 J Guerrier (140-1), T4 J Campillo (40-1), S Han (80-1), A Levy (16-1)

Course overview Doha GC has staged this event every year since 1998. It has been slain by powerhouses, with Adam Scott (twice), Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Alvaro Quiros, Robert Karlsson, Chris Wood, Sergio Garcia and Branden Grace all employing aggressive driving to succeed on the exposed desert layout. The track is no pussycat, though, when a strong breeze is whipping across it, which is often the case in this part of the world, and more cautious, controlled players like Andrew Coltart, Paul Lawrie (twice), Tony Johnstone, Joakim Haeggman and Thomas Bjorn, have been victorious in this championship in testing conditions. Three of the par-fives are lengthy (the 591-yard first, the 639-yard ninth and the 589-yard 18th) and the greenkeepers typically try to get their dancefloors firm and fast

Story of last year Korean youngster Jeunghun Wang emerged triumphant from a three-man playoff, defeating Joakim Lagergren and Jaco van Zyl with a birdie on the first extra hole

Weather forecast Hot and sunny, with moderate afternoon breezes

Type of player suited to challenge Doha is a course which is vulnerable to big-hitters in calm conditions, and the wind is not expected to be too severe this week

Key attribute Power

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Nobody since Tiger Woods needed fewer European Tour starts than Wang to register three wins
E.W. Terms
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