Jorge Campillo is ready to tread new ground this week as he defends a European Tour title for the first time in his career at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
The Spaniard recorded his second European Tour win when he defeated Scotland’s David Drysdale in a thrilling five-hole play-off at Education City Golf Club last season – holing three putts from more than 20 feet on the extra holes.
The 34-year-old was unable to defend the Trophée Hassan II trophy he won in 2019 after the tournament was cancelled last year due to the global coronavirus pandemic, with the 2020 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters proving to be the final European Tour event before the enforced hiatus.
Former champions Darren Fichardt, Justin Harding and Eddie Pepperell are also teeing it up in Doha this week, as are 2016 Ryder Cup players Thomas Pieters and Andy Sullivan.
Both Pieters and Sullivan have made encouraging starts to the 2021 Race to Dubai, with Sullivan finishing in a share of 25th at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the first Rolex Series event of the year, while Pieters finished tenth at the Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers. The Belgian has also missed just two cuts in his last 28 European Tour starts.
Rising star Rasmus Højgaard arrives in Qatar on the back of top ten finishes at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and Saudi International and from making his debut in a World Golf Championships event last month.
Jorge Campillo: “It’s different (being defending champion), I’ve never been in this position before because the other tournament I won (Trophée Hassan II) I couldn’t defend it. It’s new for me. I have had most of the attention this week, but I’m fine with it. It’s nice to be the defending champion.
“I’ve had a long time to think about the win. I was playing good and was ready to go to India to try and win another golf tournament, but that was stopped because of the pandemic. It was hard to come back after the break.
“The play-off stands out the most. It was such a great play-off. Besides all the putts I made, I hit some good shots too. David played great and I was glad I made those putts to keep up in the play-off.”
David Drysdale: “I’m still trying hard to win. That’s the main goal – the reason I practice and keep going. Last year here was a great opportunity, and those opportunities haven’t come along as much as I’d have liked in my career, but I’m trying to get in that position again. I know I can hit some good golf shots under pressure. The plan is to practice and give myself a chance to have a go on the back nine on Sunday. I’m going to have a go if I’m given an opportunity.
“I won a couple of Challenge Tour events a while ago, but last year if it wasn’t for Jorge Campillo’s ridiculous putting I might have had one on the European Tour – hats off to him but I also hit a lot of good golf shots.”
Rasmus Højgaard: “I struggled at the WGC at The Concession, I think I got caught up in thinking about the result there. It’s a big event, you want to play well. I was thinking more about that instead of producing good golf shots. That will be my focus this week.
“I want to win as much as possible, but it’s more important that I keep improving my game and that should produce good results and more wins, I hope. It feels good to be back in Qatar, it’s a good course and I enjoyed playing it last year.”
Eddie Pepperell: “I haven’t done a great deal at home. I’ve been kindly allowed to practice, but I haven’t done much in the way of putting or chipping or played once – so we’ll have to see. But my body feels good and it’s just nice to get away from home for a week to Qatar.
“I was never really much of a goal-setter but I’m having to remind myself that I’m a golf professional. To have so much uncertainty, it’s wearing me down a bit. I’m just looking forward to getting some sort of normalcy back and then hope these things will come back to me. The longer you spend out of that habit the harder it can be to get back into it. I need to get competitive again, become a golf professional again and make the best of the rest of my career.”