Pablo Larrazábal took full advantage of the calm morning conditions to post an eight under par round of 64 at Doha Golf Club and open a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
The Spaniard, who secured his sixth DP World Tour title at the MyGolfLife Open hosted by Pecanwood a fortnight ago, started on the tenth hole and made the turn in 30, six under par, before adding two more birdies on the way in to set the target at eight under.
That first round total proved to be unassailable and the 38-year-old leads from Denmark’s Marcus Helligkilde, Frenchman Romain Langasque, Poland’s Adrian Meronk and Shubhankar Sharma, of India on six under par.
Helligkilde, who topped the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca Rankings last year, carded four birdies in his final six holes to join that group in a tie for second, with two players – Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson and Englishman Robert Rock – a shot further back in a tie for sixth place on five under par.
Defending champion Antoine Rozner, who won his second DP World Tour title at Education City Golf Club last year, is among a group of seven players a shot further back in a tie for eighth place.
Pablo Larrazábal: “I’m very pleased. I played very solid. I missed only a couple of shots. I did an up and down there on the last green which I missed, but happy days. It’s been a couple of nice weeks. I missed the cut last week but I played very solid golf and today we keep doing the job.
“The conditions are great. When you come to a golf course that they’ve really changed, and they’ve not only changed it for us, they’ve changed for this course for amateur golf. I’m sure the members here enjoy it a lot more and obviously there are a lot more pin positions for us. I think they did a great job and it’s looking magnificent.
“It’s not nice when you have your alarm at 4:00am, but it’s all about going to bed early. I went to bed at 9:00am, so I got my seven hours. The temperature was nice this morning but now it’s boiling. It’s probably 35 or 36 degrees right now, so I kept drinking a lot of water and making birdies.”
Shubhankar Sharma: “I played really well. It was quite an early tee off, I don’t remember the last time I teed off at 6:55am so I just tried to stay awake on the back nine, which was my front nine, but I made two quick birdies straight out of the gate and then made another three birdies in the next seven holes to be five under after nine. The front nine here is tougher, I think, compared to the back nine and it got slightly windier so I made a few good par putts and it was good to make that birdie on the eighth and finish with a 66.
“It’s more mental, I think. Technically, I’ve not really changed anything but I’ve just become more process-oriented. I’ve also learned to let go of bad rounds and bad shots. I’ve been playing well for some time now, it started last season, at the end of last season where I had some good finishes and I’ve managed to carry it forward into this season as well.”
Marcus Helligkilde: “It was a good round. I’ve been playing nicely for this four-week stretch and the putts just haven’t dropped. I’ve missed a few fairways and I just couldn’t get the ball in the hole. Suddenly today, I holed a chip shot, holed a putt from off the green and some putts dropped and suddenly I’m six under. I’m very happy about it.
“It was a good five under on the back nine. I’ll take that. I’m very much enjoying life. We’re getting treated so nicely. I’ve never played out here before, it’s my first season and I love it. Great people, great golf courses, great conditions and we’re getting treated very nicely.”
Romain Langasque: “I started really well again. It’s now three weeks in a row that I’ve played well and it is a really different course to the last couple of weeks where you have to play better golf to shoot a good score and that happened so it was a good start.
“I think everything was really good today. My putting was strong, also my chipping, but all my round was really good so I think I can be really happy about that.
“I don’t really care about what the other guys do on the course. This is really my thoughts for the last six months now; just focus on my round, my course and do my best.
Adrian Meronk: “It was a really solid round. We executed the plan quite well today, it was quite tricky, it got windy at some points so I’m very pleased with my round.
“The greens are huge so the pin positions are tricky. I did a good job today in putting the ball in the right places so I’m just going to continue trying to do that. I’ll just take my time, adjust as the week goes on and play my game every day and see what happens.”
Ewen Ferguson: “I felt knackered when I woke up but it was actually quite refreshing when you’re on the first tee, there’s not much wind and you know it’s going to get windy so I think it was key to get off to a good start and I managed to do that.
“It’s a tough golf course. It’s quite tight and it’s firm so I was just trying to play really smart, disciplined golf – middle of the greens and fairways and I just managed to hit it into the middle of the greens. I read them nicely, tried to get the pace right and if they go in it’s a little bonus. It just so happened that a couple of them went in today, it always feels nice and hopefully I can keep it up for the next few days.”