After playing his way into contention at last week’s Oman Open, Belgium’s Thomas Pieters hopes to build on what has been an encouraging start to the 2019 European Tour season at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
The 2016 Ryder Cup star recorded his best finish since last year’s US PGA Championship at Bellerive with his tied sixth result in Oman, carding a one under par final round to finish just two strokes behind winner Kurt Kitayama.
Pieters has finished inside the top 30 in his last nine starts worldwide and also won the ISPS Handa Melbourne World Cup of Golf with compatriot Thomas Detry in November.
Oliver Fisher returns to Doha Golf Club hoping to go one better than his runner-up result last year. The Englishman, who carded the first ever round of 59 on the European Tour at the 2018 Portugal Masters, finished just one stroke behind Eddie Pepperell in 2018, recording his best result in ten appearances in Qatar.
Former Qatar Masters champions in the field include two-time winner and 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie, victorious 2018 Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjørn and 2016 Ryder Cup player Chris Wood.
Thomas Pieters: “My game has been feeling really good for a long time now. I’m playing tournaments again and getting confidence back is the main thing.
“I haven’t had a bad tournament yet, but last week was the first time I’ve contended in a long, long time. It felt great. Winning the World Cup is different but in an individual tournament I haven’t contended in a long time. I’ve finished in the top 30 in my last nine starts, it’s frustrating. I’ve been there but not quite there, so I hope to keep the feeling going.”
Kurt Kitayama: “It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I’m taking it all in and enjoying it. It was such a long day, and then I had a rush to the airport. I’ve not had the chance to think about it. I still have a few more weeks on the road, and maybe we’ll celebrate when we get back to America.
“I need to ride the wave. I’m playing well. When I won in Mauritius I continued that into the SA Open. Hopefully I can do the same here. I want to take last weeks’ confidence into this week. The course is a great layout. I played nine yesterday and nine today, so I’ll be taking it all in.”
Oliver Fisher: “I really enjoy coming back here. It’s nice to come back to somewhere that’s familiar. I think it’s my 12th or 13th time back here. I had a decent week here last year and it’s good to look back at some good memories having played well here.
“The fairways aren’t always as important as some around here. It’s not too tough off the tee and there’s usually a good breeze, more so than Dubai and Abu Dhabi. You need to control your ball flight with your irons and you need to be careful with the pace on the greens. They can be quite quick at times and with some of them being exposed to the wind, you can get some quick ones and some tricky putts with some breaks. It’s important to read the greens really well. Leave yourself in positions that are playable. It’s easy to be suckered into some flags and on this Bermuda it can be quite tricky if you find yourself on the wrong side.
Paul Lawrie: “Both wins were different. In 1999, I had an operation in the winter of 1998, played terribly in Dubai the week before. I came here early, did a pile of practice and a pile of work. I recently joined up with Adam Hunter as my coach, so it was a huge win for us two. This win gave me the confidence for what happened at Carnoustie in the Summer.
“In 2012, I was in the middle of an unbelievable run of success and good weeks. I’ve always enjoyed the course and the firmness of it. You have to shape the ball a little more than most courses. You have to be in control of your ball flight when the wind picks up. If you’re not in control and hitting little knock-down shots and hold-off shots, you’re going to be in trouble.”