Saturday, 30 January 2016. Doha, Qatar: Fine dining experience, sushi alongwith that sharp ting of wasabi and Avant-grade hot and cold beverages for the connoisseurs, who habitually use their taste buds for art’s sake – that’s some golfing experience we are talking about, here.
Heady! Definitely heady.
Yes! Ladies and gentlemen, trust your instincts, it’s golf. If not, let’s just add the word – ‘greens’ to complete the ambience. And, it doesn't get any better than this when you have the Mother of Pearl trophy up for the grabs at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters tournament at Doha Golf Club.
But, this year's championship turned out to be intoxicating (oops interesting) to the core.
Why? Because of one man called Branden Grace. The 27-year-old Protea did the unthinkable at the greens on Saturday.
The defending champion performed an encore, laying his hands on the coveted trophy at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and the process pocketed a fat cheque of $416,660.
What was even more striking about his performance was the fact that no player, until Saturday, has won back-to-back titles in Doha, unlike at the European Tour’s three other events on the Arabian Soil.
"Oh, it's great. I'll say this, I'm definitely coming back." Grace's initial reaction summed it up. Guess, he suggested a hat-trick, before deciding to elaborate.
"No, it's awesome. There's some great names, there's a lot of big names on the trophy. I feel privileged to be able to get my name on there in a row twice, and that's great. Great feeling, my first defence that I've done properly. I've had a couple of tournaments but none of them (have) worked out. This is special. It's definitely getting myself over another hurdle."
It's all a big learning curve as your career goes on. I've learned a lot this week for myself, learned patience, and I've learned what it takes now to defend a title. And not just that; to win a title again. It happened two years ago, or last year, but it feels long gone. So it's great to be in the winners' circle again."
'Great', 'Awesome', ‘Greens’ and ‘Grace’ and not to forget ‘Sushi’ more than made up for the day at DGC. But then the purists are hardly satisfied with these. If you belong to that select group, read on…
The World No. 11 (if rankings are a measure of a player’s performance), playing amongst the last group on the day, birdied the par-5 18th to finish off with an impressive 3-under 69 and a total of 14-under 274, finishing two clear of playing partner Thorbjorn Olesen (71) and Rafa Cabrera-Bello (70).
But as they say well begun is half done, Grace started the day on a positive note, shooting a birdie on the par-5 first before following it up with a birdie on the sixth and 10th holes. The only blemish was the fifth hole, where he failed to keep to the greens and bogeyed the par-4 fifth hole.
English duo Andrew Johnston (70) and Lee Slattery (70), and Welshman Bradley Dredge(69) tied for fourth on 11-under, while World No. 12 Sergio Garcia (70) and World No. 18 Louis Oosthuizen (71) were among six players to share seventh spot on eight-under.
Paul Lawrie, bidding to become the tournament’s first three-time winner, failed to capitalise on his overnight lead dropping 12 places to finish tied-13 on the leaderboard. He ended the day with a poor 6-over-par 78, littering his card with bogeys and double bogeys.
Ernie Els too fell by the wayside, carding 2-over 74 that saw him fall 10 places to end tied-29 with a total of 284. (Qatar Sports Press Committee)
1 Branden GRACE RSA 70 67 68 69 274
2 Thorbjørn OLESEN DEN 67 69 69 71 276
Rafa CABRERA-BELLO ESP 67 68 71 70 276
4Lee SLATTERY ENG 69 69 69 70 277
Bradley DREDGE WAL 71 67 70 69 277
Andrew JOHNSTON ENG 66 69 72 70 277
7George COETZEE RSA 67 70 73 70 280
Richard BLAND ENG 72 69 67 72 280
Louis OOSTHUIZEN RSA 65 73 71 71 280
Ricardo GOUVEIA POR 67 71 70 72 280
Sergio GARCIA ESP 70 66 74 70 280
Tommy FLEETWOOD ENG 67 69 70 74 280
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