Doha - Sergio Garcia makes his first
appearance of a potentially momentous 2016 this week as one of the big names at
this year's Qatar Masters, which tees off on Wednesday.
As well his perennial hunt for an elusive
Major, the Spaniard is almost certainly likely to feature in Europe's Ryder Cup
team at Hazletine in September.
A win in Minnesota would mark Garcia's
sixth victorious Ryder Cup performance and cement his position as one of the
greatest European players over the match-play format.
There is also the small matter of golf at
the Olympics in Brazil later this year, for the first time since 1904.
"On my way to @CBQatarMasters to start
my golfing year. Excited to get going on a very big year for golf #Majors
@rydercup @Olympics," he tweeted earlier this week.
But for now, the most immediate thing on
the 36-year-old's mind will be trying to rediscover the form he showed in Doha
two years ago to win the 2014 Qatar Masters.
The $2.5 million Masters is part of the
European Tour and is one leg of three tournaments played in the Middle East at
the beginning of each year, the other two being the Abu Dhabi Golf
championship, won on Sunday by Rickie Fowler, and the Dubai Desert Classic.
The tournament has attracted a strong field
As well as Garcia, last year's winner,
Branden Grace is in Doha to defend his title.
If he does so, he will be the first player
to achieve that since the tournament started in 1998, but he admitted it would
"The reality is that the chances are
slim, especially when you look at the field," he said on Monday.
"So many top players like Sergio have
won here and return year after year. Then we have Louis [Oosthuizen] coming
back here and a lot of other players in really good form, so we'll just do our
best and see what happens."
The South African had a splendid 2015,
winning in Doha by just one stroke from Scotland's Marc Warren, after carding a
19 under par score of 269 over the four days.
He also won on the South African Sunshine
Tour last year and was in contention to win the US Open at Chambers Bay,
eventually finishing fourth.
The 27-year-old also showed signs of his
considerable promise with another top five finish at the PGA Championship at
Whistling Straits in August.
Fellow South African - and 2010 British
Open winner - Oosthuizen will make his first appearance in Doha since 2013.
Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, another Ryder
Cup prospect, will look to build on his two European Tour victories, though
neither have come in Qatar.
However, another former winner, 2206 champion
Henrik Stenson, pulled out earlier this week because of injury.
There is also a strong representation from
Wu Ashun, China's number one player, is
making his debut in Qatar. Last year the 30-year-old won his first European
Tour title, the China Open.
"I'm becoming more used to playing
against European Tour players, although I don't have a lot of experience of
playing in the Middle East," Wu said earlier this week.
Wu's compatriot Jin Cheng will also take
The teenager is China's top amateur and
will be in the field at this year's Masters in April.
And Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee and
Kiradech Aphibarnrat will also provide part of the challenge from Asia.
Previous winners of the Qatar Masters also
include Adam Scott, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els.