Goose sets pace in windy Doha

2011-02-03 15:14

Doha - Birthday boy Retief Goosen shot a fine 69 in the first round of the Qatar Masters on Thursday, although Sweden's Niclas Fasth was left tied with the South African despite playing just 16 holes at the wind-blasted Doha Golf Club.

Goosen, who had teed off early, had enjoyed the sole lead for most of the day before the Swede caught up with him, but with darkness setting in play had to be called off with the result that Fasth will have to complete his last two holes on Friday.

Goosen, the 2007 champion in Doha, overshadowed world No.1 Lee Westwood and the second ranked Martin Kaymer on a day when most golfers struggled to settle into a rhythm. Strong winds caused the bulk of the problems on an already difficult course, where the thick rough had been a talking point before the tournament began.

Westwood was one over par, while Kaymer shot a miserable 77.

The 42-year-old Goosen, ranked 15th in the world, continued his excellent early-season form by shooting five birdies, although he dropped two strokes, on the fourth and 15th, to shake off strong challenges from Robert Karlsson, Darren Fichardt and Richard Finch who are one behind on 70.

Swede Karlsson is the defending champion, while South African Fichardt had won the Qatar Masters in 2003. All three have thus given themselves a solid platform to equal Adam Scott's record of two titles in Doha, the Australian winning in 2002 and 2008.

"Yeah, it was tough out there today. I drove it nicely off the tee, so I hit a lot of shots off the fairway," said Goosen, who finished third in Abu Dhabi last month and second at the South African Open earlier.

"But it was tough to get it close to the flags. It was windy conditions. Putting wasn't easy, you're getting blown all over the place, so it's tough."

Goosen joked he shot a 69 because he was born in 1969, sounding relieved that he had tamed the conditions to a great extent.

"The rough is brutal," he said. "You hit in the rough, you're lucky to get on to the green at times. But today, they set the course up for the conditions. If you miss the fairways, then yeah, you've still got a problem getting on to the greens.

"Well, you knew where it came from, that's for sure. But it was going a bit up and down, and it was actually a bit gusty. It's the first time in a long time I've played in this amount of wind."

Karlsson, who also had five birdies and three bogeys, too found the going tough. "It was definitely very windy," said Karlsson. "In the morning I had 93 yards to the flag and I hit 9 iron."

But the Swede was nevertheless pleased with his performance.

"I'm very happy with the round today. It wasn't easy out there. It was very, very windy. The golf course has a lot of heavy rough on it this year. So shooting under par the first round, very happy. It has been a long time since I played in this sort of wind."

Fichardt, who won the Qatar Masters in a playoff with compatriot James Kingston in 2003, was also breathing a sigh of relief after shooting 70.

"Yeah, the wind is brutal," Fichardt said. "Lucky they put a few tees up, and they didn't cut the greens this morning.

"So the greens are pretty slow, which was tricky with the chipping, because I left a couple of chips short and stuff. But yeah, they were definitely prepared for the wind."