Team Qatar amateurs Saleh Al Kaabi and Ali Al Bishi, both 19, pose for the camera in Doha yesterday. The two players will feature in the $2.5m Qatar Masters starting at Doha Golf Club tomorrow.
DOHA: Team Qatar amateurs Saleh Al Kaabi and Ali Al Bishi, both 19, are hoping to become the first Qataris to ever make the cut at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters when each makes a second appearance at this week’s $2.5m event.
Al Kaabi made his tournament debut last January, one year after Al Bishi competed in the 2012 event when he was only 17.
Both players missed the cut on their debut in one of the most prestigious events on The European Tour, which has been held in Doha since 1998 and regularly attracts many of the world’s best players.
World No. 3 Henrik Stenson, Ryder Cup legend Sergio Garcia, PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner, four-time major winner Ernie Els and former World No. 1s Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer are among this week’s field.
Al Kaabi and Al Bishi qualified for this week’s star-studded tournament as the top two locals in this month’s Qatar Open Amateur Championship, also held at Doha Golf Club, where they finished seventh and ninth respectively. The outgoing Al Kaabi, shorter in stature but longer off the tee than his team-mate, believes he’s playing well enough to challenge for a spot at the weekend.
“I hope this year to make the cut, to be in the top half of the field and to make the last two days,” said Al Kaabi. “I’m playing really good compared to last year.”
The pair play regularly at Doha Golf Club (DGC) as part of their training, but the Championship Course proves a much tougher test during the week of the Qatar Masters as the layout is made more challenging for the European Tour pros.
Al Kaabi has shot a low round of 67 around the Championship Course, but he shot rounds of 81 and 78 in last year’s Qatar Masters.
“It’s really tough,” Al Kaabi said. “They make the course much longer, the rough is really high and the greens are really fast. Now that it’s windy, it’s going be really tough.”
The quieter Al Bishi also hopes that a Qatari will make the cut for the first time in the tournament’s 17-year history. “I just hope I can make the cut. I’m really happy that both Saleh and I are playing this time, so at least if I don’t play well, I hope he can play well,” said Al Bishi, who has shot a low round of 69 over the Championship Course.
“We both play at Doha Golf Club in our training. Saleh hits much longer than me. I’m average – from 280 to 300 yards. I like the short game, putting, irons. Maybe he hits longer, but my short game is good.”
Team Qatar coach Mike Elliot, who has formerly worked in the US and Germany, has played a large part in the players’ development and will have a hands-on role this week as Al Kaabi’s caddie. Anwar Ali, also part of the Team Qatar coaching team, will carry Al Bishi’s bag.
The 2014 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters runs from tomorrow to Saturday.
Evening entertainment will begin from 6pm on Thursday and Friday. Both single-day (Thursday/Friday) and season tickets include entry to the concerts, which include American performers Divas of Soul on Thursday and Scottish band Texas on Friday.