BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: South Africa’s George Coetzee yesterday launched his Qatar Masters campaign in dream fashion, producing a double eagle on the first hole to grab the lead with eight-under-par 64 after round one at the $2.5m event.
After nailing the 5-par hole in three just three shots, Coeztee reeled off six birdies to leapfrog Englishman Steve Webster who earlier in the day became the first player ever to produce an albatross on the opening hole of a European Tour event.
Despite stuttering with a bogey on hole six, Webster, produced five birdies to card seven under par 65 and share second place with South Africa’s Dawie van Der Walt.
With warm sunshine attracting a decent crowd at Doha Golf Club (DGC), Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello, compatriot Nacho Elvira, France’s Francois Calmels and Englishman Ross Fisher ended the end day with six under par 66 to sit joint fourth on the leaderboard.
In a stunning show of good form from last week in Abu Dhabi, India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar joined five others for an impressive card of five under par 67 at the 7,400-yard course. South African trio Thomas Aiken, Ernie Els and Branden Grace, former champion Paul Lawrie and American John Daly were tied for joint fifth with Bhullar.
Title favourite Henrik Stenson of Sweden impressed after missing the cut in Abu Dhabi last week by carding four under par 68 yesterday while former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain ended the day at three under par 69.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia, who finished third in Abu Dhabi last week, had a mixed day, ending with one under par 71.
Defending champion Chris Wood had a forgetful day with one over par 73 after carding six bogeys.
The day, however, belonged to Coetzee who started on the 548-yard hole 10. The only stutter for the South African was on the par 3 fourth hole which he bogeyed.
Coetzee said solid putting made his day.
“Quite lucky to get away with the shots I hit today, but another good putting display to put a nice number. But a long way to go so we’ll see,” Coetzee said.
“There’s a lot of luck involved in this game, especially the way I’ve played,” Coetzee said. “I think I had 21 putts with a 3 putt, so that goes to show, I can hit the ball a little bit better,” he added.
“I’m busy working on stuff on my swing, so it’s nice to shoot good numbers when you’re busy working on stuff. But I can’t wait for it to click because might be unstoppable,” Coetzee said.
The loudest cheer was reserved for Webster who dropped the ball into the cup on hole one with five-wood approach from 254 yards.
Webster was thrilled with his round one performance.
“.....254 to the pin, wind slightly off the left. I was going to say 5-iron but it was a 5-wood. (I) hit a great shot obviously straight at it,” Webster said.
“Because I carry a big crowd following me, there were about two people behind the green and one of them started jumping up and pointing down. Thought, don’t know whether it’s gone over the back to the rocks, get up there and he starts clapping. Dream start,” Webster explained.
“I played great after that and was just really consistent, gave myself a lot of putts and gave myself a lot of chances. I was probably a little disappointed with 7-under to be honest. I should have finished probably nine or ten, but it’s a good start.”
South Africa’s Van der Walt was delighted to embrace good form after his horror show in Abu Dhabi last week where he started well but dropped off at the end.
“My game didn’t feel too bad so (was) playing well today. I am not too surprised,” Van der Walt said.
“Certainly I had a terrible week and looked like a blind squirrel. I couldn’t do anything right,” the South African said who added that he would be seeking a clean card today. “You know, just try and birdie every hole like I did today,” he said when asked about his strategy ahead of today’s second round. “I played solid and I forgot about last week so just want to keep the same mind-set and do the same things,” he added.