Dive in for Dane in Doha
In-form Thorbjorn Olesen is David John's headline pick for the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in Doha.
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While Nike headline acts Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, Thobjorn Olesen had a fantastic week for his new club supplier and he is fancied to get his hands on some silverware this time at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in Doha.
The 23-year-old is rapidly becoming one of the most watchable players on tour and last week further cemented the belief that the Dane is destined for the top echelons of the game.
He had just two errors on the scorecard - a bogey and double bogey - over 72 holes and although there has obviously not been the hype around him switching equipment compared to McIlroy, it is clear he has taken to them extremely well under competitive conditions.
- 1.5pts e.w. Thorbjorn Olesen at 28/1 (1/4/ 1,2,3,4,5, Betfred, Coral) - Looked sharp in Abu Dhabi and the man to beat at the prices.
- 1.5pts e.w. Peter Hanson at 18/1 (1/4/ 1,2,3,4,5, Coral) - Warmed to his task in Abu Dhabi and worth following again on a course he enjoys.
- 1pt e.w. Sergio Garcia at 14/1 (1/4/ 1,2,3,4,5, Coral) - Back to winning form in 2012 and can make a fast start to the new year.
- 1pt e.w. Retief Goosen at 55/1 (1/4/ 1,2,3,4,5, Betfred, Coral, Boylesports) - Pain-free and and raring to go for 2013. Past winner and vast course experience.
Although we are still in the desert on leg two of the Gulf Swing, Doha provides a different test to Abu Dhabi with the potential for much gustier winds - they were strong enough 12 months ago to reduce the event to 54 holes.
So Olesen and his new clubs could find this a sterner examination but I was immensely impressed with the distance control from his irons and that is going to be very important this week.
There are some big names at the top of the market and even so I expected Olesen to be trading around the 18/1-20/1 mark - the early 30/1 lasted a nanosecond but 28s still looks very good business.
Peter Hanson may not be the most original choice at 18/1 either but I am reluctant to leave him out after a nice sighter in Abu Dhabi.
The Swede finished in tie for ninth having made little impact over the first two days but then started to find his range over the weekend with rounds of 66-69.
That is not to say either were particularly polished - Saturday's effort contained 10 birdies, two bogeys and a double on a par five but it certainly showed some movement in the right direction and an ability to find his range with the scoring clubs.
Hanson will be making his 12th appearance in Doha and he said in a recent interview on the European Tour website: "Last year was my best performance ... it's a course I know I can play well on."
He tied for second 12 months ago with Jason Day as Paul Lawrie romped away from his field for the title but I can see Hanson making a bold bid once again granted a bit of luck in terms of the draw - he has got an early tee-time on Wednesday alongside Olesen.
Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Rose don't make a great deal of appeal at single-figure odds while Martin Kaymer has admitted that "the greens are not my friends here".
So I am going to put up another couple of big guns - Sergio Garcia at 14s and Retief Goosen at what could be a tempting 55/1.
Garcia seems to have stopped feeling sorry for himself and really got his act together over the second half of last season with victories at the Wyndham Champiosnhip in August on the PGA Tour and then in Asia at the Iskander Johor Open in December.
He fired a sparkling closing 61 in the latter to claim the rain-shortened tournament and went on to say ahead of his comeback: "I have been relaxed and playing really well in the off-season.
"I feel very comfortable playing in Qatar and am confident I can play well again so I am excited about geting to Doha."
It is some time since I have heard the Spaniard quite so upbeat and it seems he is keen to get 2013 - and that quest for an elusive major - off to a triumphant start.
He has four top-10 finishes at this course and the weight of evidence is enough to side with him at the price despite this being his opening salvo of the year.
Goosen is fascinating. He is a past winner at Doha and is easing himself back into the game having had surgery and then rehab on a lingering back problem last August.
He made a late entry for the Volvo Champions in Durban earlier in the month such was his progress over the winter and was delighted with his effort after a six under par total and a T20.
He said: "I have struggled for the last three years. I am off the pain killers and that has cleared my system and my mind is much clearer. I am feeling confident for this year."
Goosen is in the same boat as Garcia to a certain extent as it is tough to gauge how sharp his game will be if he does get into contention on the back nine come Sunday.
But a return to health counts for a great deal as does his wealth of experience at the course - this will be his 15th start - and I am prepared to give him the opportunity as he may not be this sort of price many more times.
Veterans Anders Hansen and Ricardo Gonzalez caught my eye with some very good course form and almost made the staking plan but neither have won on the European Tour since 2009 and I just can't see them faring any better than a place.
One final piece of information - the first round tees off on Wednesday rather than the usual Thursday.