Qatar Masters: Justin Harding claims first title

Celebration time for James Haring
Celebration time for James Haring

South Africa's Justin Harding produced a superb final round to claim his first European Tour title in the Qatar Masters.

Leaderboard

-13 Harding

-11 Coetzee, Bezuidenhout, van Rooyen, Wilson, Choi, Campillo, Karlsson, Lorenzo-Vera, Elvira

-10 Zanotti, Sullivan, Detry


Day four report

South Africa's Justin Harding is within sight of securing a Masters debut after claiming his first European Tour title in the Qatar Masters.

Harding birdied three of the last four holes in a closing 66 to finish 13 under par, two shots ahead of a nine-strong group which included compatriots George Coetzee, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Erik Van Rooyen and England's Oliver Wilson.

Wilson, who began the day with a one-shot lead, carded a closing 71 at Doha Golf Club.

Harding, who won twice on the Asian Tour and twice on the Sunshine Tour in 2018, is projected to move just outside the world's top 50 when the rankings are updated on Monday. The top 50 on April 1 receive an invite to the year's first major at Augusta National.

"It was a really good day, hugely rewarding," Harding said. "I feel as though I've been putting in a lot of hard graft trying to improve my game to get to those next levels and to finally notch one on the European Tour is awesome.

"It means I get into the events I'd like to be into again. I'm looking forward to playing in some bigger events and keeping the form going."

Harding was three shots off the lead at the start of the day and although he birdied three of the first four holes, bogeys at the sixth and seventh looked to have derailed his title challenge.

However, the 33-year-old birdied the 10th, 12th, 15th, 17th and 18th in a back nine of 31 to post a clubhouse target that no-one was able to match.

"I think my biggest deficit coming from behind was one so to have to sit and wait around I didn't enjoy it, but I'm glad it happened," Harding told Sky Sports.

"I'll be honest, the bogey I made on 13 yesterday was key to me turning it around. I hit a terrible seven iron into the water there but to get it up and down still kept me in the game.

"I made a couple of birdies coming in and turned what was a bit of a struggle into a one over par (round) and was only three shots back going into today. That was huge."


Day three report

Oliver Wilson will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Qatar Masters as he looks to reignite his career with a victory in Doha.

The Englishman carded a 69 to get to 10 under in round three, one shot clear of Australian Nick Cullen, Spaniard Nacho Elvira, Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera and South African Erik van Rooyen.

A win on Sunday would represent another remarkable comeback in a rollercoaster career for the 38-year-old, who represented Europe at the 2008 Ryder Cup but fell to 792nd in the world before he won the 2014 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

He slipped outside the top 2000 last summer but has since claimed two victories on the second tier Challenge Tour and was pleased with the maturity he showed as he looks for a third win in just under eight months.

"I'm delighted quite frankly, it's hard out there," he told europeantour.com. "It's really hard to get it close even from the fairways with the wind.

"The last four holes I suddenly found something and hit good shots all the way in. Maybe it's a bit of maturity or something, I don't know, but I'm really pleased that I allowed that to happen. Sometimes it's easy to lose your head a little bit."

Starting the day a shot off the lead, Wilson birdied the second and fourth to take a share but dropped a shot on the fifth before making nine straight pars.

A gain from eight feet on the 15th had him back in a tie for the lead and he claimed it on his own on the last thanks to a beautiful chip from over the back of the par five that set up a birdie.

Australian Jake McLeod - who made a hole-in-one on the third - countryman Min Woo Lee, Belgian Thomas Detry and Swede Anton Karlsson were eight under, a shot clear of a group of seven players including Welshman Bradley Dredge.


Day two report

Erik van Rooyen
Erik van Rooyen

France's Mike Lorenzo-Vera is fully focused on claiming a first European Tour title in the Qatar Masters after receiving a dressing-down from his sports psychologist.

Lorenzo-Vera went eight seasons without a top-three finish before the 2017 HNA Open de France and lost a play-off in last season's Rocco Forte Sicilian Open, but enjoys a share of the halfway lead with South Africans George Coetzee and Justin Harding at Doha Golf Club.

All three players have carded consecutive rounds of 68 on the opening two days to reach eight under par, a shot ahead of England's Oliver Wilson, South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen, Spain's Adri Arnaus and Japan's Masahiro Kawamura.

Van Rooyen was among Ben Coley's pre-tournament selections at 90/1 as he goes in search of a breakthrough European Tour win, which is also the aim of Lorenzo-Vera, a popular player on the circuit.

Working with Justin Parsons on his swing and fitness coach Kev Duffy on the physical side of the game has paid dividends for Lorenzo-Vera, but the 34-year-old revealed a different mental approach could make the biggest difference.

"We've been working really hard on the swing to make it consistent, we've been working very hard mentally with my psychologist and Justin told me I needed to be more strong and precise on my physical preparation for the swings," he told Sky Sports.

"Kev Duffy helped me a lot to do that and then had a great chat last week with my psychologist. She's been kicking my a** because I don't believe in myself and the fact that I can win so I'm coming here and just thinking about the trophy."

Harding has won seven times around the world but not on the European Tour and was happy to save par on the 18th after pulling his second shot into the water on the par five.

"It was naughty because you've got the whole world on the right-hand side but I'm happy I made five in the end and it didn't really cost me too many shots," Harding said. "I would have liked to have got another one or two (birdies) coming in but it was solid.

"Each day is its own puzzle. You've got to go sort it out. You can't really go out there thinking you are going to play well.

"I've got a bit of confidence that's been built up through time and some nice performances but you've got to deal with it when you wake up in the morning and see what you've got when you're playing."

Coetzee reached a career-high 41st in the world after finishing second in Qatar in 2013, but started this week ranked 243rd after just one top-20 finish in his last 25 events.

"I'm a little confused myself," the four-time European Tour winner said. "I'm just happy to be playing some better golf. I guess I made a bit of a mind-switch and started focusing a bit more on what's going on at the moment instead of where I want to be in a couple of years.

"I feel like everything is slowly getting into place. I don't know when it's going to be there for four rounds but hopefully I'll be awake and ready to reap the rewards."

Two shots off the lead is a group which includes Deyen Lawson, the Australian rookie who registered his second hole-in-one of the season as he aced the 17th hole.

Day one report

South Africa's Justin Walters admitted he was "ecstatic" after an opening 67 gave him a share of the lead after a windswept opening day of the Qatar Masters.

Walters defied the testing conditions to fire five birdies and no bogeys in a flawless round at Doha Golf Club and join Spain's Adri Arnaus on five under par.

"Warming up today in the wind I thought any score under par would be great, so to shoot five under I'm ecstatic," Walters said.

"I putted really well and my short game was really good today. I haven't played that well, even in calmer conditions, in a while so it's surprising and very welcome.

"I wouldn't want to play another three days with a wind like this, especially after a relentless spell of wind in Oman last week.

"Hopefully, as the conditions improve over the next few days I can continue to play the way I've played today."

Arnaus, who finished second on the Challenge Tour last year to graduate to the European Tour, and Walters enjoy a one-shot lead over a seven-strong group which includes South Africans Justin Harding and George Coetzee, Scotland's Richie Ramsay and Welshman Bradley Dredge.

"It was a lot of fun," Arnaus said after a round containing an eagle, four birdies and a solitary bogey.

"The wind picked up early but I kept the ball in play most of the time. I gave myself good birdie chances and I was able to take advantage of some of them, so I'm pleased.

"It was good getting into contention last year and then at the end being able to close it out at the Challenge Tour Grand Final gave me the belief that I could go on and do it on a bigger stage. Tomorrow is a new day so I'll just need to continue doing the same things."

Ramsay started his round with an eagle on the 10th - his opening hole of the day - and reached five under par after 10 holes, only to drop shots on the seventh and eighth before a closing birdie on the ninth.

Oman Open winner Kurt Kitayama, who is seeking a third European Tour victory in his last 10 starts, is part of a 19-strong group on three under par after an opening 69.

Pre-tournament favourite Thomas Pieters is a shot further back alongside his World Cup-winning partner Thomas Detry.

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