Contributed by Alan Ewens
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
MARKUS BRIER IS THE SURPRISE leader by one stroke at the halfway stage of the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy. The 42 year-old Austrian shot a second round 66 to reach seven under par for the tournament on a day that saw several more illustrious names fail to make the cut in the $2.5 million event, the third stop on the European Tour’s Desert Swing.
(Photo: Brier celebrates a birdie.)
It was a superb round by Brier whose sixth and final birdie on the ninth—his 18th— ensured a one-shot lead over 2003 champion Darren Fichardt who carded a 68. A two-time European Tour winner, Brier had to go back to Qualifying School last November to retain his European Tour card and is playing on a sponsor’s invite.
“I got lucky on the last hole as I hit it way right off the tee, maybe 30-40 yards right,” Brier said. “I was lucky to make a birdie from a wayward drive, so that’s like a two-shot win there.”
But while it was a brilliant performance by World Number 478 Brier, for Lee Westwood, who ranks 477 places higher, there was only disappointment. Putting for eagle on the last, the Englishman missed by an inch to leave himself on four over par and out of the tournament.
“It’s early season rust. I think that’s it,” said the World Number One who finished third in last year’s event. “I’m going to go on the range the next couple of days and try to get into some kind of rhythm.”
Although Westwood is the biggest casualty, he is not the only big name to miss the cut. Former Qatar winner Henrik Stenson (+6) and Englishmen Paul Casey (+5) and Ross Fisher (+4) also missed out.
World Number Two Martin Kaymer, who can replace Westwood as Number One with a top two finish, got himself back on track with a second round 70 to put himself on three over for the tournament, right on the cut.
“I definitely played a little better today with no bogeys,” Kaymer said. “The golf tournament here is tight and no one is really running away with it and I’m only seven shots away right now.”
Experience seems to be the key over the 7,388-yard Doha course, with four former winners in the top eight. Defending champion Robert Karlsson of Sweden remains two shots off the lead on five under par alongside Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn and Englishman Richard Finch, while 1999 champion Paul Lawrie and 2007 winner Retief Goosen are on four under with South African Thomas Aiken.
(Photo credit: Alan Ewens on behalf of Qatar Masters)