South Africa’s Retief Goosen shot a 3-under-par 69 to take a one-shot lead Thursday in the first round of the European Tour’s Commercialbank Qatar Masters, in which several players couldn’t finish due to darkness.
Goosen celebrated his 42nd birthday with his pacesetting score. Without a European Tour victory since the same event four years ago -- and without a title anywhere for nearly two years -- he shone in the difficult conditions.
2011 COMMERCIALBANK QATAR MASTERS
The Qatar Masters marks the first time since 1993 that the world's top two golfers have gone head-to-head in a European Tour event.
With winds reaching 25 mph at the Doha Golf Club, the two-time U.S. Open champion managed five birdies to finish one shot ahead of defending champion Robert Karlsson of Sweden, Goosen’s compatriot Darren Fitchardt and Richard Finch of England.
“It was tough to get close to the flags. It was windy and difficult,” Goosen said. “Putting wasn’t easy as you’re getting blown all over the place … (It was) a good opening score for a tough day. It was great.”
Karlsson, who won the European Tour’s season-ending Dubai World Championship and was fifth in Abu Dhabi last month, needed a closing par 5 to match Goosen but had to settle for a bogey.
“At least you knew where the wind was coming from, but it was gusting and it’s a long while since I’ve played in conditions like this,” Karlsson said.
The windy conditions seemed to unsettle some of the bigger names, with top-ranked Lee Westwood carding a 1-over-par 73, Steve Stricker of the United States carding a 76 and Paul Casey, winner in Bahrain on Sunday, needing three birdies in his last four holes for a 74.
“I really struggled,” said Westwood, who had four bogeys to go with three birdies. “I’m not hitting it right when it is windy like this. It’s hard to control the ball. But it was a decent score.”
The No. 2-ranked Martin Kaymer, who could overtake Westwood as the world’s top-ranked player in Doha, also struggled in the tough conditions, finishing with a 5-over 77. The German, 24 under par in winning in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago, didn’t have a birdie all day and shot 77, the same as John Daly.
“It was difficult but I screwed up in the end. I made a double bogey on the 15th, and I didn’t hole any putts today,” Kaymer said. “I really struggled with those greens.”