There is a golf writer’s competition called ‘Pick Your Pro’. Essentially you get a list of selected golf tournaments for the season, both men’s and women’s, in Europe and the United States, and you have to choose a golfer for each one. Whatever money he or she wins, you get ‘credited’ with that. (Sadly, not in a bank account sense.) Apart from a couple of caveats, you can only choose any player once over the course of the year. In other words, you can’t pick Rory McIlroy at every event on the European Tour, or Jordan Spieth in all four major championships. If you indulge in such foolery, only the first time you pick the player would they count for you. At the end of the season, someone wins a couple of hundred quid or so – i.e. rather less than Rory and Jordan routinely earn from heir experience of the game.
I mention this because my pick for the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in Doha was Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen, so my viewing of the final round of the tournament was naturally coloured by my being quite keen that he would do well. In fact, victory was very much on the cards when he started the day just two shots off the pace, in the final threesome. (I should add that my original choice had been Jamie Donaldson, which I changed two days before the PYP competition closed after seeing that Donaldson had come off second best in an argument with a chainsaw at his home and had been forced to withdraw. I confess I can’t recall why I chose Olesen from all the options available on the entry list.)
However, the portents for Olesen were not too propitious. He was attempting to haul in the overnight leader, Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, twice a previous winner of this event and a great front-runner: he’d converted six of the seven 54-hole leads he’d held on the European Tour into victories. And level with Olesen, two shots behind Lawrie, was Branden Grace, the defending champion from South Africa. In other words, two men with serious form over this golf course. And, especially with the Scotsman in mind, the testing wind and the unseasonably chill desert air meant conditions had something of the feel of links golf about them. And, of course, Lawrie can handle a links pretty well: he won the Open in 1999.
But this was not to be his day. He had a birdie at the 1st but didn’t get another until the 17th. He did have a couple of double-bogeys, though, and in the end it all added up to a 78. Branden Grace came through to retain his crown, a birdie four at the last giving him a 69, a 14-under-par total and a two-shot triumph. As for my man Thorbjorn, he finished tied for second with Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello, the latter on the back of three consecutive birdies to close. So not a great Dane, then, but still a pretty nifty one.
Robert Green’s ‘Seve: Golf’s Flawed Genius’ is available on Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter @robrtgreen