Golf: Coltard blows hot to lead Qatar Open

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The Independent Online
GIVEN the huge intervention from man and machine required to establish the Doha Golf Club, the first green championship course in Qatar, two of the layout's natural features remain its strongest defence. The limestone rocks around which the fairways and greens have been laid, carpet-like, were here long before the construction of the course began five years ago, as was the wind.

At this time of year, it comes straight from the Iranian mountain tops and sweeps in over the Arabian Gulf. Its cooling properties are welcome and it is also providing for a severe new challenge for the players of the European Tour in the inaugural Qatar Masters here.

With greens many found difficult to read, the scoring was so bunched that six shots covered 114 of the 132 players and for most of the day it looked as if nobody would get past 69, three under par. This being the mark were a busload of players arrived - ending up as a round dozen - inevitably, not one but two players came along together to break out of the pack.

Scotland's Andrew Coltart had a 68 and his playing partner, Anders Forsbrand of Sweden, a 67. Like all good Scots, Coltart, born and raised in Dumfries, should be used to playing in the wind and has a track record that suggests as such. His two Australian PGA titles were claimed in blustery conditions.

"I don't think anyone likes playing in the wind," he said. "You don't say, 'oh good, let's go out and practice' when it gets windy at home. You just know that everyone is going to be making mistakes and you can blame your bad shots on the weather."

It was hard labour even for the biggest of names. In contrast to his 19 under par effort in winning the Dubai Classic last week, Jose Maria Olazabal had 15 pars in a row before a birdie at the 16th in his round of 71, while Ian Woosnam and Seve Ballesteros both scored 72s.

Coltart finished with three birdies in the last four holes. Forsbrand, having birdied the first two, also birdied the last three, but Derrick Cooper, whose only tour success in Madrid came 10 years ago, bogeyed his last hole (the ninth) to fall back to three under.

Mark James and Sam Torrance, the two favourites to become Europe's next Ryder Cup captain, both said they might reject the job if it is offered to them.

Torrance said he wanted to play another match, "and I don't think there's any way you can be a playing captain". James said: "If I was playing well in June and July and was then asked I think I would certainly have to say 'No'."