Last year’s Challenge Tour Grand Final winner Adri Arnaus carded the lowest opening round of his European Tour career to share the lead alongside South Africa’s Justin Walters on 5-under-par at the conclusion of a breezy first day of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
After starting on the tenth tee, the Spaniard signed for a 67 with two birdies on each nine, an eagle at the par-5 18th and a solitary bogey on the par-4 fifth hole.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Arnaus, who finished second on the Challenge Tour Rankings to graduate to the European Tour. “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.”
Walters was one of only a handful of players not to drop a shot as the wind whipped around Doha Golf Club and the 38-year-old feared the worst before he took to the course.
“Warming up today in the wind I thought any score under par would be great, so to shoot 5-under – I’m ecstatic,” he 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 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.”
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay began his day with an eagle on the par-5 tenth and joined Arnaus on 5-under after birdieing the course’s opening hole (his tenth), and so, too, did Welshman Bradley Dredge after he carded three birdies in succession around the turn. However, they both dropped shots late on to fall back into a group of seven players on 4-under-par which included former Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts and South African George Coetzee, a former runner-up here in Doha.
“I played pretty well,” said Coetzee, who finished second to Chris Wood in 2013. “I was slow out of the blocks, but I hit the ball pretty good and putted pretty well. It’s tricky with the wind and the dust. It’s a golf course that makes me play wearing sunglasses, so I’m glad I’ve got them. I like this golf course. It suits my eye. I enjoy playing it and I see the shots I’m playing more than I do on a lot of other tracks. Everything feels pretty solid.”
Last week’s Oman Open winner Kurt Kitayama carded a 3-under-par 69 to sit alongside 18 other players on a congested leaderboard, including past champion Robert Karlsson and Ryder Cup players Ross Fisher, Oliver Wilson and Edoardo Molinari.
Australia’s Lucas Herbert was also in that group but darkness brought an end to play as his group were playing their final hole. The trio will return to finish early on day two.