Karlsson gets eye back on ball to rule in Qatar
LAID LOW by a serious eye injury for four months last year, Robert Karlsson, the European Tour's loftiest player at 6' 5", towered head and shoulders over the opposition once again at Doha Golf Club yesterday.
Karlsson (40) the first Swede to win Europe's Order of Merit in 2008, surprised even himself with the quality of his golf as he posted a superlative closing 65, the low round of the week at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters, to beat defending champion Alvaro Quiros by three strokes.
Peter Lawrie led the Irish home in a tie for ninth with Retief Goosen, Camilo Villegas and Niclas Fasth on six-under. Though €33,264 richer after clinching his first top-10 finish of the season with a final round 69, the Dubliner was "a little disappointed" after a fruitless weekend on Doha's grainy greens.
"I lipped it, kissed it, everything except put the ball in the hole," he said. "I played good golf, but the greens were so difficult to read, I think everyone, bar the winner, will walk off the course a little frustrated."
Graeme McDowell relied on caddie Ken Comboy to help keep a tight rein on his temper during a few fraught moments in Qatar...yet, like Lawrie, the Portrush man heads for this week's Dubai Desert Classic with high hopes after a closing 71 lifted him into a share of 14th on five-under (worth €24,421).
"I'm a lot more positive than I was coming into this week," said McDowell, who'd missed the cut in Abu Dhabi. "I was a bit lost with my game and I was down on myself early doors, but, all in all, I played very well this week.
"I shot one-under for the weekend, which was disappointing, but I'd only two or three bad holes, that's all.
"One of my problems is I get a little frustrated very quickly with myself. You've got to be able to cut yourself a little slack out here," said McDowell, explaining how Comboy helps in prickly situations. "Kenny knows me well enough to be able to call me names when I make an idiot of myself," McDowell grinned. "Sometimes I have to take a step back, analyse and see what's going on. I feel I can compete next week and that's the ticket."
Shane Lowry required a grandstand finish of three birdies in his final four holes to maintain his proud record of matching or beating par in all eight rounds he's played on Tour this year . . . yesterday's 72 clinched a tie for 24th on three-under (worth €18,117) with Sergio Garcia, Edoardo Molinari and Richard Bland.
"I didn't play very well over the weekend, but still shot level par, whereas four or five months ago I might have had two 75s," Lowry said. "It mightn't have been as good as I'd have liked, but I can't really complain. I'm pretty happy."
Before wrapping up his 10th European Tour victory, Karlsson acted as Good Samaritan on his way to the golf course yesterday when he 'rescued' Oliver Wilson at the roadside after the Englishman had been involved in an ugly car smash. Wilson was bruised and winded but paid tribute to his seatbelt for sparing him serious injury when the BMW 745 courtesy car in which he was being ferried to the course piled into the back of a van.
"I think the courtesy car driver was excited to get his hands on a nice BMW and took off a bit quick," said Wilson. "I was just looking at my phone and he suddenly slammed on the brakes. By the time I looked up, all I could see was this white transit van halfway up the bonnet.
"We got into him quite hard," he added. "I just got a bit winded, but if I hadn't been wearing my seatbelt, it would have been quite messy. I went to have some physio and it seems everything's cool."
Karlsson arrived upon the scene shortly after the accident. "We just stopped to see if everyone was okay and Oliver stepped out. So I just said: 'Get in. Let's go'," said the Swede, whose performance on a tight, difficult course gives Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie further cause for good cheer after Martin Kaymer's impressive winning effort in Abu Dhabi.
Wilson had recovered his composure well before he reached the first tee. Instead, his victory hopes were dashed on the greens at Doha, which the Englishman also found difficult to read.
Yet Wilson left for Dubai with his tail-up after closing with a hat-trick of birdies, a final round 71 leaving him in a tie for fifth on eight-under with joint-overnight leaders Bradley Dredge and Paul Casey, who both slumped with final round 74's.
Quiros also closed with three birdies, though the highlight of the Spaniard's day was the 100-foot birdie putt he holed at nine, not to mention a couple of chip-ins during his final round 67.
Like Wilson, Lee Westwood is a lifelong fan of Nottingham Forest, so he also had reason to view the end of their club's 19-match unbeaten run at Derby on Saturday as a bad omen -- luck certainly wasn't on the Worksop man's side in Qatar.
After cracking the face of his favourite driver during Saturday's third round, Westwood struggled with the replacement yesterday, repeatedly pulling tee shots left and into rough so deep, he'd little chance of keeping with his pitch-perfect playing companion Karlsson.
Westwood deserves credit for getting within one stroke of the Swede before a woeful tee shot way left of the green at the driveable 16th, followed by a chip and ugly three-putt, added up to the bogey which effectively scuppered his chances.
"It's hard to imagine anything else that could have gone wrong this week," said Westwood. "So, to finish on 11-under (in a tie for third with Brett Rumford) is unbelievable."