WHEN conditions for golf are perfect it tends to mean the best individuals win, and that is why those tournaments held in the Middle East are enduringly popular among players.
So it was great for the game and no surprise to see Sergio Garcia, regarded as one of the greatest natural ball-strikers since his teenage years, continue his fine form with victory at the Qatar Masters.
Putting used to be the Spaniard’s weak point, but he seems to have ironed out those flaws and sunk shots at 15 and 17 on his way to a bogey-free final round of 65 that he would previously have missed.
Yes, he failed to hole a six-foot birdie at 18 that would have seen him avoid a play-off with Finn Mikko Ilonen, but he did everything right and nine times out of 10 that would drop in. In the end his quality shone through anyway.
Garcia now has two wins, a runner-up and fourth place in his last five events and is back in the world’s top 10. With a Ryder Cup as extra motivation, I expect him to be a threat all year and I also think 2014 will be his time to win a Major.
He wasn’t the only Spaniard to flourish in Qatar last week, with Alejandro Canizares tied fifth and Rafael Cabrera-Bello following up his third place in Abu Dhabi with another top-four finish.
Cabrera-Bello, 29, is one to watch among a high-class field this week when the European Tour moves to Dubai for the Desert Classic.
World No1 Tiger Woods will be aiming to put a difficult weekend, in which he shot a 79 and missed the second cut in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, behind him. That was a very uncharacteristic display from Woods, on a course where he has won no less than seven times, and it will be intriguing to see in Dubai whether there is something wrong with the American’s game, or if it was just a blip.
A resurgent Rory McIlroy, who looks back to something approaching his best, and the undisputed player of last season, Henrik Stenson, are also among the favourites and have both claimed this title before.
The tournament is preceded today by a Champions Challenge for former winners to mark the 25th anniversary of the Dubai Desert Classic. It’s nice to see organisers have invited Javier Ballesteros to play in place of his late father, Seve, and I’m going to walk round for a closer look at the action.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator.