World No1 Lee Westwood missed the cut as world No2 Martin Kaymer continued to struggle in the second round of the Qatar Masters.
Austria’s Markus Brier is the surprise leader by one stroke from former champion Darren Fichardt at the halfway stage of the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy.
The 42 year-old Austrian shot a brilliant second round 66 (-6) to reach seven under par for the tournament on a day that saw several more illustrious names fail to make the cut in the $2.5 million event –third stop on The European Tour’s Desert Swing.
It was a superb round by Brier whose sixth and final birdie on the ninth – his 18th- ensured a one shot lead over 2003 champion Fichardt who carded a four under par 68. A two-time European Tour winner, Brier had to go back to Qualifying School last November to retain his European Tour card and is playing on a sponsor’s invite.
“I got lucky on the last hole as I hit it way right off the tee, maybe 30-40 yards right,” he said. “Fortunately I had a good lie but I had to I move three quite big stones. Actually my caddie had to help me because the biggest one was like, I don't know, two basketballs or so, so I could hit a 7‑iron forward. I was lucky to make a birdie from a wayward drive, so that's like a two shot win there.”
Experience seems to be the key over the 7,388-yard Doha course with four former winners in the top eight. Defending champion Robert Karlsson of Sweden remains two shots off the lead on five under par alongside Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn and Englishman Richard Finch, while 1999 champion Paul Lawrie and 2007 winner Retief Goosen are on four under with South African Thomas Aiken.
But while it was a brilliant performance by World Number 478 Brier, for Lee Westwood – who ranks 477 places higher – there was only disappointment. Putting for eagle on the last, the Englishman missed by an inch to leave himself on four over par and out of the tournament.
“It’s early season rust, I think - that’s it,” said the World Number One who finished third in last year’s event. “I’m going to go on the range the next couple of days and try to get into some kind of rhythm.”
World Number Two Martin Kaymer, who can replace Westwood as Number One with a top two finish, got himself back on track with a second round two-under-par 70 to put himself on three over for the tournament, right on the cut.
“I definitely played a little better today with no bogeys,” he said. “The golf tournament here is tight and no one is really running away with it and I'm only seven shots away right now. I’ve heard the weather is going to be good tomorrow so I’ll play more aggressive in order to make a few more birdies to give myself more chances and we'll see if I have a chance on Sunday.”
Despite a better performance on day two, the 26 year-old German still can’t admit to a liking of the gruelling 7,388-yard desert course. “To be honest, I really struggle here,” he added. “I don't know why it is as I play good golf but I just can't score.
Organised by the Qatar Golf Association (QGA), Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) and title sponsors Commercialbank, the 14th Commercialbank Qatar Masters has attracted a world class field. And with 50 Official World Golf Ranking Points available to the winner, there is more than just the US$2.5million prize fund to play for.
Although Westwood is the biggest casualty, he is not the only one to miss the cut. Former Qatar winner Henrik Stenson (+6) and Englishmen Paul Casey (+5) and Ross Fisher (+4) also missed out.
In total, 76 players will return for round three which gets underway at Doha Golf Club at 6.30am today (Friday).