Feb 22, 2018: Grégory Havret, Eddie Pepperell and Aaron Rai made the most of calm conditions to share the first-round lead at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. India’s Shubhankar Sharma shot three-under-par 69.
Doha Golf Club is known for its windy conditions and while the breeze did get up slightly in the afternoon – with the first rainfall in Qatar since March – the morning was perfectly calm and the leading trio all took advantage with seven under par rounds of 65.
England’s Oliver Fisher, Italian Edoardo Molinari, Spaniard Alvaro Quiros and German Marcel Schneider were then a shot off the lead.
Englishman Pepperell missed his first two cuts of the season but made the weekend in Malaysia and Oman and – with a little help from a new coach – was glad to be making further progress.
“I’ve made some changes this week with personnel so I’ve been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it,” he said.
Havret also has a 50 per cent success-rate from six cuts so far this season, and the Frenchman had no doubt where the improvement had come from after a bogey-free effort.
Rai made the jump to the European Tour via three wins on the Challenge Tour last season and a 65 equalled his best round since making the move.
Pepperell made birdies on the tenth, 11th, 14th, 16th and 18th, with a single blemish on the 13th, to share the lead at the turn and he made another gain on the second to get to five under.
Havret got there in more dramatic style, making five birdies in six holes from the sixth.
The duo then went toe-to-toe, with Pepperell putting an approach on the fifth to six feet and Havret holing from eight feet after an excellent tee-shot on the par three 13th.
Smart approaches to the seventh and 16th respectively had the duo in the clubhouse where they were joined by Rai after a big finish.
The Englishman had birdies on the first, sixth, ninth, 12th and 16th before he made an eagle on the par five last.
Molinari also finished in style to complete a run of seven birdies in ten holes.
After eight pars, the Trophée Hassan II champion made four birdies in a row from the ninth and added another on the 14th. A dropped shot followed on the 15th but he birdied the 16th before chipping in at the last for a closing gain.
Schneider was bogey-free in his round, making gains on the second, sixth, tenth, 12th, 14th and 16th.
Quiros was another player not to have a blemish on his card with birdies on the first, third, seventh, tenth, 14th and last.
Fisher was the best of the afternoon starters, playing the front nine in 31 after starting on the tenth.
Belgian Thomas Detry, American Sean Crocker, Italian Lorenzo Gagli, German Sebastian Heisele, Finn Mikko Ilonen, Spaniard Adrian Otaegui and England’s Joshua White were at five under, a shot clear of a group of 24 players.