Grace acknowledges difficulty in retaining Qatar Masters title


Branden Grace is hoping to become the first player to successfully defend the Qatar Masters title which gets underway on Wednesday, though he believes his chances are "slim".

Grace claimed a one-shot victory over Marc Warren in the 2015 edition, kick-starting an impressive run which has helped propel the South African up to 11th in the world rankings.

After winning in Qatar, the 27-year-old went on to finish joint-fourth at the U.S. Open in June and third at the US PGA Championship in August, while a top-five finish in the HSBC Golf Championship in Abu Dhabi last week helped maintain that form into 2016.

No player has won back-to-back championships at the Doha Golf Club - Paul Lawrie (1999, 2012) and Adam Scott (2002, 2008) the only players to claim the title twice - but doing so would boost Grace's chances of breaking the top 10 this year.

"I will certainly target victory this week at the Qatar Masters and get myself in a winning mindset. I often play videos of past victories to help with this and I'll do that again," Grace told the competition's official website.

"I'm really happy with my game in terms of consistency and also in terms of competing at the biggest tournaments of all. I want to continue this momentum and keep improving."

Grace will face stiff competition for the trophy, with 11-time European Tour winner Sergio Garcia looking to replicate his 2014 triumph here in his first appearance of the season.

Former major winner Louis Oosthuizen is also a contender for glory having won four of his first tournaments of the year since 2011.

Ernie Els is also in the field and could move ahead of Henrik Stenson as the player with the most European Tour victories in the Middle East if he is triumphant.

With such strength in the field, Grace knows it will not be easy for him to retain his title.

"The reality is that the chances are slim, especially when you look at the field. So many top players like Sergio have won here and return year after year," he said.

"Then we have Louis coming back here and a lot of other players in really good form, so we'll just do our best and see what happens."