Paul Lawrie definitely has designs on the title this week.
The Scot was yesterday purring about the quality of a putter he has developed after a round of a five-under-par 67 put him in the frame at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
Lawrie needed just 26 putts to tie with Ernie Els and John Daly, three strokes off the lead held by the South African George Coetzee. Lawrie, twice a winner here, capped his round by holing a 40-foot eagle at the par-four 16th using his new 'Paul Lawrie' line of the German-made Caledonia putters.
Coetzee, who two years ago set a St Andrews Old Course record of 62, needed just 21 putts in storming to the top of the board with an eight- under 64. Fellow South African Dawie Van Der Walt and England' Steve Webster share second place on seven under. Webster opened his round in sensational style by holing a 254-yard 5-wood for an albatross 2 at the par-5 10th. It is the second albatross in three events this year after just one in the whole of the 2013 European Tour season. Scot Chris Doak managed the feat during the recent Madeira Islands Open.
"There was the usual crowd following me of just two spectators, with one guy behind the green jumping up and down, and also pointing in a downward motion," said Webster. "I didn't know whether he was indicating it had gone over the back of the green and onto rocks, but when I got up there he starts clapping, so I gave him the ball.
Lawrie's round was a welcome return to form, being 13 shots fewer than the 80 he mustered last week when opening his year in Abu Dhabi.
"I was three under playing 16 so to see that putt drop back down the hill was very nice and turned a good day into a very good day," he said. "The course hasn't changed that much since I won here in 2012 and it's just a fantastic layout and a great test".
Lawrie created putting history in using the then revolutionary Odyssey 2Ball putter when he claimed victory over Els in the inaugural 2001 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. But now, after signing a three-year deal with Caledonia, he is using a putter he designed and which bears his name.
"I've got a few models but it's the first putter I have designed in my career," he said. "This round has been a long time coming as I have been working hard hitting a lot of balls but haven't been able to get going and get scores on the scorecard. So today is the first time for a long time I have actually holed a couple of putts, and long may it continue".
Doak and Stephen Gallacher shot 69s, Marc Warren carded 70, and Craig Lee fought back from a double bogey at the 13th to birdie two of his closing five holes for a 72, the same mark as Peter Whiteford.