Feng & Lewis set for Dubai Ladies Masters battle
Even though the rules and regulations of the Ladies European Tour (LET) are such that the race for the Order of Merit crown hardly ever comes down to the season-ending championship, there are enough interesting storylines at this week’s Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.
Unfortunately, a thrilling battle for the honour of being called the No1 lady golfer of Europe is not one of them. That crown has already been taken by Norway’s Suzann Pettersen.
In her three starts on the LET, the world No2 won the new fifth Major of the LPGA Tour, the Evian Championship, and the World Ladies Championship, and was tied fourth at the Women’s British Open.
That earned her enough money (€518,448) that Lee-Anne Pace, No2 in the standings with €250,927 from her 20 starts, could not have surmounted even if she won the €75,000 cheque on offer for the champion this week.
It just so happens that Pace is in the US this week, trying to gain her LPGA Tour card through the qualifying school. It’s not the happiest situation for LET, but there is hardly anything they can do about it.
Unlike the men’s tour, which can get away with their demands of mandatory number of starts on the European Tour, the LET does not have enough financial clout to put up such a diktat.
In 2013, LET had 22 tournaments, including the €1.92 million Women’s British Open and the €2.5m Evian Championship, which are joint sanctioned events with the LPGA Tour.
Among the remaining 20 events, the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open has the highest prize money at €900,000, followed by the €500,000 Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.
So, if any player who does well in the Women’s British Open and Evian Championship, is more or less guaranteed of winning the LET Order of Merit.
It’s a situation similar to the men’s tour, where any player who does well in the four Majors and the four WGC events, is almost assured of winning the Money List on both sides of the Atlantic.
Let’s then look at what excitement lies ahead of us when the tournament is played at the Majlis course of Emirates Golf Club from tomorrow.
Obviously, all eyes are on defending champion Shanshan Feng, as she goes for the rare double of winning the season-ending championship on both LET and the LPGA Tours.
The Chinese world No4 won the Titleholders Tournament in the US less than a fortnight ago, and will hope to carry on her form to Dubai.
But Feng will have her task cut out as she goes up against world No2 Stacy Lewis. The American is the reigning British Women’s Open champion, and one of the most inspirational stories in the game because of her struggles with scoliosis, a painful condition caused by curvature in the spine.
And while Pettersen may have already won the Order of Merit, there is still a raging battle going on for the LET Rookie of the Year honour between the new darling of European golf, Charley Hull, and Holly Clyburn.
The two English girls are separated by less than €12,000, which could make things interesting over the weekend.
Hull, a 17-year-old rookie from Kettering, boasts of nine top 10s, including four straight runner-up finishes earlier in the season, said: “My game is good enough this year. I’ve had a great season and just need that first win to top the season off. Hopefully, I’ll win this week.”
On her part, 22-year-old Clyburn, winner of this year’s Deloitte Ladies Open, said she was feeling confident despite finishing tied 55th last week in India.
“I’m feeling a lot more confident than last week. This is more my type of golf course. After playing 16 holes today, I’m feeling quite comfortable. The swing is there and it’s just holding those greens together and making the putts at the right time,” said the girl from Cleethorpes.
“I feel I can relax more and I am not so tense. Last week I felt a bit tense in terms of where the ball was going to go because it was so tight. I feel so relaxed out here.”
For those who will be rooting for the region, there is plenty to cheer. Making their debuts in the tournament are Moroccan Maha Haddioui and 14-year-old talented Kuwaiti amateur Julia Al Hamoud.
Haddioui is the first lady professional golfer to qualify for the LET, while a lot is expected from the young Julia, winner of the GCC Faldo Junior Series.