American teenage sensation Alexis Thompson became the youngest winner of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters when she carded a final round 67 to win by four shots at the Majlis course at Emirates Golf Club on Saturday.
At 16 years, 10 month and seven days, Thompson also became the second youngest winner on the Ladies European Tour after Amy Yang of South Korea, who won the ANZ Masters in 2006 at 16 years, 191 days.
The youngest ever winner on the LPGA Tour when she triumphed at the Navistar LPGA Classic in Alabama, Alexis held her nerve after bogeying the 17th with a brilliant shot to clear the water on the final hole for a simple birdie tap-in for a remarkable 15-under triumph in the euro 500,000 (Dh2.4 million) event.
“It feels amazing. This has been just a great tournament and I am looking forward to coming back,” said the teen sensation who received the winner’s cheque for euro 75,0000. “My goal was to get it to 15-under since there were many great players behind me on the leaderboard.
“I just tried to focus on my game. I did think about the victory when I had a five-shot lead, but throughout the whole day I was trying to play one shot at a time and never tried to get ahead of myself,” said Thompson.
She finished on 15-under-par with South African Lee-Anne Pace who had an eagle on the third, having to be content with second after carding a 69 to climb above Thompson's playing partner Sophie Gustafson.
After 17 straight pars, the Swede birdied the last for a 71 and third place.
The South African briefly threatened the young American when she established a one-shot lead after the seventh hole, but it turned out to be an illusion.
Thompson brilliantly chipped into the hole on the ninth for a birdie to regain the lead and thereafter it was Alexis all the way.
“That chip in (on the ninth) was really important. Once she (Lee-Anne Pace) made the birdie (on the second hole) and the eagle (on the third), I knew I have to play my game and make a lot of birdies. I just kept on going strong and strong,” said Thompson
The precociously talented American, who at one stage led by five shots, stood on the 18th with a three-shot cushion, but she was in no mood to relent.
A birdie on the closing hole sealed an emphatic win, her second since turning professional in June last year.
South Africa’s Pace, who last year won the LET Money List, played the final hole in regulation and her final-round 69 left her alone in second.
“I guess I could have had things a little bit different. I hit a bad club on I think it was number 12 over the green which cost me a shot, and I think that's where things changed around. But I'm pretty happy I played well,” said Pace.
Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson had a solid bogey-free final round of 71 and ended third at 10 under, but acknowledged that just one final-hole birdie was not enough to put any pressure on the youngster.
“I played well; I just couldn’t get any of the putts to drop. I mean, I think I hit 16 greens and had 34 putts, so that’s not going to win you any tournaments, but it was nice to finish with a birdie on the last,” Gustafson said.
Fellow Swede Pernilla Lindberg had been in contention but dropped into a share of fourth place after a bogey on 17. She had a final round of 71 to end nine under alongside Becky Morgan and Stacy Lee Bregman, while Alison Walshe and Julieta Granada were two strokes further behind.
Georgina Simpson shot 67 and moved up into a share of ninth with Florentyna Parker and Caroline Hedwall. In the other final round tussle, Melissa Reid finished second on the Ladies European Tour’s Henderson Money List for 2011 after tying for 22nd, while Hedwall ended in third place for the season.
American Michelle Wie carded a final round 72 and finished in share of 12th at five under, her challenge effectively having ended with a double bogey on the ninth hole.
“It was pretty frustrating. I just couldn’t get putts to go in though I did play a little better on the back nine. I needed to play better on the front nine all week,” said Wie, ranked number 17th in the world, the highest for any player in the field.
“I woke up with bad neck which is kind of frustrating when you sleep on it wrong and can’t really move you head. At least I finished with a birdie-birdie finish, but gotta work on a lot of things for next season.
“I am really looking forward to the off-season. I am really excited for that and for next year. The goal is to try and win from the beginning.”
Asked what advise she could Alexis, Wie said: "I think she has a good support group around her, people that care about her, and you know, I think that she is doing really well. I don't know about any advice I can give her. I think she's handling it all very fine right now."
The 500,000 euro tournament featured the cream of European Ladies golf with Japan's Ai Miyazato having already secured the Order of Merit crown.