Lexi Thompson believes ‘amazing memories’ of her win last year will help her to successfully defend this week at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, being held under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
“I may not have won this year, but I am getting more consistent with my game, which is good. I had two Top-10s, a second and a fifth and that shows overall I have done well this season,” said Thompson ahead of the season-ending Ladies European Tour (LET) event, starting on Wednesday at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai.
“My biggest memory from last year was that walk up to the 18th green with all the fans cheering. Anywhere you win, you have amazing memories,” said Thompson, who added another memorable experience to her list of adventures on Sunday when she, along with Michelle Wie, enjoyed a camel ride at the Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa.
“Michelle and I had a lot of fun,” said Thompson, who last year became the youngest professional player, aged 16, to win events on both LPGA and LET Tours. The milestone, however, no longer exists thanks to Lydia Ko, who won the Canadian Open earlier this year, aged 15.
“She (Lydia) is an extraordinary talent,” said Laura Davies, who at 49, is amongst the more experienced players on the circuit.
“I have seen her on the range a few times and she hits it straight and keeps the ball in play. She is always as cool as a cucumber,” said Davies, who is pushing for her first win in Dubai since making her first appearance in the event in 2007.
“Last year I didn’t play well and missed the cut. Being a ‘golf in Dubai’ ambassador I just felt awful. The field this year is very strong, but I think I have a good chance and we will see come Saturday morning. That win in ISPS Handa Legends Tour Open a couple of weeks ago was important. Even though it wasn’t on the regular tour, but still winning is winning and that’s the important thing,” said Davies, who finished solo seventh in the just concluded Hero Women’s Indian Open.
“I am really pleased with my performance. I had a chance to win (in India), but ended up being 11 shots back. In fact, I had my chances to win four or five tournaments this year, but couldn’t. That bodes well for next year because I know there is lot more left in me,” said Davies, the winner of 80 titles worldwide.
Unlike Davies, China’s Shanshan Feng is making her first appearance in Dubai. “I don’t really know how the LET is, but I do know there are a lot of strong players. Top-five: that’s my goal. Of course I’ll try to play my best and focus on each shot,” said Feng, the first golfer from mainland China to win a major title when she captured the LPGA Championship in June earlier this year.
“It’s my second last tournament of the year and so I am not going to put myself under too much pressure,” said 23-year-old Feng who hopes her victory on the US women’s circuit, could provide enough stimulus to spark golf’s popularity growth in China.
"Right now, I would say the image of golf in China is a bit negative because it’s kind of all about expenses, like expensive and it’s a game of rich people and using a lot of land, so we have to show them that it’s worth it,” said Feng, ranked sixth in the world.
Also, making her debut in the euro 500,000 tournament is South Korea’s Seo Hee-Kyung, nicknamed the ‘supermodel of the fairways.’
“I love it (the nickname), but sometimes it puts me under pressure because I have to think about what to wear and what makeup to apply,” said Seo who was named the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2011 on the strength of three top-10 finishes including runner-up at the US Women's Open.
“I haven’t won a title for the past two years, but 2012 was a better year for me since I was more consistent. Every player has ups and downs and I had my share. My golf has improved a lot and now I am good at making up and downs. If I continue to enjoy my game, I think some day I can win a Major.”
The Omega Dubai Ladies Masters will see 108 players compete over four rounds from Wednesday for a purse of €500,000, with €75,000 for the winner. The year-ending tournament is being played at Emirates Golf Club for the seventh consecutive year.