|From left: Christina Kim, Laura Davies, Sophie Gustafson, Michelle Wie, Alexis Thompson and Melissa Reid enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee in the Sultan’s lounge setting for the elegant black tie scene from the new Mission Impossible film at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray inspired by the Ottoman Golden Age on the Palm Jumeirah ahead of the 2011 Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.|
The 2011 Ladies European Tour season will reach a dramatic climax on the Majlis course at Emirates Golf Club this week when the sixth edition of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters gets under way from Wednesday.
While Ai Miyzato cannot be caught on the Henderson Money List after securing the lucrative Evian Masters presented by Societe Generale in July, Caroline Hedwall and Diana Luna will be looking to upstage England’s Melissa Reid in the race for second place on the ranking.
Hedwall, playing her first season as a professional on the Ladies European Tour, narrowed the gap to just €12,183 behind Reid following her dramatic two-shot victory in the Hero Indian Women’s Open on Sunday. It was her fourth win on the LET after victories in Slovakia, Finland and Austria.
“I did gain a little bit on her now that I won last week, so I think now it’s more realistic to think that I could pass her this week. Before then it was a pretty large gap, but it’s definitely a goal for this week, but we’ll see. It kind of depends on how she plays, too,” Hedwall said.
She added that the victory in New Delhi had given her a well-timed boost. “It’s just a great victory and very good for my self confidence coming into this week, and I feel like my game is on top right now and hopefully I can play well this week, too.”
Hedwall is making her first visit to Dubai, while Reid made her tournament debut in 2007 which was the only year she has finished outside the top ten places. She tied for third in the 2010 event and was full of confidence, insisting that her game is in good shape even though she hasn’t played any competitive golf in the last six weeks.
“It’s one of my favorite tournaments of the year. I came here a little earlier this year. I’ve been here since Tuesday working with my coach at the course. So it’s been good, just getting ready for the tournament,” said 24-year-old Reid, adding that she is keen to add a fourth career title to her resume although not under any pressure.
“I’m not really expecting too much. Obviously I’m not really putting any pressure on myself. I’m quite aware of like the money list, and Caroline winning last week has definitely made it a battle this week, but I’m just here to win a golf tournament and to really focus on what I can control, which is my own game,” she said.
European Solheim Cup players Melissa Reid, Laura Davies and Sophie Gustafson.
The quality of the Dubai field is highlighted with seven of Europe’s victorious Solheim Cup team in the field this year: Laura Davies, Sophie Gustafson, Melissa Reid, Caroline Hedwall, Christel Boeljon, Anna Nordqvist and Sandra Gal, who are joined by United States team members Michelle Wie and Christina Kim.
Other prominent players in the fray will be 16-year-old US stand-out Lexi Thompson, who claimed her maiden victory as a professional at the Navistar LPGA Classic in September.
After such an exciting year, no wonder golf fans are looking forward to welcoming the players to the Emirate. If previous years are anything to go by, we can expect high drama on the fairways and a worthy winner.
World number one Annika Sorenstam of Sweden took the first two titles in 2006 and 2007, followed by Germany’s Anja Monke, the 2008 event champion who cannot wait to return.
Korean In-Kyung Kim took the 2009 title, when she finished three strokes clear of Michelle Wie.
The 2010 edition was another memorable occasion, as prior to the tournament Denmark’s Iben Tinning had announced her retirement. Knowing this would be her last competitive event, she went into the final round tied for the lead with Melissa Reid and signed off with a three under par round of 69 to earn a two stroke victory over Anna Nordqvist, making an emotional farewell to a successful 15-year career.
However, looking at the current pack of in-form players, there are several who are likely to challenge, having come close to winning previously. Picking a winner of any tournament is hard enough but this year will be additionally tough with so many strong players from which to choose.
Diana Luna cannot be discounted, the Italian having won twice this year in Germany and Switzerland. With a young daughter, Elena, Luna hasn’t been playing in as many tournaments as usual this season but is ranked fourth in Europe regardless. She will be well rested and focused on the task.
Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist will be another strong contender as last year’s runner-up and having tied for fourth in 2009, as will England’s Florentyna Parker and US star Christina Kim, who tied for fourth in 2010.
With two top-five finishes in the event, including a tie for second in 2009, England’s Laura Davies cannot be ruled out and will be looking to make her mark after a lack-lustre season, the highlight of which was her 12th Solheim Cup appearance in Ireland in September.
There are 13 of this year’s LET tournament champions in the field and looking outside Europe, Australians Frances Bondad, winner of the recent Sanya Ladies Open in China and Kristie Smith, who won her first LET trophy in New Zealand in February will be in the hunt.
After so many strong performances, it will be hard to top this year’s action, but Dubai is the place where great story lines are made.
Name: Omega Dubai Ladies Masters
Venue: Emirates Golf Club
Dates: December 14 to 17
Tour: Ladies European Tour
Inaugural event: 2006
Promoters and organizers: ‘golf in DUBAi’
Prize-money: Euro 500,000 (Dh 2.5 million)
Winner’s purse: Euro 75,000 (Dh 369,000)
Filed: 108 players, including two amateurs (Lindsay Brown and Sana Tufail, both UAE-based English players)
Defending champion: Iben Tinning (Denmark)
Previous winners: Annika Sorenstam of Sweden (2006, 2007), Anja Monke of Germany (2008), In Kyung Kim of South Korea (2009), Iben Tinning of Denmark (2010)
Countries represented: 28
Maximum representations: England (15 players), Sweden (11), France (11)
Star attractions: Laura Davies (England), Michelle Wie (US), Christina Kim (US), Alexis Thompson (US), Melissa Reid (England), Caroline Hedwall (Sweden), Sophie Gustafson (Sweden)