The Omega Dubai Ladies Masters will provide a snapshot of the game's balance of power with a bevy of globe-trotting rising stars going out with seasoned campaigners when the season-ending Ladies European Tour event gets under way at Emirates Golf Club on Wednesday.
Renowned for bringing power, flair and exuberance to the game, young prodigies such as England’s Charley Hull, Lee So-young of South Korea, American Cheyenne Woods (pictured) and Morocco’s Maha Haddioui will join a slew of veterans led by Dame Laura Davies in what promises to be first class golf entertainment for fans and spectators at the Majlis course.
Promoted and organised by golf in DUBAi, the ninth edition of the tournament wears a truly global look with players from 27 countries represented in one of the strongest 108-player fields ever assembled in Dubai. If the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters is popularly referred to as the Major of the Middle East, it’s for a reason.
Currently leading the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit ahead of France’s Gwladys Nocera, the English powerhouse, Hull, will be the potential scene-stealer of the week as she will be looking to end a cracking season on a high.
With seven top-10 finishes, including victory in the Lalla Meryem Cup, two seconds and a third in 16 starts this season, the 18-year-old from Kettering in Northamptonshire appears be on a roll, but she will have her work cut out for her with top LPGA stars led by China’s Shanshan Feng, who at world number five is the highest-ranked player in the field, joining the fray.
Feng received a timely boost ahead of the season-ending Ladies European Tour event when she won the LPGA Malaysia defeating Thailand's Pornanong Phatlum, who incidentally is the current Omega Dubai Ladies Masters champion and will be on hand to defend her title.
Phatlum, who turned 25 this month, has her sights trained on the victory she needs to emulate the feat of Swedish legend Annika Sorenstam, the only player to have won back-to-back titles since the inception of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters in 2006.
“Of course, my goal is to win, but I can’t really control all of it. All I can do is to give my best, which I will and see what happens,” said Phatlum, who boasts four top-10s on the LPGA Tour this season with her best finish a tied third at the Bahamas LPGA Classic in January.
Going all out to make her presence felt will be Cheyenne Woods, niece of Tiger, who is making her first appearance in Dubai. Fresh from securing her full playing privileges on the LPGA Tour in 2015, Woods is relishing the opportunity of playing with some of the big names in the field, Davies, in particular.
“It will be just amazing to play with somebody you grew up watching on television,” said Woods, who will join another debutant Lee So-young of South Korea in the field.
In line with their long-held tradition of encouraging and promoting emerging players, golf in DUBAi and Omega have extended a special invitation to Lee, who shot to fame after winning the gold medal at the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, in August this year.
The battle for the Rookie of the Year — another highlight of the tournament – is weighed heavily in favour of England’s Amy Boulden, who is just shy of 8,000 Euro ahead of her nearest challenger Sally Watson of Scotland, going into the last tournament of the year.
"It is, far and away, one of the best fields ever seen in Dubai," Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice-chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi, said, adding: “The fact we have some top LPGA stars joining the cream of the Ladies European Tour players clearly reflects on the growing stature of the tournament in women’s golf.
“It’s been our constant endeavour to try and assemble the best possible field. We have been doing that thanks to the enthusiastic support of the players,” said Buamaim. “All these big players certainly bring star value to the event, but the reputation of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters is built on the collective presence of the players,” he said.
In a bid to encourage fans come to the watch the action, the organisers have once again announced that there will be no entry fee and the tournament, for the third time, will have a Saturday finish.