Thompson out to retain Dubai crown
American teenager Alexis Thompson will attempt to defend her Dubai Ladies Masters crown this week as the season-ending tournament of the Ladies European Tour (LET) begins on the Majlis course of the Emirates Golf Club.
Thompson created history last year by becoming the youngest professional player to win on both the LPGA Tour and the LET, winning the Navistar LPGA Classic aged just 16 years, seven months and eight days, then in Dubai.
Still two months short of her 18th birthday, Thompson faces a field comprising major stars such as tournament regular Michelle Wie and world No 6 Shanshan Feng, world No 30 Hee-Kyung Seo of South Korea and British veteran Laura Davies.
Feng became the only player from mainland China to win a Major this year at the LPGA Championship.
Also in the spotlight is young Spanish star Carlota Ciganda, who is on the verge of becoming the first player after Davies in 1985 to win the Order of Merit crown as a rookie on the tour.
The 22-year-old from Pamplona turned professional this year after a brilliant amateur career and having won twice this year, she tops the Order of Merit with 242 790 euros ($316 000).
The only player who can upstage Ciganda from Wednesday is German Caroline Masson, who is second at 210 831 euros, but will have to finish at least solo third to have a shot at the Money List honour.
The winner's cheque in the tournament is 75 000 euros, with the runner-up getting 50 000 euros and the third-place worth 35 000 euros.
Thompson, who has slipped to No 24 in the world following a win-less 2012 so far, said she does not feel any pressure of defending her crown and is hoping to secure her first victory of the season.
"I do not feel any pressure. I have my own expectations for myself so I'm not thinking about anybody else's," said Thompson, who will feature in the new Tiger Woods PGA Tour '14 video game.
"I'm going into the event with the same attitude and just going to have fun. I'm in Dubai and playing golf, so you know, that itself is great for me and I'm looking forward to this week.
"I still have one more event to get it but that's my goal going into every event, getting a win. But it's golf... it's the hardest sport in the world. I just go into every event trying to do my best and that's really all I can do."
Feng, who is making her debut appearance in Dubai, said she would be happy to end her season with a top-five finish this week.
"I don't want to put myself under too much pressure," said the fast-rising Feng. "Just top-five... that's my goal. I don't think about it too much but of course I'll try to play my best and focus on every shot. That's it."
Ciganda was also hoping to have the same relaxed attitude over the next four important days in her career.
"I think Caroline's going to play good. She's been playing great all year and she got her LPGA Tour card last week and I'm very happy for her," said Ciganda, who credited putting tips from Europe's Ryder Cup captain and Spanish great Jose Maria Olazabal in June as one of the reasons for improvement in her game.
"I'm going to focus on my game. It's one more week of golf, four more days and I just enjoy playing golf and I'm going to play one day at a time and enjoy the beautiful course and beautiful weather."