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19 Olympians highlight Omega Dubai Ladies Masters field

DUBAI — The Ladies European Tour returns to the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club for the 11th Omega Dubai Ladies Masters featuring the strongest ever field of competitors, including nine of this year’s tournament champions and 19 stars of the Olympic Games from Rio.

Beth Allen of the United States, who won the French Ladies Open and Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open, is already assured of the Order of Merit title, while Indian teenager Aditi Ashok has guaranteed Rookie of the Year honours after her back-to-back wins at the Hero Indian Women’s Open and Qatar Ladies Open last month.

Another rookie winner in the field is Nuria Iturrios from Spain, who won the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco on her second start as a professional.

They are joined by first-time winners Min Jung Lee, Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Isabelle Boineau, Anne Van Dam and Supamas Sangchan as well as defending champion Shanshan Feng, who earlier this year successfully defended at the Buick Championship in Shanghai.

Feng, who has won the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters a record three times in the last four years, said: “I love coming back to Dubai. I love the golf course and love how the tournament is set up.

“There are a lot of players who are in very good shape and I am really excited that I can compete with them.

“My goal for the week, as always, is a top-five finish. I never set a goal that will really give myself a lot of pressure, but a top-five finish, I feel quite comfortable doing it,” said Feng, who also displayed her Olympic bronze medal at the Press conference.

“I think all three of us captured gold medals. I got the Rose Gold Medal, Lydia Ko the White Gold Medal and Inbee Park won the real Gold Medal.

“We have 20 chances in four years to win a major, but we only have won chance every fours to win a Gold Medal. If I have to choose, I will go for the gold,” said Feng who was accompanied by Muni He, China’s top amateur, at the pre-tournament Press conference on Monday.

Muni, who was born in China, but currently lives in the United States, said: “Shanshan is like a friend, a guidance and some to look up to and learn from.

“It’s my first time in Dubai, a place I have always wanted to visit. I am really lucky to have this opportunity compete here,” said Muni, a student of University of Southern California.

Norwegian Suzann Pettersen, who is making her debut appearance at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, said: “It’s amazing that it’s taken me this long to come here because from what I’ve heard, this is the best tournament all year round on the European schedules, not just from the girls, but from the guys when they are here.

“A great golfing town and great city: obviously great everything. I’m very happy to be here,” said Pettersen, who finished runner-up to Feng at the SIME Darby LPGA Malaysia in October this year.

“I would love to take on the challenge with Shanshan, but hopefully some other European players coming down Sunday. I played with Shanshan at CME in Naples and we made a deal to see each other on Saturday in the final group this week. So the challenge is on,”

Some of the other stars from the Olympic Games include Charley Hull and Pornanong Phatlum, the 2013 Omega Dubai Ladies Masters champion from Thailand, who finished tied for fourth last year.

Social media sensation Paige Spiranac has returned after receiving one of the 11 invitations from the tournament promoters and organisers, ‘golf in DUBAi’ and she said: “I embrace my platform now and use it for good and especially focus on the cyberbullying and growing the game, and everything I can to bring attention to this tournament for the best players of the world.

“This tournament deserves that and with Suzann Pettersen and Shanshan and Charley Hull coming; to give them that recognition they deserve is great.

“My goal for the week is not to cry. This was my goal last year, but I failed miserably. So, not to cry is the goal.

“The experience of playing my first professional event in Dubai last year has made me much stronger as a person — and also as a golfer. My parents have sacrificed everything for me. I just want to make them proud. So, I wake up and work as hard as I can for them.”

A total of 108 players are set to light up Emirates Golf Club from Wednesday (December 7) to Saturday (December 10) with live international television coverage over all four tournament rounds.

The Omega Dubai Ladies Masters is backed by OMEGA as the title sponsor and Emirates Global Aluminium PJSC as sponsor. The co-sponsors are: CNN, Drydocks World & Maritime World, Emirates NBD, Gulf News, JA Resorts & Hotels, Mercedes-Benz and wasl, while Dubai Duty Free, Neocasa Interiors and Motivate Publishing are the Patrons in golf in DUBAi’s drive to showcase the emirate’s vibrant golfing scene to a worldwide audience.

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