Thompson back in the winner’s circle

Lexi Thompson, 16, became the youngest ever professional winner on the LET with her victory in Dubai on Saturday.

American Lexi Thompson, 16, became the youngest professional golfer to win on the Ladies European Tour when she captured the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters by four shots at Emirates Golf Club.
Aged 16 years, 10 months, 8 days, she became the second youngest ever Ladies European Tour event winner after South Korean Amy Yang, who was aged 16 years, 6 months, 8 days, when she won the ANZ Ladies Masters in Australia as an amateur, in 2006.
Thompson, born on February 9, 1995, claimed her second professional title just three months after winning the Navistar LPGA Classic on that Tour.
Thompson closed with a five under par 67 for a 15 under total of 273 to become the first ever American winner of the title in the six-year history of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, in which she tied for 22nd place on her tournament debut 12 months earlier.
She said: “It feels amazing. I feel really honoured that they invited me back and grateful to be here. I’ve been working on my game really hard and it’s paid off. I’m going to continue working hard and just trying to improve every tournament.”
Wearing her traditional final round colour of blue and adorned in ‘good-luck’ ladybirds, she started the day one shot clear of the field but lost her lead to Lee-Anne Pace after seven holes.
The South African was red-hot with two birdies and an eagle in her first six holes and although Thompson birdied the second and the third, she lost her lead after a bogey on the seventh.
However, Thompson, who qualified to play in the US Women’s Open as a 12-year-old, chipped in for birdie at the par-four ninth hole to regain her one stroke advantage and played sensational golf on the back nine.
She birdied the 10th, 13th and 14th to gain a five stroke lead after Pace dropped shots at the eighth and the 12th holes.
Her second blemish was a three-putt bogey on 17 and there was a two-shot swing when Pace made birdie, reducing the gap to three strokes.
However, no nerves were visible as Thompson played the par-five 18th. She played her second shot safely in front of the lake before flicking a wedge to three feet and making the birdie putt.
“The chip‑in was definitely really important, but the whole day my whole goal was to get it to 15‑under. That was my goal, but once she made the birdie and the eagle, I knew I had to play my game, make a lot of birdies, so I just kept on going strong and hoping for the best,” Thompson said.
“On the 17th I struggled a little bit on that green, but I ended up three‑putting, it was a two‑shot swing. But I was just thinking I’m going to just take 3‑wood off the tee and hopefully make birdie or par that way. I would think that would do it. So I ended up making birdie, so it was a bonus.
“I was playing safe, but still pretty aggressive, just playing smart. So I just went into 18 and played smart, hit 3‑wood and hopefully make par, birdie.
“If it was close, I might have gone and hit driver and went to the green to make eagle if it was close, but I’m just thinking I’m pretty good with my wedges, so I was just hoping for birdie with that.”
Pace played the final hole in regulation and her final-round 69 left her alone in second.
Pace said: “I guess I could have had things a little bit different. I hit a bad club on I think it was number 12 over the green which cost me a shot, and I think that’s where things changed around. But I’m pretty happy I played well.”
Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson had a solid bogey-free final round of 71 and ended third at 10 under, but acknowledged that just one final-hole birdie was not enough to put any pressure on the youngster.
“I played well; I just couldn’t get any of the putts to drop. I mean, I think I hit 16 greens and had 34 putts, so that’s not going to win you any tournaments, but it was nice to finish with a birdie on the last,” Gustafson said.
Fellow Swede Pernilla Lindberg had been in contention but dropped into a share of fourth place after a bogey on 17. She had a final round of 71 to end nine under alongside Becky Morgan and Stacy Lee Bregman, while Alison Walshe and Julieta Granada were two strokes further behind.
Georgina Simpson shot 67 and moved up into a share of ninth with Florentyna Parker and Caroline Hedwall.
In the other final round tussle, Melissa Reid finished second on the Ladies European Tour’s Henderson Money List for 2011 after tying for 22nd, while Hedwall ended in third place for the season.
American Michelle Wie carded a final round 72 and finished in share of 12th at five under, her challenge effectively having ended with a double bogey on the ninth hole.