Hull eyes ‘Rookie of the Year’ title

Charley Hull will be hoping to seal the ‘Rookie of the Year’ title with a victory in this week’s Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.

Fresh from posting a strong top-five finish in the Women’s Indian Open, England’s teenage Solheim Cup heroine is currently leading the standings on the Ladies European Tour, followed closely by fellow Englishwoman Holly Clyburn in what promises to be a thrilling finish to the race.

“My game is good enough this year. I’ve had a great season and just need that first win to top the season off. Hopefully, I’ll win this week,” said the 17-year-old rookie professional from Kettering, who boasts nine top 10s, including five straight runner-up finishes.

“I really can’t wait to get to Dubai, to be honest. I’m so excited and I’ve been counting down the days because I’ve never been before and I’ve heard it’s really good,” Hull said before flying to Dubai from New Delhi.

“I’ve seen pictures of the golf course and it looks really pretty,” said Hull, who will join world number three Stacy Lewis of the US, defending champion and world number four Shanshan Feng, the great Laura Davies and Thailand’s rising star Pornanong Phatlum among other elite golfers in a strong field of 108 players, represented by 29 countries.

Lewis, the 28-year-old professional from Texas, will be the player to watch. The winner of this year’s Women’s British Open at St Andrews had defied tremendous odds to pursue her golfing career at the top level.

Diagnosed with scoliosis when she 11, the determined Texan was forced her to wear a back brace 18 hours a day for seven and a half years, but she kept the fire burning in adversity to become the number one ranked woman golfer in the world at one stage.

If Stacy is making her first appearance in Dubai, it will be the second for China’s Shanshan Feng, who is rated as firm favourite to retain the title following her victory in the LPGA Titleholders Tournament – her second LGPA Tour title in two months.

If Feng wins the title again this year, she will be become the second player after Annika Sorenstam of Sweden to achieve the feat of winning back to back titles in Dubai.

“Of course, it’s great fun to be back in Dubai, a city I like very much, and have an opportunity to win two in a row, but I will try not to think about it too much. They have such a strong field every year and anyone can win at any time,” said Feng, who is also a brand ambassador for Omega.

The Omega Dubai Ladies Masters could well provide a snapshot of Thailand’s growing power in women’s golf with Pornanong Phatlum joining a galaxy of superstars from around the world.

Phatlum, who posted a creditable tied fifth finish at the $1 million Lorena Ochoa Invitational at Guadalajara in Mexico, is fast becoming a familiar name on the global circuit with impressive wins on the Ladies Asian Tour and the Ladies European Tour.

She is yet to make a big breakthrough on the LPGA Tour, but judging by the way she played en route to her victory in the 2012 HSBC Brasil Cup, it might just be history deferred. Phatlum fired a 6-under 67 at Itanhanga Golf Club in Rio de Janeiro to finish at 13-under-par and win by a good four-shot victory over Taiwan native Amy Hung.