Defending champion Beth Allen and 2019 Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew are among the leading names in the field at the second edition of the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open, which begins in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
American Allen claimed victory in the inaugural event a year ago on her way to winning the 2016 Ladies European Tour Order of Merit.
The 35-year-old stormed to victory at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, firing a course record-equalling eight-under 64 to clinch the newest edition to the LET calendar by three strokes from England’s Georgia Hall.
Her superb 2016 led to a decision to cross over to the LPGA more in 2017, but it hasn’t exactly gone to plan.
She finished in a tie for 19th at the Indy Women in Tech Championship in Indianapolis at the end of September – her second best result of the season and highest finish since sharing seventh at February’s ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
She is currently ranked 110th on the LPGA money list, 92nd on the LET Order of Merit and 124th in the world rankings. Allen, however, has no regrets about making the step up to the LPGA after a 10-year absence from the tour.
“I think for this year it was the right move as I played so well last year,” said the California native. “As a professional athlete you’re always looking to challenge yourself and the LPGA is the strongest tour in the world so I wanted to see how I fared there.
“I played out there 10 years ago and then settled in Europe so I thought I’d see because I wanted to play in the Solheim Cup.”
Allen, who also won the LET Player of the Year award in 2016, did not make Juli Inkster’s US team as they beat Annika Sorenstam’s Europe 16.5-11.5 in Iowa, but insists her game is in good shape heading to Abu Dhabi.
“I had a good start to the year but then lost some confidence in the middle of the year and it’s difficult to play golf when you’re not feeling really confident,” added Allen, who left the LPGA in 2008 to join the LET and lives in Edinburgh.
“Luckily towards the end of the season I played better and had a top 10 in France a few weeks ago. I’m feeling like my game is there, I just need to be the confident player I was last year.
“This year hasn’t been as good as last year but it’s been a transitional year as I went over to the LPGA and I found it a little bit more difficult than expected, but I’m still really confident here.
“My golf isn’t that different and I really like the venue. I’ve found a bit of form recently too so I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully I can put up a really good defence.
“It feels great to be back. I always enjoy coming back to Abu Dhabi. We feel really welcome here and Saadiyat Beach Golf Club is a great venue. Obviously I have really good memories of last year and I’d like to keep my trophy, so I’ll do my best.”
Aref Al Awani, general secretary of Abu DhabI Sports Council, is proud of the field assembled for the second staging of the tournament.
“We’d like to welcome back our champion, Beth. She did a fantastic job last year and we hope there is good competition from others as we know she is intending to keep her trophy,” he said at the pre-tournament press conference on Monday.
“We have Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew too and we have assembled another fantastic field, so we cannot wait to see them showcasing their skills on the course.
“This tournament continues to cement Abu Dhabi’s reputation for hosting award-winning, world class golf events. We have the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the Abu Dhabi Invitational and the Gary Player Invitational.
“This provides us with another, and gives us the opportunity to promote women’s sports in the UAE and showcase Saadiyat Island.”
Swedish golfer Jens Dantorp produced a stunning finish to win the Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge in a dramatic sudden play-off and secure his place in next week’s Challenge Tour Grand Final in Oman.
Having started Saturday’s final round at Al Hamra Golf Club one shot off the lead on 11-under par, Dantorp, who finished tied 47 th in the inaugural Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge last year, birdied the par-five 18th to finish with a four-under par round of 68, forcing a play-off with Poland’s Adrian Meronk, who had finished minutes earlier after carding a five-under 67
to set the clubhouse target on 15-under par.
The pair headed back down to the final tee and Swedish ace Dantorp powered his drive down the centre of the fairway before firing a spectacular approach on the 557-yard hole to within six feet of the pin. Meronk rolled in his birdie putt but the steely Swede held his nerve to hole an eagle putt and claim the $56,000 winner’s cheque.
The win catapults Dantorp from 48th in the Race to Oman rankings to 17th, and seals his place in the Challenge Tour Grand Final, where the series’ top 45 players will battle for 15 full cards on next season’s PGA European Tour.
After receiving the trophy from His Excellency Sheikh Fahim, bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Emirates Golf Federation and President of the Arab Golf Federation, Dantorp, whose last victory on the Challenge Tour was at the 2013 Rolex Trophy, was delighted to be back in the winners’ circle.
“What a feeling. It’s been a few years chasing so this feels great,” said the 28-year-old. “I set out for the course record today, but that didn’t happen! I just wanted to hit as many fairways and as many greens in regulation as I could and hope the putter was hot. It was hot enough.
“That approach in the play-off was probably one of the best shots I’ve hit in my career. I just had one shot in mind when I hit it – that was Henrik Stenson’s special shot on 18th at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai a couple of years ago. I tried to repeat that and got it pretty close.”
— Visit Ras Al Khaimah (@RAKTourism) October 28, 2017
Dantorp’s fine finish was unlucky for Meronk, who had earlier posted an eagle on the par-five 3rd hole and birdies at the 7th, 9th and the par-five 14th. Despite missing on out victory, Meronk’s performance rockets him from 70th in the rankings to 33rd and a place in the Oman field.
Meronk said: “I’m really pleased with my performance. I felt pretty good coming into the week and played pretty well so I’m really happy. The course was challenging and the pins were really tough. It certainly wasn’t easy.”
Haitham Mattar, CEO of RAKTDA, the organiser of this week’s Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge, said: “The final round was a thrilling end to a hugely successful week for the Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge. What a great finish. Jens’ performance, to come from behind and win with an eagle, was exceptional. To win in a play-off just highlights the high quality of golf the spectators were treated to throughout four dramatic days of play.
“With so much at stake for so many of the players the level of competition was fierce. We congratulate all the players for their efforts and commitment in helping us further grow the stature of the Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge.”
The Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge was supported by a marquee line-up of sponsors for its second edition including the Al Hamra Group and Al Hamra Golf Club, Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, Emirates Airline, AGMC BMW, RAKEZ and Hunts and Harris.
For more information on Ras Al Khaimah visit: www.rasalkhaimah.ae.
Just the second New Zealander to win a major, Michael Campbell became a national hero in 2005 when he came from nowhere to win the US Open at Pinehurst, holding off the great Tiger Woods to win by two strokes.
The 48-year-old retired from golf in 2015 and now concentrates on coaching the next generation of major winners through his Michael Campbell Golf Academy.
While visiting Dubai to play in today’s Swing Against Cancer Golf Series at Jumeirah Golf Estates (JGE), Campbell ran the rule over the runners and riders at next month’s DP World Tour Championship.