Paige Spiranac, the well-known American internet golf sensation, will spearhead a new crop of social media-savvy players aiming to take the fairways by storm when she makes her maiden appearance in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters next month.
With more than 454,000 followers on Instagram and 483,000 on Twitter, Spiranac makes regular appearances on TV shows and is an established name in the US.
The 22-year-old’s game is trending in the right direction, having been part of the San Diego University team that won the 2015 Mountain West Conference Golf Championship and winning the Colorado State Match Play recently.
With her confidence on a high, Spiranac promises to light up the tournament with her flair, exuberance and a classical swing when she joins a star-studded field led by defending champion Shanshan Feng.
The daughter of Dan Spiranac, who was a member of the 1976 Pittsburgh National Championship football team, Spiranac took to golf after a vaulting accident cut short her gymnastics career when she was just 12.
Gymnastics’ loss is a big gain for women’s golf’s as Spiranac has set her sights on the LPGA Tour. It remains to be seen how far she gets in her ambition of becoming the best female golfer in the world, but her good looks, love of fashion and social networking skills have already made her popular with the fans.
Can’t wait to play in the @OmegaDLM! I’m so nervous since it’s my first big event but also very excited for this amazing opportunity!
— Paige Spiranac (@PaigeSpiranac) November 24, 2015
“I am very excited about making my first trip to Dubai and it will be fun playing in a tournament that always boasts a strong field with some of the top players from both sides of the Atlantic joining the starting line-up,” said Spiranac.
“I have heard many great things about Dubai as a city, but also about the golf there, and I’m looking forward to experiencing it for myself. I am grateful to golf in DUBAi for believing in me. Their invitation to play in the tournament has set my dreams on fire.
“I have great respect for players on the Ladies European Tour (LET), and competing alongside them will be a big learning curve. I am sure it will be a great week.”
Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi, who are the promoters and organisers of the event, said: “Paige is like a breath of fresh air and one who has all the attributes to become a strong ambassador for the future of women’s golf.
“She belongs to a new breed of golfers who are fun-loving and proactive on social media, bringing a vibrant atmosphere to the course, which is great.
“As the great Greg Norman said the other day, in this digital age, the game must open up to ‘savvy, social media types’ to attract new talent to the sport. I am on the same page as the Great White Shark as, I believe, it will just be a sign of the times in an ever-changing world.”
Andy Sullivan may have been beaten by the brilliance of Rory McIlroy, but even the narrow one-shot loss wasn’t going to take that smile away from the Englishman’s face.
Sullivan started the final day one shot ahead of McIlroy and played well enough on the front nine to increase the gap to three shots at one stage, but failed to sustain his momentum as the world No3 fought back on the closing stretch.
It would have been a fourth win of the season for the 28-year-old Sullivan, but he could make only one birdie on the back nine, which wasn’t enough to deny McIlroy.
Sullivan, who finished eighth in the Race to Dubai, climbing from 21st at the start of the week, is also expected to move into the top 50 of the world rankings when they are released Monday. If he manages to stay inside the 50 by the end of the year, it would gain him a first entry into the Masters.
And the man who won twice in South Africa at the start of the season and the Portugal Masters last month, said: “Just to come up head-to-head with someone of Rory’s quality, it was absolutely awesome and something that will stick with me for a long time going forward.
“For me it doesn’t really get any better than this maybe. Maybe one shot better and maybe take him to a playoff.
— DP World Tour Chm’ip (@DPWTC) November 22, 2015
“I gave it everything on that front nine, I just couldn’t quite get the putts to drop on the back nine. I’ve got so much to take from this week, both the way I’ve played and how I’ve handled it.
“For me, it’s about doing it on a more consistent basis and getting up there and trying to get in the last group with Rory more often.”
Sullivan said he fully expected McIlroy to hole the long putt for bogey on the 17th, especially after giving him such a good read with his own putt.
“I thought, I’m back in it when he hit that tee shot on the 17th. I thought I’ve got a chance again,” said Sullivan.
“But I gave him a great teach on my putt. He got a real good read. I’ve hit it and left it that far behind, I turned to my caddie and said: ‘I expect him to hole this’. That’s just the quality he is and the world-class performer he is.
“Even on the 18th, if I holed the putt, I thought it could go a bit further but that’s the way it goes.”
Sullivan has one more event before he wraps up his clubs for Christmas – the NedBank Challenge in two weeks in South Africa.
Danny Willett almost lost sight of a rampant Rory McIlroy in his battle for the Race to Dubai crown Saturday, but that was when he produced a brilliant finish to haul himself back in contention.
With the home stretch playing out in the final round of the DP World Tour Championship Saturday, Willett needs to reign in McIlroy in order to become the European No1 for the first time in his career.
The 28-year-old Englishman is four shots behind the world No3, but that was possible only after he responded well to McIlroy’s birdie barrage by making a birdie on the par-5 14th, an eagle on the par-4 15th, where he drained a 35-footer putt after driving the green, and another birdie on the 18th.
“I said at the beginning of the week, somewhere there or thereabouts with nine holes to go on Sunday is where we want to be. And luckily, it looks like we’re not going to be a ridiculous way behind. If you can keep it to two or three shots, anything can happen,” said Willett.
After submitting a card of 67 that helped him finish on 11-under par, Willett said: “It was a good day.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) November 21, 2015
“I kept digging in and looking at the leaderboard and knowing people were shooting low scores helped give us a kick up the rear. From nowhere we gained three shots on the field and got back into the mix.
“I don’t think we are going to see Rory coming backwards so we need to shoot a good round tomorrow and see what happens.”
Willett recently shot a brilliant final round of 10-under par 62 at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai earlier this month to leap up the leaderboard on Sunday and finish tied third.
But he admits he will just go to the golf course with an open mind today and not think of any number.
“It’s one of them where you just try and play and see what it gives you,” said Willett, whose best 18 holes at the Earth Course is a 65 for his second round in 2012. “Some days it gives you 72. Some days it gives you 62. Anywhere in and around that number is going to be winning.”
Willett tees off with Argentina Emiliano Grillo in the third-last group of the day at 11:40.