Davies happy to remain old school

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Staying offline: Laura Davies.

Internet star Paige Spiranac has hogged most of the limelight in the build-up to the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters this year, but Hall of Famer Dame Laura Davies doesn’t think much of social media.

The 22-year-old Spiranac turned professional this year after a decent college golf career, but she is not a member of any Tour at the moment and is known more for her skills with Instagram, where she now has close to half a million followers, and Twitter. 

She has received a special sponsor’s exemption to play in the season-ending championship of the Ladies European Tour.

– #360view: Spiranac popularity proves it’s right to invite her to Dubai
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And while Davies, one of the most successful players in the history of women’s golf, claims Spiranac deserves being given a chance, she needs to prove herself on the golf course.

When asked if she knows Spiranac, the 52-year-old Briton said: “I don’t know her from a bar of soap, I really don’t. 

 “I’ve obviously heard what some of the players have said, but I’ve not met her. I saw her last night at the party, didn’t speak to her.  So I shouldn’t really…I mean, good luck to her.

“Everyone needs a chance and if she’s a good player, then I think it’s great she’s here. If she’s here for any other reason than she’s a great golfer, then it’s a little bit pointless. 

 “But we have to give her a chance. She might go and win the tournament and then it’s the best decision ever made.”

As for her own social media skills, Davies added: “Well, I’m old fashioned. I don’t like Tweeting.  I don’t like Facebook. I’ve got none of that. I guess I have a Facebook account but I’ve never touched it.

“Someone set that up for me and thought that would be funny, so that’s that. The Twitter one, maybe one or two Tweets a year or whatever you call it.

“But that thing has passed me by. I don’t really enjoy that side of it but I know a lot of people get so much pleasure out of it, and if it’s helping the women’s tour, then I’m all for it.

“I’ve been told by some of the Tour officials I should do it more, but that ship’s sailed.  I can’t get into it at all. 

“Obviously, it’s a very important part of modern day life and sport, so, yeah, if they want to do it, let them do it. But I won’t be doing it.”

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Feng tries to play without pressure in Omega Dubai Ladies Masters

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Master of the Majlis: Shanshan Feng.

Shanshan Feng is hoping a tried and tested formula will land her a third Omega Dubai Ladies Masters title.

The 26-year-old Chinese star is one of the biggest names in women’s golf now. She is ranked sixth in the world, has also won a major championship and is the defending champion on a golf course she loves, having already secured the Order of Merit title on the Ladies European Tour – making her the first player from China to achieve that.

Ask any golfer as established as Feng about where they hope to finish in the tournament, and most will either say they want to win, or be within a couple of shots of the lead going into the back nine of the final round. But that’s not the Feng way.

– #360view: Spiranac popularity proves it’s right to invite her to Dubai
– Joy of Golf: Slow play fast becoming a big issue
 VIDEO: Dustin Johnson reflects on “solid” 2015

She keeps her targets modest, and this week, she is looking at nothing more than a top-10 finish. That’s her method of reducing the pressure heaped on her.

Feng, who won the tournament in 2012 in her first appearance at 21-under par, and then again last year at 19-under par, said on the eve of the 10th edition of the tournament: “Well, my coach always tells me, when you’re practicing on the golf course, you should always prepare like you’re going to win the tournament.

“I think that is right for sure, and that’s how I prepare to play in the tournament.  But also, I think saying that I want to win this tournament or I have to win, that’s going to give me pressure. 

“The pressure from the other people and from the fans, it’s already enough for me. I don’t want to give myself any extra pressure. So, I try to do everything that can relieve the pressure.

“I think that is one of the ways I do it, by not saying that I want to win it. I just try my best. If it’s mine, it’s mine.”

Feng described Dubai as her “lucky place”, but said there is no guarantee that she is going to perform as well as she did during her last two wins here.

Asked if she felt more at home on a golf course where she’s played so well in the past, Feng said: “To give you an example, I played in Beijing twice in the same tournament and on the same golf course.

“The first year, I was 26 under and I won.  The second year when I was defending champion, I didn’t play well at all.  I believe I was like two-over total.  That was like almost a 30 shot difference on the same course.

“I’d say everything can happen because this is golf. So, I really do not expect myself to do the same thing like last year or three years ago.

“But then, I might have a chance to play even better. I’m not really thinking about the past, I’m just focusing on right now, the present.”

With a win at the Buick Championship back home and a third place at the Evian Championship, Feng has earned €324,213 (Dh1.3m) from five tournaments this year, while Denmark’s Nicole Broch Larsen is second at €230,777 (Dh921,000).

With the first prize this week being €75,000, Feng’s lead is insurmountable. But while she was extremely proud of becoming the first Chinese woman to win the Order of Merit crown, Feng will be even more delighted if more players from her country started vying for the title.

“I would say I’m really proud of myself to be able to earn that honor. I also want to thank the Ladies European Tour. Even though I didn’t have many chances to play on this tour, but every time I come, I think everyone is really professional and welcomes me,” Feng said.

“I’m really happy that I won this Order of Merit.  Maybe, I’m the first Chinese right now, but I’m hoping there will be more Chinese in the future that actually can win. That will make very happy.”

Feng has been paired for the first two rounds with Broch Larsen and England’s Melissa Reid, who is ranked third in the Order of Merit and will tee off at 11.55 today.

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#360view: It was right to invite Spiranac

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Popular figure: Paige Spiranac.

The participation of American Paige Spiranac, known more for her social media skills than golf, in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters is dividing opinions.

There are some like the legendary Laura Davies, who may not have said it in so many words, but made her displeasure known when she said she did not “know her from a bar of soap”.

It’s not as if Davies was feigning ignorance. Given her experience of Facebook or Twitter, which is shockingly close to zilch, she can be pardoned for having no idea who Paige Spiranac is, but that surely isn’t the case with most people constituting Generation Y.

– Joy of Golf: Slow play fast becoming a big issue
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– VIDEO: The golf industry’s $113m wealth in Dubai

For the uninitiated, Spiranac is a golfer who had done well for San Diego University before turning professional this year. She has won a couple of events as a college player, but does not have a card on any Tour. She does aspire to be on the LPGA Tour, and is working towards that goal.

And yet, despite not playing even one professional tournament so far – the Dubai Ladies Masters is her pro debut – she has more followers on Instagram than world No1 Lydia Ko (38,800 followers), No3 Lexi Thompson (109,000) and Michelle Wie (the most popular lady golfer with 176,000 followers).

Just 95 posts so far have earned her more than 474,000 devotees, as well as a sponsor’s exemption in Dubai Ladies Masters, a decent contract with Callaway, coverage in Golf Digest and air-time on The Golf Channel.

There may be question marks about her golfing ability, and it will be cruel to pass judgement without seeing her in action in her first professional appearance on Wednesday, but there is no doubt that Spiranac connects with the Millennials – the demographic every sport organiser, or sponsor, is trying to entice.

Given that, you really can’t blame the organisers for inviting Spiranac, even though there will be many who’d always think another player from the Tour, or an amateur from the region, would have been a better and more deserving choice.

So, there are two ways of looking at how successful her participation has been. Either we look at her scores, or we look at the internet hits that she has generated for the tournament.

From a Sport360 point of view, our pre-event story on Spiranac, retweeted by her, generated the most number of likes ever for any women’s golf story we have published.

There is a possibility that Spiranac won’t event make the cut, but should we treat that as failure? It will have to be measured against the fact that this is only her debut as a professional, and that she is making her first trip outside America.

Just for the sake of comparison, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy – two of the greatest golfers of recent times – did make the cut in their professional debut. McIlroy was tied 42nd in the 2007 British Masters, while Woods was tied 60th in 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open.

But what about them playing in a professional tournament for the first time ever? Woods actually missed the cut in his first seven starts on the PGA Tour, while McIlroy had to wait for two years before making his first cut in a professional tournament – at the 2007 Dubai Desert Classic.

Really, if Spiranac makes it to the weekend, it will be a fantastic achievement for her. And even if she doesn’t, the move to invite her to play will go down as fantastic, out-of-the-box thinking by the organisers.

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