Stacy Lewis, Feng Shanshan favourites in Dubai
Dubai: Regulars on the LPGA Tour, American world number three Stacy Lewis and Chinese world number four Feng Shanshan, the defending champion, will start as pre-tournament favourites at the season-ending Dubai Ladies Masters on Wednesday.
With the European Tour Order of Merit crown already secured by world number two Suzann Pettersen of Norway in just three starts, all eyes will be on the two top-ranked stars in the field.
Both have been on form of late.
While Feng has won twice (LPGA Titleholders Cup and Reignwood LPGA Classic) in her last four starts in the past two months, Lewis has not finished outside eighth place in a tournament since the beginning of July.
She also won the Women`s British Open this year, her second Major win, and two other tournaments on the LPGA Tour earlier in the season.
The top prize this week is 75,000 euros, making it one of the biggest events on the Ladies European Tour, but the field wears a slightly depleted look.
That`s because four players in the top-20 of the rankings, including Pace, are trying their luck at the LPGA Tour Qualifying School, which is being played simultaneously this week in the United States.
While the absent Pettersen is sure to be named number one for the season, the battle for the Rookie of the Year honour is still on and strong between two young English girls - teenage phenomenon Charley Hull and the 22-year-old Holly Clyburn.
Hull, who started the season with four consecutive runners-up finish and made her Solheim Cup debut, is ahead by almost 12,000 euros, which would mean Clyburn will have to finish inside the top-eight to have any chance of denying her 17-year-old compatriot.
Lewis, who closed her Twitter account after criticizing Chinese fans when she lost to Feng in the Reignwood Classic in October, said winning in Dubai would cap her season perfectly.
"I feel like I`m playing really well. I took a couple weeks off a couple months ago, didn`t play a few tournaments, just because I needed some time to let my body recover. And so at this point this year, I feel like I have a lot more energy, and my game is right where it needs to be," said Lewis.
"I think I finished ten straight top?10s, so there`s not too much to complain about other than one shot or two here or there and I get a couple wins. But that`s golf and just kind of the way it works."
Feng, who won last year with a record score of 21-under par, said she was simply aiming for a top-five finish.
"Well, I had a goal early this year. I wanted to win twice on the LPGA. And before China, I had no win, and then I thought I wasn`t going to make it because I only had four tournaments left. But I won twice in the last four, so twice in the past two months, which is great," she said.
"Of course I`m feeling really good. I`m feeling confident and very happy that I`m back here. But just like last year, I don`t want to give myself too much pressure, so this year, I will just still go for the top five, just like last year."
The tournament starts at the Majlis course of Emirates Golf Club on Wednesday and finishes on Saturday.