Dubai: Two young American stars will be in the spotlight when the season-ending championship of the Ladies European Tour, the Dubai Ladies Masters, starts at the Majlis course of Emirates Golf Club on Wednesday.
The 500,000 euro tournament features the cream of European Ladies golf, but it is the head-to-head battle between Michelle Wie and history-making teenage star Alexis Thompson which is the big topic here before the tournament.
The 21-year-old Wie has been making headlines ever since winning the US Women's Amateur Public Links Championship at the age of 13, while earlier this year, 16-year-old Thompson became the youngest ever winner on the LPGA Tour when she triumphed by five shots at the Navistar LPGA Classic in Alabama.
Not only did the Coral Springs, Florida-based player break the existing record by almost two years, she also forced the LPGA Tour to give special consideration to her case and make her a full member ahead of the 18-year age rule.
Wie, who is making her third trip to the Emirates, said she is looking forward to ending what has been a disappointing season on a high by recording her first win of the year.
"It was an interesting season. I started off pretty good and then struggled a bit in the middle. It was a work in progress kind of year. I worked a lot on trying to improve, and I am sure it will pay off next year. I didn't play as well as I wanted to, but hopefully, I can end the year with a bang.
"I didn't have a win this year, so a win this week would mean a lot to me," said Wie, the highest ranked player in the field at world No17.
Thompson, who finished tied 22nd last year, said: "Winning definitely gave me a lot more confidence, so I now go into every event knowing I can win.
"I know it's not going to happen every time, so you just need to take it shot by shot and hope it goes well. But I had an amazing time last year, and I have been looking forward to this tournament for a while."
With Japan's Ai Miyazato already securing the Order of Merit crown, the other interesting battle for second place is between red-hot Swedish rookie Caroline Hedwall, who moved up to third place in the Money List after her impressive win last week in the Women's Indian Open, and second-ranked Melissa Reid of England.
Hedwall, who also won in Slovakia, Finland and Austria in her first full season on the Tour, will need to make up a gap of 12,183 euros. Reid has earned 280,578 euros in 18 starts in 2011.
The 22-year-old Hedwall, who is making her first visit to Dubai, said: "I think now it's more realistic to think that I could pass her this week. Before, it was a pretty large gap, but it's definitely a goal for this week. But we'll see. It kind of depends on how she plays, too.
"The victory in New Delhi has given me a lot of self confidence and if I can keep the momentum going, I have a good chance of making it two on the trot."
Also playing this week are Britain's all-time great Laura Davies, American Christina Kim, Sophie Gustafson and Anna Nordqvist.