By Kent Gray
There’s a new name and a new trophy at this week’s OMEGA Dubai Ladies Classic. In-Kyung Kim struggled to get her head around the former on the eve of the Ladies European Tour season-ender – “I was like Masters? No. Championship? No. Classic?” – but has very clear designs on that sparkling new dallah come Saturday afternoon.
“It looks more like the guy’s trophy. Fantastic,” said the reigning British Open champion.
“Look’s like a genie is going to come out of it or something. I kept staring at it [during yesterday’s Pro-Am] on the first tee. Yeah, it’s kind of a piece of art.”
With four-time defending champion and world No.1 Shanshan Feng home in China to receive a civic award, Kim is the only former winner and highest ranked player in the field for the $500,000 LET event. But the world No.8 knows she isn’t going to get her hands on the freshly minted silverware without a scrap, not with two-time major champion Brittany Lincicome, recent Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open winner Aditi Ashok and newly crowned European No.1 and LPGA Tour graduate Georgia Hall all in rich form. Charley Hull, who closed with a 65 around the Majlis to finish runner-up to Feng last December, is another who deserves to be in the title contenders conversation.
“I.K.” Kim finished sixth in her last appearance in Dubai to seal LET rookie honours in 2010, a year after closing with a 68 to hold off fast-finishing Michelle Wie, who fired a 63, for the third of her now four LET titles.
She returns to Dubai after a career year, highlighted by her first major title at Kingsbarns in August and before that her fifth and sixth LPGA Tour titles at the ShopRite LPGA and Marathon Classics.
The 5ft 3in South Korean is certainly battled hardened, not allowing the missed 14-inch putt on the 72nd green that cost her the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship (now the ANA Inspiration) to define her career.
The 2009 win in Dubai certainly helped shape it and Kim knows what will be needed this week. “I think this golf course, keeping it in the fairway is very important. Some pin positions are really hard to get to. So whoever is bravest, and also plays smart, should be the winner.
“Sometime I plan everything, like how I want to play. But this golf course, when the wind changes…I remember this golf course is one of the golf courses that can be very tough to shoot even par on the back nine when it›s very windy.”
Hall, fresh from securing an LPGA Tour card for 2018, has an unassailable lead in the LET order of merit race. What’s not so clear cut is the rookie race where French leader Camille Chevalier is looking for a top finish in her first Dubai appearance to seal the deal.
The 23-year-old, who claimed her maiden title at last month’s Hero Women’s Indian Open, sits approximately €31,000 ahead of Swede Jenny Haglund with season earning’s of €62,985 from eight starts. But with a winner’s cheque worth US$75,000, or approximately €63,246, any of the other first year members in the field could effectively seal the leading rookie title with a victory in Dubai, if Chevalier missed the cut.
Haglund or third placed Luna Sobron could mathematically overtake Chevalier with a runner-up finish but Chevalier is thinking positive.
“A win would be awesome. If not, a top 10 will be okay,” said Chevalier. “I came here to win. If you don’t come to win, then why do you come?”