After a week of straight batting that would have filled even Alastair Cook with a seismic sense of pride, the significance of the occasion finally told.
Carlota Ciganda and Caroline Masson, the two players still in the running for the Ladies European Tour Order Of Merit crown, had spent the past five days at Emirates Golf Club doing their damnedest to appear unaffected by the whole thing.
Journalists and peers probed, yet the dogged duo kept to the same line: ‘I’m not thinking about it too much’; ‘I’m out only to play my best’; ‘the other girl deserves it, too’.
However, when the dust settled yesterday and Ciganda hoisted aloft the trophy, it became clear the pair had been dabbling in some pretty heavy smoke and mirrors.
“I had it in my hands today ... just got a little unlucky,” said a visibly emotional Masson after a one-under 71 ensured she finished tied-third for the tournament.
Realistically, the German required second place to clinch the season title, and a previously implausible raid seemed within reach when she reeled off six birdies in 10 holes. Disaster struck at the 12th, though, as Masson raced a 30-foot par putt at the hole and then failed to make the one coming back. Double-bogey was doubly difficult to take.
“Yeah, that happens sometimes,” said Masson, 23, as she struggled to fight back tears. “It’s difficult right now, but maybe in a few days I can look back on a good season, sure.
“It would have been a perfect year, but it’s fine this way. I mean, I should be happy.” Masson’s position on the leaderboard meant Ciganda, €31,958 (Dh153, 558) ahead of her only rival coming into Dubai, needed to place inside the top 42, but the Spaniard fared even better as a final-round 68 secured a tie for 10th.
With the Order of Merit victory comes a €20,000 bonus and a 10-year exemption to the tour, while Ciganda became, too, the first player since Laura Davies in 1985 to collect in the same season both the money list prize and the Rookie of the Year award.
“Unbelievable,” offered the 22 year old. “I had to work for it, but I’m very lucky and very happy. I just want to be with my family, with my friends.”
Ciganda, starting the day seven groups behind Masson, acknowledged the Spaniard endured an anxious wait upon the conclusion of her round.
“I was in the clubhouse watching, but although Caroline was playing great, it wasn’t enough to finish second. A great tournament for her, but I’m just happy that I won. It’s been a great year.
“This season I had no expectations so I’m just going to try to enjoy every moment. I’ll stay in the present all the time ... just have fun playing the sport I love.”
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