x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A friendly fight over merit at Majlis Course

Carlota Ciganda, who leads good friend Caroline Masson in the standings, is 26th on the Dubai Ladies Masters leaderboard and only needs to finish 42nd to claim the title.

Carlota Ciganda is well placed to become the first golfer since 1985 to clinch the Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year titles. David Cannon / Getty Images
Carlota Ciganda is well placed to become the first golfer since 1985 to clinch the Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year titles. David Cannon / Getty Images

DUBAI // As far as dust-ups go, this one does not exactly enter the category of blood sport.

When the bell sounds at the start of play tomorrow at Emirates Golf Club it will signal round 12 in the battle for the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit, yet its two prizefighters continue to duck and weave.

Carlota Ciganda, currently sitting at the standings summit, has refused all week to land a blow outside the ropes, routinely repeating that she would not be too unhappy if Caroline Masson, her only challenger, walked off with the trophy and into the sunset.

Masson, meanwhile, has countered with light taps, conceding that, while it would be great to end the year as the circuit's best player, "Carlota has played well and deserves to win".

There has been little boxing bravado, more the post-bout love-in that usually renders redundant any earlier trash talk.

Even after three rounds on the Majlis Course, nothing much has changed.

"I was thinking about [the Order of Merit] even less today because I haven't played with Carlota, so I've no idea how she's doing," said Masson, who shared the first two rounds with Ciganda.

The German, €31,958 (Dh153,558) behind her Spanish rival, sits tied-fourth, on 11-under par, knowing anything less than a top-three finish tomorrow will see the money list title slip out of reach.

Ciganda is 26th on the leaderboard, needing to come in at least 42nd to triumph in the season-long race.

"I want to finish this tournament as good as possible, hopefully in the top three to at least have a chance to get past her," said Masson, 23, following today's 69.

"Especially when you're struggling a little bit, you just have to focus even more and I was doing that. I didn't think about anything else."

Such refusal to raise the temperature could find root in the pair's relationship. They are "good friends" having long contested the same amateur tournaments and faced one another in various match play events.

On Thursday, they could even be found enjoying a few words together as they made their way back from their second round.

Perhaps it should come as little surprise, then, when following a disappointing 73 today, Ciganda tried her best to avoid any awkward confrontation.

"I'm not thinking about that. I'm just thinking about my game, about playing good tomorrow and that's it," said the 22 year old, who today can also become the first player since Davies in 1985 to collect in the same season both the Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year titles.

"I always try to play my game. Today wasn't the best day, but I have one more tomorrow and I'll try to do my best. There is nothing to celebrate yet."

And the gloves have yet to come off.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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