Only Caroline Masson can stop the Spaniard winning Order of Merit as the German eyes her second title of 2012, writes John McAuley.
Advice that can help Carlota Ciganda clinch LET double
DUBAI // Carlota Ciganda may be attempting this week to secure the Order of Merit as a rookie, but the European Ladies Tour's (LET) front-runner has not been lacking for advice.
Take, for instance, various competitive rounds spent this year with Laura Davies, the four-time major championship winner who also has seven season crowns and 82 career titles worldwide.
Or "good friend" Sergio Garcia, the former world No 2 on the men's circuit and collector of 22 professional victories, including 10 on the men's European Tour and eight on its American sibling.
Or, if words of wisdom are needed from someone of another sporting sphere altogether, then uncle Jose Angel Ziganda is only a phone call away.
Given he was a centre-forward of considerable ability with Athletic Bilbao, the Spanish Primera Liga side, he may know a thing or two about excelling in the competitive confines of top-level gamesmanship.
So Ciganda will have little excuse should, come Saturday night at Emirates Golf Club, she not be crowned European No 1.
The Spaniard, currently €31,958 (Dh153,558) ahead of second-placed Caroline Masson, needs only to make the cut in Dubai to all but guarantee the trophy.
Perhaps secretly, Masson will be hoping Ciganda fails to hang around for the weekend, leaving the Gladbeck-born player requiring at least a top-three finish in this season finale.
Although, such an outcome seems a tad fanciful, considering Ciganda has shown no recent signs of strain, with last week's tied-fourth in India making it two victories and nine top-10 finishes in a remarkable 2012.
"I played with Sergio before going to India and he just says to keep enjoying and keep having fun, because golf can be really nice sometimes and other times not," Ciganda, 22, said.
"So I'm just trying to enjoy the good moments and make the most of everything.
"It's certainly an advantage being first on the money list, but I don't like to think too much about it. I just think about playing golf and, if you give 100 per cent when you're on the course, the result is going to be good. And if you play good, you're going to be at the top."
So much for needing advice, then. Ciganda does admit, though, that Masson represents a formidable challenge, with the 23 year old also on form having last week earned her card for the 2013 US LPGA Tour. Masson has one victory this season, too, recorded in June's South African Open.
"I think she's going to play well," said Ciganda, who has the chance to 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. "She's been playing great all year and has a big chance here.
"I know she's going to fight hard and try to do that, so I'm just going to focus on my own game and play the best I can. Then we'll see."
Masson is Ciganda's only rival for the money list, yet understands the chances of eclipsing her opponent are slim at best. The incentive in attaining the Order of Merit crown - it brings a bonus €20,000 and a 10-year exemption to the LET - is enough to keep her fires burning.
"I know I have to play really well to catch Carlota," Masson said. "She's had a great year and is a great player. I knew when she was coming out on tour that she's going to play great.
"But I've had a great year. I'm happy with what I've accomplished so far, and if I can pull off a top three this week I'll be even happier. But I don't think I have a lot of pressure.
"My expectations weren't too high this year. I had a few more chances to win, which I couldn't do, but maybe this week when expectations are low I can just go out and have fun.
"We're going to have a good battle out there."