x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Alexis Thompson: another big-hitter from US in Dubai

The American follows in Michelle Wie's footsteps and the teenager was only a stroke behind the world No 1 when she tied for second in the Evian.

Alexis Thompson at the 10th hole during the 2010 Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.
Alexis Thompson at the 10th hole during the 2010 Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.

DUBAI // Michelle Wie again tops the bill at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters which tees off at Emirates Golf Club this morning, but just as much interest will focus on another young, long-hitting American.

Alexis Thompson is doing now what Wie did when she exploded on to the global scene seven years ago as a prodigious striker of the ball who could outdrive many male professionals.

Wie was only 14 when she took on the cream of the PGA Tour on her home territory of Hawaii where she came within a single stroke of beating the halfway cut.

Thompson, 15, is the next exciting prospect to emerge from the United States and has already outstripped her illustrious forerunner in terms of first-year earnings - if not in terms of lucrative off-course endorsements.

Thompson has amassed prize money of US$336,000 (Dh1.234 million) from the six professional tournaments she has been allowed to play in by the LPGA to occupy 34th position on the US money list. She is confident of a first career title in this €500,000 (Dh2,452m) event.

Her optimism is justified, considering her stunning performance on her last foreign trip to compete in the Evian Masters in France where she finished in a tie for second place just one stroke behind Jiyai Sin, the world No 1.

"I've worked really hard to come so far so soon," said Thompson, whose other notable achievement in her rookie season was a top-10 finish in the US Open.

"I think I can go much further but I'm not going to get ahead of myself - just play each tournament as it comes and see where it takes me."

Thompson is benefiting from a healthy sibling rivalry she has with her brothers Nicholas, who plays on the PGA Tour and Curtis, who is a member of the Florida Junior Tour.

"There is intense competition between us," she said. "I often play off the same tee as them which is probably why I hit it as far as I do."

She will have to hit some booming drives to keep up with Wie, who is hoping to go one better than her runner-up finish on her Dubai debut 12 months ago.

"It would be awesome if I could win here," said Wie, whose career is back on course again after a succession of teenage troubles.

"I have learned so much from all the downs that I have suffered," she said. "I think hardship makes you appreciate the good times even more. There are bound to be some more low periods but you deal with them and move forward."

Her advice to Thompson was to have fun on and off the course.

"It becomes your life so the key is to enjoy it," she said.

The events of the next four days will also determine the Ladies European Tour money list.

South Africa's Lee-Anne Pace, with five victories to her credit this season, is in pole position to secure her first Order of Merit title but is aware of the threat posed by second-placed Laura Davies, the 47-year-old British tour veteran.

"Laura's a great player," said Pace. "She has won so many tournaments and has all the experience in the world. But I'm on form and playing really well, so I don't see myself worrying too much about what Laura does."