Thompson out to retain Dubai crown

Updated 04 December 2012
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Thompson out to retain Dubai crown

DUBAI: American teenager Alexis Thompson will attempt to defend her Dubai Ladies Masters crown this week as the season-ending tournament of the Ladies European Tour (LET) begins on the Majlis course of the Emirates Golf Club.
Thompson created history last year by becoming the youngest professional player to win on both the LPGA Tour and the LET, winning the Navistar LPGA Classic aged just 16 years, seven months and eight days, then in Dubai.
Still two months short of her 18th birthday, Thompson faces a field comprising major stars such as tournament regular Michelle Wie and world No.6 Shanshan Feng, world No.30 Hee-Kyung Seo of South Korea and British veteran Laura Davies.
Feng became the only player from mainland China to win a Major this year at the LPGA Championship.
Also in the spotlight is young Spanish star Carlota Ciganda, who is on the verge of becoming the first player after Davies in 1985 to win the Order of Merit crown as a rookie on the tour. The 22-year-old from Pamplona turned professional this year after a brilliant amateur career and having won twice this year, she tops the Order of Merit with 242,790 euros ($316,000).
The only player who can upstage Ciganda from today is German Caroline Masson, who is second at 210,831 euros, but will have to finish at least solo third to have a shot at the Money List honor.
The winner’s check in the tournament is 75,000 euros, with the runner-up getting 50,000 euros and the third-place worth 35,000 euros.
Thompson, who has slipped to No.24 in the world following a win-less 2012 so far, said she does not feel any pressure of defending her crown and is hoping to secure her first victory of the season.
“I do not feel any pressure. I have my own expectations for myself so I’m not thinking about anybody else’s,” said Thompson, who will feature in the new Tiger Woods PGA Tour ‘14 video game.
“I’m going into the event with the same attitude and just going to have fun. I’m in Dubai and playing golf, so you know, that itself is great for me and I’m looking forward to this week.
“I still have one more event to get it but that’s my goal going into every event, getting a win. But it’s golf... it’s the hardest sport in the world. I just go into every event trying to do my best and that’s really all I can do.”
Feng, who is making her debut appearance in Dubai, said she would be happy to end her season with a top-five finish this week.
“I don’t want to put myself under too much pressure,” said the fast-rising Feng, who was appointed as Omega’s brand ambassador. “Just top-five... that’s my goal. I don’t think about it too much but of course I’ll try to play my best and focus on every shot. That’s it.”
Ciganda was also hoping to have the same relaxed attitude over the next four important days in her career.
“I think Caroline’s going to play good. She’s been playing great all year and she got her LPGA Tour card last week and I’m very happy for her,” said Ciganda, who credited putting tips from Europe’s Ryder Cup captain and Spanish great Jose Maria Olazabal in June as one of the reasons for improvement in her game.
“I’m going to focus on my game. It’s one more week of golf, four more days and I just enjoy playing golf and I’m going to play one day at a time and enjoy the beautiful course and beautiful weather.”


Iran announces World Cup squad without Belgium-based striker

Updated 36 min 56 sec ago
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Iran announces World Cup squad without Belgium-based striker

TEHRAN: Iran announced its 24-man squad for the 2018 World Cup late Sunday, surprisingly omitting striker Kaveh Rezaei, but with plenty of expectation after an unbeaten run through qualifying.
The biggest shock was the decision not to take Rezaei, the 26-year-old coming off a blistering season for Belgium’s Charleroi, scoring 16 goals in 39 games.
But Iran has strong choices up front, including Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who became the first Iranian to top the scoring table of a major European league with 21 goals for Dutch side AZ Alkmaar.
Also making the squad are Masoud Shojaei, 33, and Ehsan Hajji Safi, 28, who were supposed to have been banned for life last summer after playing an Israeli team for their Greek club Panionios.
Iran does not recognize the Jewish state and bars its athletes from appearing against Israelis.
But there was uproar from fans and confusion reigned over the issue, with Shojaei returning to the national squad in March and Hajji Safi never actually banned.
Iran is unable to openly discuss the ban on facing Israelis because it breaches international sporting regulations.
Iran’s national team has been coached for the past seven years by Portugal’s Carlos Queiroz, a former enforcer for Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and one-season boss at Real Madrid.
Queiroz has led Iran to its first back-to-back appearances at the World Cup, but will be hoping to improve on its winless appearance in Brazil.
Iran, nicknamed “Team Melli,” had an unbeaten run in qualifiers, becoming the first to book their place from the Asian Football Confederation.
But they face a tough group in the World Cup, with Spain, Portugal and Morocco.
The squad announced this weekend could still change, in case of injury, up to a final deadline on June 4.

Iran World Cup squad
Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo/POR)
Defenders: Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa), Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny/RUS), Mohammad Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Alsaad/QAT), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Ramin Rezaeian (Ostende/BEL), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)
Midfielders: Ehsan Hajji Safi (Olympiacos/GRE), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiacos/GRE), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens/GRE), Mahdi Torabi (Saipa), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm/RUS)
Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar/NED), Ashkan Dejageh (Nottingham Forest/ENG), Mahdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa/QAT), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen/NED), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds/SWE), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan/RUS), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis)