Feng dodges double-bogey bullet in Japan
Updated: 2016-11-08 07:26
By Associated Press in Ibaraki, Japan(China Daily)
Seals sixth LPGA victory despite late meltdown
Feng Shanshan needed every bit of the three-stroke lead she took to the final hole at chilly Taiheiyo Club on Sunday to finish off her second straight LPGA Tour victory.
The 27-year-old Chinese star closed with a double bogey 6 to beat South Korea's Jang Hana by a stroke in the Toto Japan Classic, the last of six straight events in Asia.
Feng closed with a 2-under 70 for a 13-under total of 203, with the double bogey her only dropped shots since the fourth hole on Friday.
She realized she had a three-stroke lead after a birdie on the par-5 17th - not that she wanted to know.
"I have a habit where I don't look at leader boards when I play, but I accidentally saw the board when I was on the 17th green," said Feng, who won the previous week in Malaysia.
She drove to the left and needed two more shots to reach the green.
"I thought it was an easy two-putt, but the first putt, I just hit it way too hard," Feng said. "The second one, I missed and left myself a three-footer and said, 'It's time to make this putt.' I didn't want to lose by making a triple bogey on the last hole."
Feng drained the putt for her sixth LPGA Tour victory.
Projected to jump from eighth to sixth in the next world rankings, Feng has finished no worse than a tie for fourth in her last seven events.
She started the run with the Olympic bronze medal in Rio, tied for fourth at Evian in France, opened the Asia trip at home in China with a fourth-place tie, was second behind Jang in Taiwan and tied for third in South Korea.
"Coming into this week I had a lot of confidence and I'm feeling really comfortable," Feng said.
"I knew I would have a chance because I've always liked the Japanese courses and I've played well in Japan."
She broke through at Taiheiyo after losing a playoff to Momoko Ueda in the 2011 event at Kintetsu Kashikojima, the tournament venue from 2006 to last year.
Playing two groups ahead of Feng, Jang birdied 16 and 17 on the way to her third 68. She has three victories this year, beating Feng by a stroke in Taiwan.
"Every day, I had a strong front nine but was a little tired on the back nine," Jang said. "I just tried to be patient every hole. My target was 12-under par this week, and I hit my target perfectly."
A stroke ahead after parring the first eight holes, Feng birdied the next three to open a four-shot lead. She made putts from eight feet on the par-5 ninth, 25 feet on the par-4 10th and six feet on the par-4 11th.
"I wasn't actually striking the ball very well and then I didn't give myself many birdie chances," Feng said.
"My putting was OK and then after the eighth hole I said to the others in my group, 'We are the last group, so we need to start making birdies.' On the ninth hole I had a very good chance and made it and then 10th and 11th were great birdies."
She earned $225,000, giving her $1,062,204 in her last six tour starts. She's sixth on the money list with $1,416,301 after making $354,097 in her first 15 events.
Feng shot a tournament-best 64 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead over second-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn into the final round.
Jutanugarn missed a chance to wrap up the LPGA Tour player of the year award with a victory, shooting a 74 to drop into a tie for 10th at 8 under. The Thai star leads the tour with five victories and also tops the money list.
"Today was just not a good day," Jutanugarn said. "I missed some tee shots and my putting was so bad."
Top-ranked Lydia Ko, 14 points behind Jutanugarn in the player of the year race, had a 69 to tie for 43rd at 2 under. Ko and Jutanugarn are skipping the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico and will close the season in two weeks in Florida at the CME Group Tour Championship.
Japan's Kotone Hori (68) tied for third at 10 under with defending champion Ahn Sun-ju (70), Ryu So-yeon (68) and Kang Soo-yun (71). Suzann Pettersen had a 72 in the final group to finish at 9 under.
(China Daily 11/08/2016 page24)
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