China’s Shanshan Feng emerged victorious at her home event, the Blue Bay LPGA, by a solitary shot over Moriya Jutanugarn on Saturday. Becoming the first player on the LPGA Tour to win back-to-back titles since she achieved the feat herself 12 months ago.
Feng’s victory elevated her alongside IK Kim as the only players to win on Tour more than twice during the 2017 season and has the Chinese player projected to become her country’s first ever World No.1 ranked player. Ending Sung Hyun Park’s reign as the world’s top player after just one week.
“Of course, I'm really, really excited and very proud of myself and I think it's special because I won this tournament to become world No. 1,” Feng said. “I finished first in China, so I actually claimed the world No. 1 in front of all the people at home.”
The 28-year-old begun the final round at Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Club on seven under, leading Jutanugarn by a single stroke. After Feng bogied two of her final three holes of the third round and the elder of the Thai sisters fired a 68 to emerge as the local favourite’s nearest challenger.
Feng opened the final round with a birdie at the par-4 1st and looked set to cruise towards her ninth Tour win before Jutanugarn compiled four birdies and a bogey over a six hole stretch to make the turn in three-under-par and take the lead by one from Feng. Who mixed in one bogey with two birdies over the front nine to turn for home at eight under for the tournament.
The winless Jutanugarn failed to keep her hot play going on the back nine, however, arriving at the 72nd hole at eight under fresh off a bogey at the penultimate hole that was matched by Feng, who added birdies at the 11th and 13th to stand on the 18th tee leading by one on nine-under-par.
Jutanugarn refused to go away, chipping to six-feet at the par-5 last to setup a birdie try to tie the 28-year-old Feng, who overpowered her approach to the final green. Leaving a long birdie putt back down the green, which she proceeded to leave an uncomfortable distance short.
“Well, I was just trying to give myself a chance. It's a pretty good chance out there. As long as I try to give myself a chance, I think it's a pretty good thing to do,” Jutanugarn said of playing the last hole.
With the home fans intently watching on, the Thai’s putt lipped out on the low side, meaning a disappointing back nine of one-over-par.
“Yeah, really happy, and it's so much fun today. You know, I made a lot of good putts, a lot of good shots out there. I'm pretty happy with what's happened,” an optimistic Jutanugarn said after the final round.
That left Feng with a nervous putt for par and the win. As well as the top ranking.
The Olympic Bronze medallist comfortably holed out for her par 5 and nine under total before being swamped by her countrywomen who showered her in water to celebrate her second win in China. Her first coming at the 2013 Reignwood LPGA Classic.
“I was hoping that Moriya would make it because I was waiting for the playoff already,” Feng said.
“However, that didn't happen because I didn't realize that actually the par putt that I was facing could be so, so, so important, and I was really nervous, especially on the half a yard, I was a little bit nervous, even shivering. And once that was in and I was the champion, I was so delighted.”
Feng now heads to the season’s final event, the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida in third on the season long standings behind Lexi Thompson and Park. With a win in American set to secure her the Race to CME Globe title.
“I know. I just want 2017 keep going. A never-ending 2017, that would be great,” she said.
Sarah Jane Smith was the best of the three Australians in the field, with her one under total good for a tie for 14th. Defending champion Minjee Lee shared 25th while Su Oh recorded a T30 finish.