Feng first to summit in Chinese Milestone

China's Feng Shanshan posing with the Blue Bay LPGA trophy yesterday at Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Course in Hainan. Back-to-back wins meant she took over the No. 1 spot from South Korean Park Sung Hyun.
China's Feng Shanshan posing with the Blue Bay LPGA trophy yesterday at Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Course in Hainan. Back-to-back wins meant she took over the No. 1 spot from South Korean Park Sung Hyun.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Blue Bay win ensures rise to top, historic moment underlines how far golf has come

SHANGHAI • Feng Shanshan became China's first world No. 1 golfer after she claimed back-to-back wins with a thrilling victory at the Blue Bay LPGA yesterday.

No Chinese golfer, male or female, has ever topped the rankings before and her slice of history underlines the country's growing in the sport for both sexes.

Feng, who started the week third in the world, will rise to top spot tomorrow at the expense of South Korean rookie Park Sung Hyun, the LPGA Tour said.

The 28-year-old Feng achieved her ascent to the summit thanks to a nervy one-shot victory over Moriya Jutanugarn after the Thai's birdie try on the 72nd hole lipped out on the southern Chinese island of Hainan.

Both finished with a final-round 70 but the Chinese triumphed with a nine-under 279 total.

Feng's fellow Chinese players showered the trailblazer in water on the 18th green and she told LPGA.com: "I'm really excited and very proud of myself, and I think it's special because I won this tournament to become world No. 1.

"I finished first in China, so I actually claimed the world No. 1 in front of all the people at home," added Feng, who is from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou and turned professional a decade ago.

The in-form Feng, who also captured last week's Toto Japan Classic title, said: "Hopefully, there will be more Chinese getting on the Tours and more world No. 1s coming up from China.

"I just want 2017 to keep going. A never-ending 2017, that would be great."

For Feng, the Rio Games bronze medallist, it is the culmination of more than a decade of toil on the Tour.

The Blue Bay LPGA was her third win of the season and ninth career LPGA win, one of those being a Major (Women's PGA Championship in 2012).

Feng was also her country's first winner on the LPGA Tour (Wegmans LPGA Championship in 2012).

Her rise to the top was widely celebrated in Chinese media, despite the government having an ambivalent attitude towards golf, which is traditionally viewed in China as bourgeois.

On the one hand, Chinese authorities have shut down dozens of golf courses - many of them illegal - and curbed new construction, while at the same time, holding men's and women's tournaments like the one that Feng won.

Moriya was gracious in defeat, complimenting the Chinese crowd for cheering on Feng to her victory.

"Of course everybody is cheering for her. Shanshan is a great player and very happy for her that she played really solid," Moriya said on LPGA.com.

"She had a really good week in her home country, which is really cool."

The deposed world No. 1 Park (72) was tied for third at four under and relinquishes the top spot after just one week.

The LPGA Tour heads back to the United States next week for the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida, which will be the final event of the 2017 season.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 12, 2017, with the headline 'Feng first to summit in Chinese Milestone'. Print Edition | Subscribe