Solid start for Feng, who trails leaders by a stroke

Feng Shanshan hit the ball well but did not get close enough to the hole.
Feng Shanshan hit the ball well but did not get close enough to the hole.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DUBAI • Chinese LPGA Tour star Feng Shanshan, the highest- ranked golfer in the field at world No. 6, started her defence of the Dubai Ladies Masters title in style, firing a bogey-free five-under 67 yesterday.

The two-time champion was just one shot behind Liz Young of England, who made full use of the perfect morning scoring conditions, and Spain's Carmen Alonso, who was playing her first event since September as she helped her mother recover from lung cancer.

At the Majlis course of Emirates Golf Club, the leaders fired rounds of 66 each in the €500,000 (S$770,000) season-ending championship on the Ladies European Tour. England's 52-year-old Laura Davies rolled back the years to be tied fourth at 68 along with Spain's Elisa Serramia.

Feng, who had three birdies on the front nine and two on the back, said: "I would say my ball striking was pretty good, but I didn't really put the balls really close to the holes. Most of my birdie chances were like maybe above 15 feet."

Alonso, who was in the second last group, said she was not even sure of playing golf again as her mother battled illness.

Her last tournament was at the Helsingborg Open in Sweden and she missed the cut in all five events she played this season.

But the 66 was the 31-year-old's way of celebrating, after her mother was given the all-clear following a procedure in October.

"Your family is the most important thing in your life. I did not know if I would play again or even play this tournament. But now that she is fine, I am happy and I played really well," said Alonso, who will be making the trip to the Qualifying School unless she wins this week.

Young, who is 28th in the Order of Merit, credited her round to her putting. "I just had 25 putts. Considering my Tour average this year is 31, that was pretty good," she said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2015, with the headline 'Solid start for Feng, who trails leaders by a stroke'. Print Edition | Subscribe