Golf: China's world No. 1 Feng Shanshan targets US$1 million Tour Championship bonus

Guangzhou-born Feng Shanshan can claim a US$1 million (S$1.35 million) LPGA play-off bonus by winning the showdown at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida on Thursday (Nov 16).
Guangzhou-born Feng Shanshan can claim a US$1 million (S$1.35 million) LPGA play-off bonus by winning the showdown at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida on Thursday (Nov 16).PHOTO: AFP

Miami (AFP) - New world No. 1 Feng Shanshan, coming off back-to-back wins in Japan and her native China, is aiming for a US$1 million (S$1.35 million) LPGA play-off bonus when the season-ending Tour Championship tees off on Thursday (Nov 16).

The 28-year-old from Guangzhou is among five top point-getters from the season's 32 events over 15 nations that can claim the bonus by winning the showdown at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida.

In all, 12 women have a chance at the US$1 million prize.

Other season awards are up for grabs as well, including Player of the Year and the Vare Trophy for season-low scoring average.

Feng said on Wednesday (Nov 15) that she learned she had moved atop the rankings while changing planes at an airport in Dallas on her way to Florida.

"I checked and I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm really world No. 1.' So I was really, really excited," Feng said.

"I was by myself at the Dallas airport and I went into Friday's and I ordered a steak. I was trying to celebrate a little bit with the steak. I took a picture of it and sent to my dad and mum.

"I'm sure they are having much better food back home, like (a) celebrity. After this week, I'm flying right back to China. I can't wait to see them."

If Feng wins the tournament and the US$1 million, she will think of a nice meal to celebrate and add to her handbag collection.

"Normally when I celebrate there are two things. One is food. Very good food," Feng said.

"Second thing is I'm going to buy myself presents. What I normally get are handbags.

"If I win this week, I'm going to win the million, become Player of the Year and then maybe I'll get myself a very nice handbag."

Feng, whose father is vice-president of the Chinese Golf Association, says her bronze medal from last year's Rio Games might have a greater impact in China than taking the top ranking.

"I think the bronze medal. Last year, they really showed Chinese people that Chinese can be good golfers, too, even though our history in China is not that long - we're competitive in golf," Feng said.

"I think now (that) I became world No. 1, that shows them even more that Chinese can maybe get to the top of all the golfers in the world."

Feng had imagined she would play 10 LPGA seasons and retire, but as her 10th campaign closes, the nine-time LPGA winner whose lone Major title came at the 2012 LPGA Championship has no plans of departing.

"On my rookie year, I made a plan of, like, I'll play 10 years at LPGA and I retire. This is my 10th year already and I'm still here. I'm not going to go away soon," Feng said.

"I've got a bronze medal in the pocket, so I should try to go for the gold, right? So at least I'll be here for a few more years."

Other players who would take the bonus payoff with a victory include American Lexi Thompson, South Korea's Park Sung Hyun - the 2017 LPGA Rookie of the Year - and Ryu So Yeon and Canada's Brooke Henderson.

Ryu has 162 points, three ahead of second-placed Feng, in the Player of the Year chase, with Park third on 157.

Thompson leads the LPGA in scoring average at 69.147 followed by Park at 69.259 and South Korea's Chun In Gee on 69.269.

Ryu has been hampered by a right shoulder injury that has hindered her for the past few weeks.

"My expectation level with my long game is not really high right now as it could be," Ryu said.

Park won the US Women's Open and leads the LPGA in earnings and could match Nancy Lopez as the only players to win top player and rookie awards in the same year