Despite a few stumbles coming in, Shanshan Feng did everything she needed to do to win, again, on the LPGA Tour, becoming the first golfer to go back-to-back in 2017 and projected to move to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings in the process.
The win at the Blue Bay LPGA in her home country was well received by the fans and her fellow Chinese golfers, who showered her with water on the 18th green.
She is projected to became the first golfer – male or female – from China to ascend to the top of golf’s world rankings, and this is the second event in China that Feng has won, the first being the Reignwood LPGA Classic (Beijing) in 2013.
“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. I finished first in China, so I actually claimed the world No. 1 in front of all the people at home,” said Feng of what the win means to her. “I'm really happy about that, and I hope all the Chinese are going to be watching me and the Chinese can play golf. Hopefully there will be more Chinese getting on the tours and more world No. 1's coming up from China.”
Feng becomes the second golfer on the LPGA Tour to win more than twice in 2017, joining IK Kim, who has also won three times. Feng’s other victory came in record-setting fashion at the LPGA Volvik Championship in May.
“I just want 2017 keep going. A never-ending 2017, that would be great,” said Feng.
Feng beat Moriya Jutanugarn by one shot after Jutanugarn’s birdie try on the 72nd hole lipped out.
“I was not trying to watch because I know that even I hope that she would make it. Then, I mean, after, even though she made it, I still have to make my par putt, so I tried not to watch her,” she said. “But I mean, she just missed it and now I've got a trophy in my hand.”
Despite a bogey on the par-3 17th, Jutanguarn just couldn’t take advantage of Feng leaving the door slightly ajar. Feng tapped in for par on the par-5 18th after Jutanugarn – who hit a delicate chip to about six feet – couldn’t convert.
“I was just trying to give myself a chance,” she said of her final putt. “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.”
For Jutanugarn, it marked her sixth top-5 result of the season. She’s still hunting for her first win on the LPGA Tour. She was 3-under-par through nine holes and held a piece of the lead, but couldn’t deliver when she needed to on Saturday, shooting a 1-over-par 37 on her back nine with Feng not pulling away.
She took the loss in stride, however, complimenting the Chinese crowd for cheering on one of their own to victory.
“Of course everybody is cheering for her. I mean, Shanshan is a great player, and very happy for her that she played really solid,” said Jutanugarn. “I mean, she had a really good week in her home country, which is really cool.”
Jutanugarn’s younger sister Ariya, herself a five-time winner on the LPGA Tour, consoled her after the final hole, walking with her arm around her from the green to the clubhouse.
A foursome of golfers finished tied for fourth, including Sung Hyun Park – whose reign as world No. 1 is projected to come to an end next week after just one week at the top – Ashleigh Buhai, Megan Khang, and Jessica Korda.
Park admitted there was no difference in playing as world No. 1 (“Only one thing is different: caddie bib color,” she said) but did say she struggled with her putting during Saturday’s final round.
“My score was not that good (the) last (two) days,” she said. “I could play with more confidence.”
The tie for fourth is Khang’s best result of 2017, and ties her career-best finish on the LPGA Tour.
Korda, who admitted she still isn’t 100 percent after her injury late this summer, notched her best finish since April. She had a chance to challenge for the lead, but bogeyed two of her final three holes to finish five shots back of Feng.
Sun Young Yoo, Sandra Gal and Na Yeon Choi finished at 3-under par and tied for seventh.
Despite two bogeys in her last four holes, it was Gal’s best finish of the season. And even with a double bogey on the card, the tie for seventh was also Choi’s best result of 2017.
Mi Hyang Lee, Austin Ernst, Jeong Eun Lee, and Lizette Salas – who notched her fourth top-10 finish in five tournaments during the Asian Swing – finished tied for 10th at 2-under par for the championship.
Englishwoman Mel Reid withdrew citing illness prior to the final round.
The LPGA Tour heads back to the United States next week for the CME Group Tour Championship, the final event of the 2017 season in Naples, Fla.
With her win, Feng moves to second on the Race to the CME Globe, behind Lexi Thompson.
The top five into next week’s Tour Championship all control their own destiny. If any of Thompson, Feng, Park, So Yeon Ryu, or Brooke Henderson win the tournament, they also win the $1 million bonus prize and will be crowned the Race to the CME Globe