It takes Shanshan Feng months to get her golf season in full swing. But once she’s firing on all cylinders? Look out.
When Feng won the LPGA Volvik Championship last May, it was the earliest in the year that the former Rolex Rankings world No. 1 has ever won on Tour. Of her nine career wins on the LPGA Tour, seven of her victories came in the last three months of the year. Feng treats the off season and her time away from the course as exactly that. Time off. She doesn’t practice, she doesn’t pick up a club. She takes a break. So, when Feng returns to the Tour to start the year in January, it takes her several months to get back into competition mode.
But last year when she arrived in Michigan, just five months into the season, her confidence was waning.
“I wasn’t doing very well, and I think that was a breaking point for me last year,” Feng said Tuesday. “If I want to win more tournaments, I can’t only win at the end of the year.”
Feng recorded a top 10 in three of the first events of the year, but after the incredible run she had in 2016, she wanted more. In August 2016, Feng won bronze at the Olympic games in Rio and closed out the season with wins in October and November for back-to-back victories during the Tour’s swing through Asia. She hoped a win at Travis Pointe Country Club, site of the LPGA Volvik Championship, would give her the confidence boost she was seeking.
“I just won two times in the U.S., so all of my nine wins on the LPGA, I won most of them in Asia,” said Feng. “I really wanted to prove that I can win in the U.S., too.”
But first, Feng needed to figure out why she was only winning late in the season. What was she missing in those first few months of the year that came so naturally late in the season?
Feng didn’t have a target.
“At the beginning of the year I just don’t set any goals,” said Feng. “I’m like, just go out there and enjoy and try to get more comfortable on the course.”
But that mindset wasn’t working. Feng needed to be more aggressive.
“Now I should be thinking maybe I’ll have a chance to win every week, and then when I actually have a chance on the weekend, I should go for it,” Feng explained about her change in attitude. “I became more aggressive on the course, so I think that’s what really helped.”
Last year at Travis Pointe, Feng fired four consecutive rounds in the 60s, including a third round 66, to win her seventh title on Tour. It was the first of many high points for Feng in 2017, in which she reached No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings for the first time in her career. But she also returned to her old ways, winning twice more in Asia in the month of November. So, Feng returns again this week to Michigan in a position similar to last year, with four top 10s to start the year and in search of boost.
“I’ve been playing pretty well, pretty consistent, so I think I’m looking for a breakthrough this year.”
If this is the week Feng gets her game in full swing, look out.