The LPGA’s Fall Asian Swing concludes this week with the Blue Bay LPGA, a Wednesday-Saturday event held at Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Club on Hainan Island, in the People’s Republic of China. Defending champion Shanshan Feng leads the 81-player field, which also includes past champions Lee-Anne Pace (2014) and Sei Young Kim (2015), as well as Rolex Rankings No. 1Ariya Jutanugarn and 2017 Blue Bay runner-up Moriya Jutanugarn.
The Blue Bay LPGA ends the LPGA’s Fall Asian Swing, which took the Tour through the Republic of Korea, the People’s Republic of China, Chinese Taipei and Japan. The season ends next week in Naples, Fla., and the CME Group Tour Championship.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE BLUE BAY LPGA
- The tournament is co-sanctioned by the LPGA Tour and the China LPGA (CLPGA)
- The four winners of the Blue Bay LPGA represent four countries – South Africa (Lee-Anne Pace, 2014), the Republic of Korea (Sei Young Kim, 2015), Australia (Minjee Lee, 2016) and the People’s Republic of China (Shanshan Feng, 2017)
- Lee set the 18-hole scoring record of 7-under 65 in the first round of her 2016 victory; the mark was tied by Ariya Jutanugarn (third round, 2016) and Sun Young Yoo (first round, 2017)
- Lee also holds the 72-hole scoring record of 13-under 275
- Pace’s 2014 win was shortened to 54 holes due to heavy rain
GOING FOR TWO – FENG HOPES TO DEFEND AT BLUE BAY
Last year’s Blue Bay LPGA was a fairy-tale week for Shanshan Feng. Fresh off a win the previous week at the TOTO Japan Classic, Feng captured her first LPGA title on home soil and vaulted to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, becoming the first (and still only) player from the People’s Republic of China, male or female, to reach World No. 1.
“Obviously time does fly,” said Feng, who was World No. 1 for 23 weeks. “The day when I captured the title is still something that I can remember, recall vividly.”
Fast forward a year, and Feng has one final chance to regain that 2017 sparkle. The 29-year-old from Guangzhou is looking for her first win of the LPGA season, and with no plans to compete in next week’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, this is Feng’s last opportunity to prevent her first winless season since 2015.
“As far as my form (this season), I didn't fare too well,” said Feng, who currently sits 11th in the Rolex Rankings. “However, I may have saved the best for the last given this is going to be the last tournament of this year. Certainly, I would like to do my best, and I hope that everybody will be here to support me and support us.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW DEFENDING BLUE BAY LPGA CHAMPION SHANSHAN FENG
- Thanks to her win at last year’s Blue Bay LPGA, Feng reached No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings
- She was No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings for 23 weeks from Nov. 13, 2017 to April 22, 2018
- In 2018, Feng has five top-10 finishes, with a best finish of T3 at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, LOTTE Championship presented by Hershey and LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship
- Feng is looking for her first win of 2018; her last year without a win came in 2015
- Should Feng emerge victorious this week, she would join Ariya Jutanugarn, Brooke Henderson and Sei Young Kim as the only players to win in each of the last three seasons (2016, 2017, 2018)
IN HER OWN WORDS… FENG ON HER LIFE ACHIEVEMENTS
“Different phases (of my life), the objectives or goals might be different. For example, when I was still at my younger age, obviously to qualify for the chance to go to compete on the LPGA might be my dream, and I realized that. Later on, step by step, I actually captured one Grand Slam title on the LPGA Tour. That also was part of my dream.
Down the line I also dreamed about winning a medal on behalf the country during the Olympics. I also did that. And later on, of course, the World No. 1 spot was also a dream and I also successfully got that, captured that title.
I consider myself very lucky because I have been doing so step by step to realize my dreams. Looking back, world No. 1 perhaps is the most important memory or thing to me because it has a lot to do with China, the situation here. China still cannot be dubbed as the powerhouse in the sport of golf. To do so, to actually capture the world No. 1 spot, to be World No. 1, the best player, is obviously very, very encouraging. Also it tells a lot of younger players, my followers that if I can do so many others can do so in the future.”
JUTANUGARN AND PARK NECK-AND-NECK FOR WORLD NO. 1
Just .05 of a point separates World No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn from World No. 2 Sung Hyun Park in the Rolex Rankings, and with both players teeing it up this week at the Blue Bay LPGA, all eyes will be on the two powerhouses.
But ask the players their thoughts on reaching the pinnacle of the women’s game and both brush off any hint of tension or nerves.
“Of course, being World No. 1 is important, but for me winning the tournament is more important,” said Park, who has been No. 1 for a cumulative 11 weeks over the last two years. “Ranking No. 1 can be changed any time by anyone.”
When asked if more titles were in her future, Jutanugarn could just smile.
“I never think about that because like everything like God is just like present in my life,” said Jutanugarn, who has been at No. 1 for seven total weeks, including since Oct. 29. “I just keep working hard, do my best every day.”
LAST CHANCE FOR RACE TO THE CME GLOBE
This week’s Blue Bay LPGA marks the 31st lap of the 2018 Race to the CME Globe. Ariya Jutanugarn sits atop the standings with 4,054 points, followed by Minjee Lee with 3,141 points. Brooke Henderson sits third with 2,649 points, followed by Nasa Hataoka (2,596 points) and Jin Young Ko (2,388 points).
Throughout the season’s official events, LPGA Members will battle for position, with the top 12 players after this week’s Blue Bay LPGA heading into the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship with the opportunity to take home a $1 million bonus, the biggest prize in women’s golf. A good finish for Danielle Kang could vault her from 14th into the top 12, while nearly 20 players in this week’s field are on the outside looking in for a trip to Naples and could capitalize on a big week at Blue Bay.
All tournaments have the same point values except for the five major championships, which carry 25 percent more value. For all events with a cut, points are awarded to members who make the cut, while for events without a cut, points are awarded to members who finish in the top 40 and ties.
Points will be reset for the CME Group Tour Championship following the Blue Bay LPGA, with the top 72 LPGA Members, as well as any non-Member winners and alternates, seeded into the championship field. For the top five players, it’s easy – win the CME Group Tour Championship and take home $1 million. However, the top 12 in the points race all have a mathematical chance to take the title of Race to the CME Globe Champion and win the coveted check.
In 2017, Lexi Thompson became the first American winner of the Race to the CME Globe and the accompanying $1 million prize. She joined Lydia Ko (2014, 2015) and Ariya Jutanugarn(2016) as the only players to hoist the crystal trophy.