Every player loves competing in front of their home fans. So this week is especially exciting for top-ranked Chinese player Shanshan Feng, who has not had the opportunity to play in her home country in nearly a year.
“I’m just so happy to be able to play in China because normally I play in the U.S. or Europe. There are not that many Chinese fans who come on site and support us. This is a week that everybody will come and most of them will support the Chinese players like me,” said Feng, who last played in her home country in Nov. 2018 at the Blue Bay LPGA. “I’m happy to see that and that gives me a lot of drive to try to hit good shots and make good putts for them. I’m at home, so I have Chinese food every day and I have my family, my team here. I’m just so enjoying the whole week.”
In 2017, Feng became the first golfer from Mainland China, male or female, to reach World No. 1. Feng, who also earned a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics, has been a true pioneer for Chinese golf, paving the way for the next generation through her play, her foundation and her support.
“I think girls back in China, a lot of them they are very talented. They just need chances,” said Feng. “They need people to guide them, to tell them what to do and plan for them. Maybe we’ve been helping them a little bit.”
That work shows particularly true this week. Seven players from Mainland China are in the field at the Second Stage of LPGA Qualifying School in Venice, Fla., and Feng’s always expressive face lit up when she spoke of 21-year-old Yan Liu, who is tied for the lead after 36 holes.
“Seeing the Chinese flag on top and her name on the top, I was so proud of her,” said Feng, whose company provides management guidance for Liu. “Other than her, I think there were a few more girls doing pretty well and two more days to go. Of course, if all of them could make it, that would be the greatest. But if not, I just hope as many as they can make it to the Q Series will be best.”
ALTOMARE LOOKING FOR BREAKTHROUGH FIRST WIN
In 2018, Brittany Altomare was one of seven players to tie for second at the Buick LPGA Shanghai. Since then, she has been arguably one of the Tour’s steadiest players, earning 24 consecutive made cuts. Since mid-June, her game has grown even more consistent. She comes to the 2019 Buick LPGA Shanghai with 10 straight top-30 finishes, including runner-up showings at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give and the Volunteers of America Classic, and she went 2-1-1 for Team USA in her first Solheim Cup.
But that breakthrough first win? Altomare admits to growing frustrated with the wait. She wants to win.
“In Texas was the first time I felt really frustrated because I felt like that was the closest I've come,” said Altomare. “But you know, it's all part of it. It's a good feeling to be in that position. I'd much rather it be that way than the other way. I'm happy where my game is at.”
A return to Shanghai’s Qizhong Garden Golf Club could be just the ticket for Altomare. The Massachusetts native is known for her short game and this course puts a premium on deft play around the greens.
“The greens are pretty complicated. They have a lot of slope to them,” said Altomare. “Your approach shots, you have to hit them into the right sections of the green. Then I think you can score really well. I think it really rewards good shots and then if you hit it all over the place, you're going to have a really tough time making par. I think that it rewards good iron play and if you make putts on top of that, you'll shoot some good numbers.”
DESIGNATED HOLE FOR AON RISK REWARD CHALLENGE
The season-long Aon Risk Reward Challenge highlight's the world's best professional golfers as they tackle the most strategically challenging holes across both the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR schedules. The player from each Tour on top of the Aon leaderboard at the end of the regular season will receive a $1 million prize.
Heading into the Buick LPGA Shanghai, Ariya Jutanugarn leads the standings at -0.783, with Carlota Ciganda in second at -0.775 and Hyo Joo Kim in third at -0.733. Jutanugarn had vaulted from third to top spot largely thanks to an eagle on the Challenge hole in the second round of the Volunteers of America Classic two weeks ago.
The designated Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole at the Buick LPGA Shanghai is the 17th. This reachable par 5 sets up as an ideal risk-reward hole. Players can take the conservative route and make it a three-shot approach to the green or can opt for the more aggressive strategy. If a player aims to go for the green in two, the key will be making sure the tee shot hugs the left side where water can come into play but a line that is necessary in order to get the best angle from which to attack the green with the second shot.
The scoring system is identical on both the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR, and players take their best two scores from each Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole, with the winners having the best average score to par at the end of the season. Players must play a minimum of 40 rounds throughout the season. The Challenge runs across regular season tournaments (29 LPGA Tour; 36 PGA TOUR).
For more information about the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, visit www.lpga.com/statistics/aon-risk-reward-challenge.
HUAYONG JIN NOMINATED FOR LPGA’S AXA LPGA VOLUNTEER SERVICE AWARD
Huayong Jin is the volunteer chairman for the Buick LPGA Shanghai. According to tournament officials, he has led the efforts of recruiting 300 volunteers this year. His favorite player is Chinese star Shanshan Feng, and his favorite part of the tournament is getting to see so many players in person that he usually only sees on TV. The tournament is proud to recognize him as an outstanding volunteer from the Buick LPGA Shanghai for the 2019 AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award.
For more information on the AXA XL LPGA Volunteer Service Award, visit www.lpga.com/axa-xl.