Saturday’s final group had the unlikely duo of two-time major champion Shanshan Feng, kicking off her 14th season on the LPGA Tour, and Patty Tavatanakit, a second-year rookie looking for her first LPGA Tour title. At first glance, one would think that Feng might have schooled her younger competitor on the finer points of major competition. But instead, it was the veteran who looking to the newbie and the next generation of LPGA Tour players for a renewed sense of optimism as she competes for the first time since November 2019.
“I do think all the girls, they just improved a lot. They learned in the right ways, which maybe when we grew up we were still trying to find the right ways,” said Feng. “I think now they got everything together and they're so ready. I'm just so happy to see that, and I hope that now we have some very good talents from Thailand, Japan, Korea, America, and I hope to see our Chinese talents coming up.”
For her part, Tavatanakit relished every second inside the ropes with Feng, saying that she learned as much from her behavior as she did her game.
“It was really fun and relaxing. I feel like I really like her demeanor on the course, relaxed,” said Tavatanakit, who has never held the lead going into the final round of an LPGA Tour event. “I feel like that kind of helped me a little bit just be relaxed. It's a final group. Like it's a lot of pressure.”
Yes, this is a new level of pressure, leading at a major championship. But Tavatanakit is no stranger to the pressure that comes with holding a big lead. She carried a five-stroke lead into the final round of the Symetra Tour’s 2019 Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic, one of her three victories that season. And with seven more wins to her name during her two years at UCLA, the 21-year-old Thai is a prime candidate to make the leap into Poppie’s Pond come Sunday afternoon.
“I know it's going to be tough. If I'm going to be able to pull it out it's going to be tough,” said Tavatanakit. “I got to be ready for all the challenges out there, which I think my mentality was (ready to do). I was just like whatever it takes, just us give it to me. I'm ready to play.”