LINGSHUI, China - Feng Shanshan is projected to the world No. 1 next week when the new Rolex world rankings is released after capturing the Blue Bay LPGA title in Hainan Island on Saturday.
Feng Shanshan poses with her trophy after winning the Blue Bay LPGA title in Hainan Island on Saturday.[Photo/Xinhua]
The 28-year-old Guangzhou native, a winner in Japan last week, closed with a two-under 70 to beat Thailand's Moriya Jutanugarn (70) by one stroke in the US$2.1 million co-sanctioned tournament between the China LPGA and US LPGA Tours.
Feng finished the 72-hole event on nine-under 279 at Jian Lake Blue Golf Club to earn US$315,000 for her third title of the season.
"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 her historic feat.
With both players tied at nine-under through 12 holes, the 13th hole proved the difference as Feng sank a 20-foot birdie putt while playing partner Moriya missed a 10-foot par putt for a two-shot swing.
Moriya quickly rebounded at the next, sinking a six-foot downhill putt for birdie as Feng missed a four-footer and had to settle for par. Feng gave the Thai more chances to get even on the 15th and 16th holes after missing makeable birdie putts, but Moriya could only answer with pars.
At the penultimate hole, a 168-yard par-three where Feng was short of the green and made a bogey four, Moriya again failed to capitalize in missing an eight-foot par putt that would have deadlocked the score.
The Bangkok native's woes continued at the last where Feng could only muster a par-five. With a three-foot birdie putt facing her to even the match, Moriya pulled it left to miss out on a playoff.
In a display of sportsmanship, Feng said she wanted Moriya to make the putt at the final hole and had found it difficult to watch. In accepting her trophy, the bronze medalist at the Rio Olympic Games said she hoped her world No. 1 ranking would inspire more Chinese to take up golf.
"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 number ones coming up from China."
Moriya, the older sister of world No. 9 Ariya Jutanugarn (73) who finished nine strokes off the pace, lamented another opportunity lost to win her first US LPGA title. She said she was just trying to give herself a chance on the final hole.
"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 the 24-year-old who has posted 11 top-10 finishes on the US LPGA Tour this season. "I mean, she had a really good week in her home country, which is really cool."
South Korean Park Sung-hyun, who became the new world No. 1 on Tuesday, closed with even-par 72 to finish equal third with South African Ashleigh Buhai (73) and Americans Megan Khang (68) and Jessica Korda (71) at five strokes back.
Ye Lei was the top amateur as the Chinese teenager closed with a 77 to finish equal 53rd in the 81-player field.