Lingshui, China: After capturing the Blue Bay LPGA title, Feng Shanshan is projected to become the first Chinese world number one next week when the latest Rolex World Rankings are released.
The 28-year-old Guangzhou native, a winner in Japan last week, closed with a two-under 70 to beat Thai Moriya Jutanugarn 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. I think it’s special because I won this tournament to become world number one. I finished first in China, so I actually claimed the world number one in front of all the people at home,” said Feng of her historic feat.
Tied with Moriya at nine-under through 12 holes, the 13th hole proved the difference as Feng sank a 20-foot birdie putt while her playing partner missed a 10-foot par putt for a two-shot swing.
Moriya 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 15 and 16 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 capitalise, agonisingly missing an eight-foot par putt that would have deadlocked the score.
The Bangkok native had another chance to draw level and force a play-off at the par-five 18th. But after seeing Feng’s birdie attempt stop two feet short of the hole, Moriya watched in anguish as her five-footer lipped out. Feng duly converted her short par putt to clinch victory.
In accepting her trophy, the bronze medallist at the Rio Olympic Games said she hoped her world number one 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,” she said.
Moriya, the elder sister of world number nine Ariya Jutanugarn, who finished nine strokes off the pace, lamented another missed opportunity 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. Shanshan is a great player, and I’m 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.
Korean Park Sung-hyun, who became the world number one last Tuesday, closed with an even-par 72 to finish equal third with South African Ashleigh Buhai (73) and Americans Megan Khang (68) and Jessica Korda (71), five strokes back.