Monday, June 11, 2012

Wegmans LPGA Championship Sunday: Shanshan Feng Makes History

Shanshan Feng fired a bogey-free 67, the low round of the week, to take control of the Wegmans LPGA Championship at -6 and secure a 2-shot victory over Stacy Lewis, Suzann Pettersen, Mika Miyazato, and 3rd-round leader Eun-Hee Ji

Feng had hit 16 of 17 greens on Sunday when she arrived at the 18th 2 shots ahead of Miyazato, the leader in the clubhouse, who birdied 3 of her last 5 holes to post a 69, but the 22-year-old Chinese phenom, who's already won this year on the LET and JLPGA, missed the green long on the toughest hole at Locust Hill.  She calmly chipped to 2 feet and sank the par putt to force Pettersen, Lewis, and Ji to perform miracles to force a playoff.  Pettersen, who had gotten to -5 for the week with a birdie on the par-3 5th and again on the par-5 8th (her 4th birdie in her 1st 8 holes), and had stayed there through the 12th, dug herself a hole when she bogeyed 13 and 14 and could only birdie 17 coming home.  Lewis also had bogeyed consecutive holes on the back--the 10th and 11th--to drop to -1 for the week, and made a similar charge as Miyazato, with 3 birdies in her last 7 holes, but it was too little, too late.  Ji had also fallen off the pace with 3 bogeys between the 9th and 11th and needed 3 birdies in her last 6 holes to join the big group at -4.  Feng also benefited from the late struggles of a suddenly-incandescent Gerina Piller, who birdied 7 of her 1st 16 holes Sunday to leap to -5 for the week, but doubled the eagle-able par-5 17th (a hole she had eagled Saturday!) and had to settle for a tie for 6th at -3 with Ai Miyazato (who fired a bogey-free 68, matched only Hee Young Park, whose round included 7 birdies, just like Piller) and Karrie Webb (who had a roller-coaster 72, with 5 birdies and 5 bogeys scattered throughout her round).

This was a good week for dual LPGA-JLPGA members, as Feng won, Mikan was T2, Ai-sama was T6, Inbee Park was T9 (after a roller-coaster 72 that included an eagle, 2 birdies, 2 bogeys, and a double), and Harukyo Nomura was T36 and finished ahead of world #1 Ya Ni Tseng (who opened her final round with 2 birdies in her 1st 3 holes while onechan and I were watching her but fizzled to a 76 that left her 32 strokes off the pace she set last year).  It was also a good week for Americans, as Lewis kept right on rolling along, Piller came out of nowhere to almost win, Paula Creamer hit the ball great (although she couldn't buy a putt on Sunday!), Cristie Kerr regained her putting touch (it's a good thing she scrambled her way to 107 putts for the week, as it seemed she hardly ever found the fairway yesterday!), Mina Harigae rode a Sunday 69 to T15, Nicole Castrale went 70-70 over the weekend to secure her 1st top 20 in ages, and Jennifer Johnson hung on in the intense heat and humidity to join her at T19 (Lexi Thompson would have joined the club but she finished double-double, as would Lizette Salas had she not gone +4 in her final 6 holes--in contrast to Mo Martin, who bounced back from 77s on Friday and Saturday with a bogey-free 69 Sunday).

It was also a good day for onechan and imoto!  Onechan walked a few holes with Ya Ni Tseng in the morning and after lunch walked the entire course with Paula and Cristie.  Not only did she get several waves, acknowledging looks, "hi"s, and "thank you"s from Paula sprinkled through the round, but Creamer also signed her hat after the round and gave her little sister a golf ball as she walked up to the 8th tee (imoto also was given a ball by Cristie's caddie as they approached Jefferson Road after finishing the 10th, prompting about a 45-minute quiet jealousy jag from onechan).  The girls also got autographs and pictures with Ai Miyazato, golf balls and autographs from Mika Miyazato, and a little time (and a couple of balls) in the middle of the day from Hannah Yun (who was working hard on her game after missing the cut).  To top it off, they ended up eating in the same restaurant at the end of the day as Mika Miyazato and what seemed like the entire Japanese media contingent in Rochester!

But back to the only other person who had a better day than the girls to close out this post.  Feng's win makes her the 1st Chinese winner and the 1st Chinese major champion in LPGA history.  She joins Hisako Higuchi, Se Ri Pak, and Ya Ni Tseng as the only Asian winners of the LPGA Championship in its long history.  She and Ya Ni Tseng are the only 3-time winners in big-time professional women's golf in 2012.  She's projected to move into the top 5 (at least) on the LPGA money list, Player of the Year race, and Rolex Rankings tomorrow.  Impressive!

[Update 1 (12:59 am): Here's bangkokbobby on Feng's record-setting win!]

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