Sunday, August 5, 2012

Meiji Cup Sunday: Is Shanshan Feng the Hottest Golfer on the Planet?

Shanshan Feng was 4 behind Sun-Ju Ahn heading into today's final round of the Meiji Cup, but she made 5 birdies from the 5th through 11th holes and parred in for a bogey-free 67 that got her to -7 and gave her a 1-shot lead on JLPGA legend Yuri Fudoh (who made her only bogey of the day on the 364-yard par-4 16th to settle for a 67 of her own).  Then she could only watch as all the other golfers that had started the day ahead of her failed to match her total--until the final group.  Ahn finished with 5 straight pars after bogeying the 354-yard par-4 13th, while Shinobu Moromizato parred the entire back 9 after opening with a 33.  When neither of them could birdie the 544-yard par-5 18th, we had ourselves a 3-way playoff.

And Feng won the sudden-death playoff in style.  After tying Ahn for 4 straight tries on the par-5 18th (Moromizato had dropped out early in the playoff), Feng hit the green in 2 with a 237-yard 3-wood and sank an eagle putt of over 45 feet.  With that putt, Feng not only gave herself a fantastic birthday present--she turns 23 today--but she also laid claim to the title of hottest golfer on the planet.  With 2 wins on the JLPGA (both playoff victories!), 1 on the LET, and an LPGA major (the Wegmans LPGA Championship) to her name, Feng now has more worldwide wins than anyone else in women's golf in 2012.

More soon!

[Update 1 (10:24 am):  Overshadowed by Feng's amazing victory were strong finishes by Yuki Sakurai, an amateur phenom who's been struggling as a pro, Young Kim, an LPGA transplant who was 15th on the JLPGA money list in 2010, and Na-Ri Kim, another ex-LPGAer who was 11th on the money list in 2010.  Chie Arimura, Bo-Mee Lee, and Mayu Hattori all got top 10s, but given how close they were to the lead through 36 holes, they must be disappointed in their final rounds.  But with Sakura Yokomine and Rikako Morita finishing T22, Ritsuko Ryu T27, Mi-Jeong Jeon T35, and Ji-Hee Lee T48, they still gained ground on their closest rivals on this year's money list.

1. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥79.07M
2. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥58.64M
3. Mayu Hattori ¥53.34M
4. Ritsuko Ryu ¥50.90M
5. Chie Arimura ¥50.82M
6. Miki Saiki ¥49.39M
7. Ji-Hee Lee ¥45.57M
8. Shanshan Feng ¥40.48M
9. Bo-Mee Lee ¥39.38M
10. Sakura Yokomine ¥37.37M
11. Rikako Morita ¥33.40M
12. Inbee Park ¥29.62M
13. Hiromi Mogi ¥29.05M
14. Soo-Yun Kang ¥28.10M
15. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥27.13M
16. Mihoko Iseri ¥26.25M
17. Kaori Ohe ¥22.71M
18. Megumi Kido ¥21.97M
19. Yuri Fudoh ¥21.79M
20. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥21.12M
21. Shinobu Moromizato ¥20.35M
22. Yuki Ichinose ¥19.85M
23. Esther Lee ¥18.36M
24. Erina Hara ¥18.30M
25. Ji-Yai Shin ¥17.78M
26. Ayako Uehara ¥17.06M
27. Airi Saitoh ¥16.37M
28. Yumiko Yoshida ¥16.34M
29. Yukari Baba ¥15.92M
30. Bo-Bae Song ¥15.63M
31. So-Hee Kim ¥15.34M
32. Akane Iijima ¥15.31M
33. Erika Kikuchi ¥14.86M
34. Teresa Lu ¥14.62M
35. Young Kim¥14.46M
36. Rui Kitada ¥14.34M
37. Na-Ri Lee¥13.93M
38. Yeo-Jin Kang ¥13.50M
39. Miki Sakai ¥12.72M
40. Na-Ri Kim ¥12.43M
41. Yuko Fukuda ¥12.19M
42. Harukyo Nomura ¥10.80M
43. Kumiko Kaneda ¥10.57M
44. Da-Ye Na ¥10.03M
45. Eun-Bi Jang ¥9.38M
46. Asako Fujimoto¥8.81M
47. Li-Ying Ye ¥8.59M
48. Natsu Nagai ¥8.58M
49. Junko Omote¥8.36M
50. Nikki Campbell ¥8.07M

Ahn has no time to be disappointed with her playoff loss, as she has a chance next week to match Feng's feat of defending her title when she rolls into the NEC Karuizawa 72 Ladies.  With no Feng, Inbee Park, or Ji-Yai Shin visiting the JLPGA next week--dual members who have taken over 87 million yen away from tour regulars this year--it'll be interesting to see if Ahn, Arimura, and Fudoh can continue their strong play of late, if Jeon, Ryu, Lee, and Morita can bounce back, if ex-LPGAers Kang, Moromizato, Lu, Young Kim, and Na-Ri Kim can make like Feng, and if Shiho Oyama, #103 on the money list in only 2 starts since coming back from injury, can keep on moving up it.

[Update 2 (10:28 am):  Pretty amazing that Feng's win here last year was only her 2nd JLPGA start and that she's now won 4 times in the past 12 months on tour!]

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