Chi­nese women chal­lenge dom­i­nance of South Korea

Feng leads homegrown con­tin­gent’s chal­lenge against top Kore­ans in sea­son-end­ing tour­na­ment

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By QIU QUAN­LIN in Qingyuan, Guang­dong qi­uquan­lin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China’s fe­male golfers took a great leap for­ward over the past year and look closer to end­ing the dom­i­nance of South Korea at the Hyundai China Ladies Open.

The sea­son-end­ing China LPGA Tour event tees off on Fri­day at Lion Lake Coun­try Club in Qingyuan, a one-hour drive from Guangzhou, cap­i­tal of Guang­dong prov­ince.

“There will be a great pres­ence from the Chi­nese side this week; the Kore­ans are al­ways strong, but I think we can put up a great fight against them,” said China No 1 Feng Shan­shan, who won two ti­tles on the US LPGA Tour this sea­son and a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.

Be­sides Feng, the Chi­nese lineup in­cludes US LPGA Tour reg­u­lar Feng Simin, ris­ing stars Shi Yut­ing and Luo Ying and a num­ber of promis­ing debu­tants.

“I have been in great shape since the Rio Olympics, Feng Simin has had some nice fin­ishes on the US LPGA Tour and Shi Yut­ing qual­i­fied for the Ja­pan LPGA Tour,” said the 27-year-old Feng, who skipped the cham­pi­onship the past two years be­cause it clashed with her spon­sor’s Dubai Ladies Mas­ters events.

Feng, a Guan­dong na­tive, last played the tour­na­ment in 2013, when cur­rent world No 7 Jang Ha-na raised the tro­phy.

South Korea has dom­i­nated the $550,000 Hyundai China Ladies Open since its in­cep­tion in 2006. Co-sponsored by the China LPGA Tour and the LPGA of Korea Tour, the tour­na­ment tra­di­tion­ally fea­tures the best play­ers from both na­tions.

Li Hong, CEO of China LPGA Tour Ltd, said China has made great strides in fe­male golf and is poised to break South Korea’s dom­i­nance in the event.

“A ris­ing num­ber of young Chi­nese play­ers proved their strength in var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions and we hope they might be able to break the jinx in this year’s event,” Li said on Thursday.

Bae Seon-woo, Kim Hae-rym and Kim Min-sun, ranked fifth, sixth and eighth re­spec­tively on the Korean LPGA Tour or­der of merit, pose the big­gest chal­lenges for China’s con­tin­gent.

The strong Korean pres­ence pro­vides in­spi­ra­tion for Jang who, de­spite win­ning three times on the US LPGA Tour in 2016, said she had only re­cently re­turned to form af­ter sev­eral months of strug­gling with her game.

“I def­i­nitely have great con­fi­dence com­ing into this event be­cause I have al­ready won a ti­tle at this course,” the 24-year-old Jang said af­ter Tues­day’s prac­tice round. “But that was three years ago. Hope­fully I can play to my stan­dard and have a good fin­ish.”

Jang gave ku­dos to Feng, who she edged by one stroke to win the Fubon LPGA Tai­wan Cham­pi­onship in Oc­to­ber.

“Feng has played very well re­cently. Hope­fully both of us will en­joy this week and have great shots. The level of com­pe­ti­tion has be­come higher now and ev­ery­one has a chance to win the tour­na­ment,” she said.

There will be a great pres­ence from the Chi­nese side this week; the Kore­ans are al­ways strong, but I think we can put up a great fight against them.” Feng Shan­shan, on the China Ladies Open

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

From left: Jang Ha-na, world No 7, is the high­est-ranked Korean at the China Ladies Open. Other stars in­clude world No 25 Kim Hyo-joo, 2016 KLPGA or­der of merit fifth-placed Bae Seon-woo and two-time China Ladies Open win­ner Kim Hye-youn.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

From left: China’s world No 4 Feng Shan­shan is poised to lead ris­ing stars Feng Simin, Luo Ying and Shi Yut­ing in their quest to break the dom­i­nance of South Korean op­po­nents at the China Ladies Open in Guangzhou, Guang­dong prov­ince.

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