Shan­shan Feng wins Ja­pan Clas­sic for sec­ond straight vic­tory

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

IBARAKI: Shan­shan Feng needed ev­ery bit of the three-stroke lead she took to fi­nal hole yes­ter­day at chilly Tai­heiyo Club to fin­ish off her sec­ond straight LPGA Tour vic­tory.

The 27-year-old Chi­nese star closed with a dou­ble-bo­gey 6 to beat Ha Na Jang by a stroke in the TOTO Ja­pan Clas­sic, the last of six straight events in Asia. Feng closed with a 2-un­der 70 for a 13-un­der 203 to­tal, the dou­ble bo­gey her only dropped shots since the fourth hole Fri­day.

She knew she had a three-stroke lead af­ter birdieing the par-5 17th, not that she wanted to know. “I have a habit where I don’t look at leader­boards when I play, but I ac­ci­den­tally saw the board when I was on the 17th green,” said Feng, the win­ner last week in steamy Malaysia. She drove to the left and needed two more shots to reach the green. “I thought easy two-putt, but the first putt, I just hit it way too hard,” Feng said. “The sec­ond putt, I missed and left my­self a 3footer and said, ‘It’s time to make this putt.’ I didn’t want to lose by mak­ing a triple bo­gey on the last.”

The putt - re­ally only about half the length that Feng re­counted - fell for her sixth LPGA Tour vic­tory. Pro­jected to jump from eighth to sixth in the world rank­ing, Feng has fin­ished no worse than a tie for fourth in her last seven events. She started the run with the Olympic bronze medal in Rio, tied for fourth at Evian in France, opened the Asia trip at home in China with a fourth­place tie, was sec­ond be­hind Jang in Tai­wan and tied for third in South Korea.

“Com­ing into this week I had a lot of con­fi­dence and I’m feel­ing re­ally com­fort­able,” Feng said. “I knew that I would have a chance be­cause I’ve al­ways liked the Ja­panese cour­ses that I’ve played and I’ve played well in Ja­pan.”

She broke through at Tai­heiyo af­ter los­ing a play­off to Momoko Ueda in the 2011 event at Kin­tetsu Kashiko­jima, the tour­na­ment venue from 2006 to last year. Play­ing two groups ahead of Feng, Jang birdied 16 and 17 in her third 68. The South Korean player has three vic­to­ries this year, beat­ing Feng by a stroke in Tai­wan.

“Ev­ery day, I had strong front nine, but was a lit­tle tired on the back nine,” Jang said. “Just tried to be pa­tient ev­ery hole. My tar­get was 12-un­der par this week and I hit my tar­get per­fect.”

A stroke ahead af­ter par­ring the first eight holes, Feng birdied the next three to open a four-shot lead. She made putts from 8 feet on the par-5 ninth, 25 feet on the par-4 10th and 6 feet on the par-4 11th. “I wasn’t ac­tu­ally strik­ing the ball very well and then I didn’t give my­self many birdie chances,” Feng said. “Put­ting was OK and then af­ter the eighth hole I said to the oth­ers in my group, ‘We are the last group, so we need to start mak­ing birdies.’ Then, the ninth hole I had a very good chance and made it and then 10th and 11th were great birdies.”

She earned $225,000, giv­ing her $1,062,204 in her last six tour starts. She’s sixth on the money list with $1,416,301 af­ter mak­ing $354,097 in her first 15 events. Feng shot a tour­na­mentbest 64 on Satur­day to take one-stroke lead over sec­ond-ranked Ariya Ju­tanu­garn into the fi­nal round.

Ju­tanu­garn missed a chance to wrap up the LPGA Tour player of the year award with a vic­tory, shoot­ing a 74 to drop into a tie for 10th at 8 un­der. The Thai star leads the tour with five vic­to­ries and also tops the money list. “To­day was just not a good day,” Ju­tanu­garn said. “I missed some tee shots and my put­ting was so bad.”

The top-ranked Ly­dia Ko, 14 points be­hind Ju­tanu­garn in the player of the year race, had a 69 to tie for 43rd at 2 un­der. Ko and Ju­tanu­garn are skip­ping the Lorena Ochoa In­vi­ta­tional in Mex­ico and will close the sea­son in two weeks in Florida at the CME Group Tour Cham­pi­onship.

Ja­pan’s Ko­tone Hori (68) tied for third at 10 un­der with de­fend­ing cham­pion Sun-Ju Ahn (70), So Yeon Ryu (68) and Soo-Yun Kang (71). Suzann Pet­tersen had a 72 in the fi­nal group to fin­ish at 9 un­der.

Lexi Thomp­son shot a 68 to tie for 14th at 7 un­der. U.S. Sol­heim Cup team­mate Stacy Lewis tied for 31st at 4 un­der af­ter a 72. The 2012 cham­pion is win­less in 62 starts since June 2014.

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