Feng leads LPGA sea­son fi­nale

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - The As­so­ci­ated Press

Shan­shan Feng was right back on top of an LPGA Tour leader­board Thurs­day, shoot­ing a 6-un­der 66 to take a one-shot lead over So Yeon Ryu and Charley Hull af­ter the first round of the CME Group Tour Cham­pi­onship.

Com­ing off con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries in Malaysia and Japan, Feng is one of nine play­ers who en­tered the sea­son fi­nale with a chance to win the Race to the CME Globe sea­son ti­tle and $1 mil­lion bonus. The Chi­nese star won in 2013 at Tiburon Golf Club.

“Some­how, the course is play­ing longer com­pared to three years ago,” Feng said. “I don’t know, maybe be­cause I’m get­ting older I’m hit­ting shorter.”

Ha Na Jang, Sei Young Kim, In Gee Chun, Amy Yang, Lizette Salas, Beatriz Re­cari, Ryann O’Toole and Mo Martin all shot 68.

Top-ranked Ly­dia Ko had a 70. She needs a win this week to se­cure player of the year hon­ors,

Ariya Ju­tanu­garn and Brooke Henderson, who like Ko are guar­an­teed the points crown if they pre­vail this week, each shot 72.

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 fourth-place tie, was sec­ond in Tai­wan and tied for third in South Korea be­fore win­ning in Malaysia and Japan. She took last week off, prac­tic­ing only three days in Or­lando.

“I think af­ter the Asian wave, we’re just so tired. I think I needed the rest,” Feng said. “I feel ac­tu­ally pretty fresh com­ing into this week . ... I’ve been play­ing well, so just wanted to keep up with the good play­ing.”

Feng birdied four of the last six holes — the par-4 13th, par-5 14th, par-3 16th and par-5 17th — in her bo­gey-free round. She made a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-5 first hole and also birdied the par-3 eighth.

Ryu won the last of her three LPGA Tour ti­tles in 2014.

“What I learned through this year, hav­ing like swing change this year, some­times I just think about swing too much,” Ryu said. “So what I learned through that is I just rather more fo­cus to like imag­i­na­tion. Just keep imag­ine how the ball is go­ing to fly and what shot I am go­ing to hit in­stead of where is my hand go­ing to be, my wrist.”

Hull birdied the fi­nal four holes on the front nine and also birdied the 14th. She also was off last week af­ter be­ing de­layed get­ting out of Japan.

“I was only home for four days,” the 20-year-old English player said. “I didn’t touch a golf club. Hung out with my friends. I think I only touched a golf club once or twice last week.”

Car­lota Ci­ganda had a 75. She won her first LPGA Tour ti­tle last month in South Korea and won the event in Mex­ico City on Sunday.

Ko and Ju­tanu­garn are fight­ing for the big yearend hon­ors.

Only a win would be enough to give Ko her sec­ond straight player-of-theyear award; any other re­sult, and that ti­tle goes to Ju­tanu­garn. They came in sep­a­rated by $17,305 in the money stand­ings, and Ko (69.611) en­ters with a mi­nus­cule edge over Chun (69.632) for the Vare Tro­phy pre­sented to the player with the low­est scor­ing av­er­age.

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