Feng Shanshan won accolades when she returned home after becoming China’s first winner on the LPGA Tour, and now she has returned to Locust Hill to defend her LPGA Championship.
Feng, 23, coming off a runner-up finish in last week’s ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey, was trying to extend a streak of eight consecutive LPGA majors won by Asians in the tournament that began yesterday.
Her LPGA Championship triumph thrust Feng into the spotlight.
She held a news conference at the airport upon her return to China, another one in Beijing and another in her hometown of Guangzhou, and topping her list of “coolest things about being a major champion” was a special awards ceremony in January.
“I was named best non-Olympic athlete in China,” Feng told reporters before the opening round. “I was sitting with so many of the Olympic players in China and I was the first golfer to be nominated. I think the government is paying more attention to golf.”
Feng had seven other top-10 finishes last year. This year, she has posted four top-10s from eight events and feels a switch to different clubs helped her to the runner-up finish last weekend and boosted her confidence.
“My iron shots were really accurate and my short game was pretty good. So I would say the clubs helped a lot,” she said.
Feng showed she could win by charging back from three-shots out to win in her last visit to Locust Hill, firing a final-round 67 for a two-stroke victory.
Despite the attention, world No. 7 Feng said she has a way to go to match the popularity of Taiwan’s Yani Tseng and Ai Miyazato in their home countries.
“Yani’s like a rock star in Taiwan. It’s like Ai Miyazato in Japan,” Feng said. “Me, in China, well, I still can have a hamburger in my hand and a Coke in my hand, and eat on the street and nobody would recognize me, but of course, after we play better and better, of course more and more people will recognize us.”