Feng Shanshan fires a 66 to triumph at Titleholders

AFP, NAPLES, Florida

Tue, Nov 26, 2013 - Page 19

China’s Feng Shanshan carded a bogey-free six-under 66 on Sunday to win the season-ending US$2 million LPGA Titleholders by one stroke and capture her third career LPGA Tour crown.

World No. 7 Feng, who began the day two strokes behind a trio of joint leaders, birdied the 15th and 17th holes to hold off Gerina Piller of the US and capture the LPGA’s biggest top prize of US$700,000 with a 72-hole total of 15-under 273.

“I never thought I was going to win, even though I was only two behind,” Feng said. “All the people in the last two groups were strong competitors. I set a goal to finish 15-under-par and that’s what I was able to do. I’m really happy I’m at 15-under and I finally won.”

Feng, who became the first woman from China to win a major title when she captured last year’s LPGA Championship, took her second triumph of the season, having also won last month’s Reignwood Classic near Beijing.

“I set a goal early this year to win twice on the LPGA Tour this year,” Feng said. “I hadn’t won at all until I went to China. I left it to the last minute, but I did it. I’m really happy. It means I can take a little more time off in the off-season I guess.”

Piller fired a 69, but settled for second on 274, one stroke ahead of Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum, who finished with a final-round 70.

It was Piller’s best LPGA finish, having never cracked the top four previously, and her eighth top 10 showing of the season.

“To come out and grind like I did, and give myself an opportunity to force a playoff, I’m pretty excited about that,” Piller said.

Germany’s Sandra Gal was fourth on 276, with South Koreans Inbee Park fifth on 277 and Yoo Sun-young sharing sixth on 278 alongside Americans Cristie Kerr and Stacy Lewis.

Taiwan’s Candie Kung shot a 70 to finish tied for 39th place on two-over 290.

Feng, 24, made an early charge with birdies on four of her first six holes to seize the lead at 13-under. She birdied the par-five first and sixth holes, and had back-to-back birdies at the third and fourth holes.

Pornanong and Americans Natalie Gulbis and Piller began the final round as joint leaders, two strokes ahead of a group that included Feng.

Gulbis made bogeys on four of the first eight holes and faded quickly, while Pornanong opened with a birdie, but took a bogey at four and followed a birdie at the sixth with back-to-back bogeys to close the front nine.

Piller went bogey-birdie at the second and third holes, and birdie-bogey at six and seven, but made birdies at 13 and 15 to keep the pressure on Feng over the final holes.

Feng made a six-foot par putt at the 13th to stay on top, then missed a six-foot birdie putt at 14, but followed with birdies at 15 and 17 to reach 15-under.

Piller and Pornanong each made five-foot birdie putts at the 17th, pushing Piller to 14-under and Pornanong to 13-under to stay on Feng’s heels.

Feng tapped in for par at 18 and watched her last rivals make their final shots.

Pornanong went over the green on her approach to end her chances, while Piller missed a 10-foot birdie putt that clinched Feng’s victory.

New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, playing her first event as a professional after four wins as an amateur, fired a 70 to finish on 284 in a share of 21st place.

Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn captured LPGA Rookie of the Year honors, sharing 33rd on 288 to edge Germany’s Caroline Masson by 480-479 in the rookie points race.

Additional reporting by staff writer