Feng win could inspire Chinese girls

By Randall MellJune 11, 2012, 1:54 am

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Ten years from now, we may be talking about “Shanshan’s kids.”

We may be talking about a wave of talented young Chinese players winning LPGA events the way we now talk about “Se Ri’s kids” and how Pak ignited an explosion in women’s golf in South Korea when she won the 1998 LPGA Championship and U.S. Women's Open.

That’s how large Shanshan Feng’s breakthrough at the Wegmans LPGA Championship could be.

With a 5-under-par 67 Sunday, the best round of the entire championship, Feng didn’t just become the first player from mainland China to win an LPGA event. She became the first man or woman from there to win a major championship in golf. She may have helped hyper-accelerate a fledgling game there with all kinds of crazy potential.

“I would say if the Koreans can do it, China can do it,” Feng said. “I think in the future, China will be one of the strongest countries in golf.”

Feng’s parents have faith, too.

“My parents tell me all Asians are good at controlling small things,” Feng said.

Video: Feng makes history for China

Photos: Best shots from tournament week

Feng holds off Pettersen to win Wegmans

Feng, 22, was the best of the best Sunday at Locust Hill Country Club, which was almost claustrophobic in its narrow, confining setup. Control was everything in the final round, and nobody controlled her golf ball like Feng.

Almost mistake free Sunday, Feng put up one of only three bogey-free rounds in the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

“Shanshan’s ball striking has been unbelievable for at least a year now,” said Gary Gilchrist, her coach.

Steady and sure, Feng kept creeping up the leaderboard through the final round. Three back at day’s start, she moved into a tie for the lead with a birdie at the 12th. She took sole possession of the lead making pars with challengers falling away as Locust Hill tightened its squeeze on the back nine.

Five players had shares of the lead Sunday.

Feng emerged from a pack of contenders that included major champions Karrie Webb, Suzann Pettersen, Eun-Hee Ji and Stacy Lewis.

With a birdie at the 17th, Feng built a two-shot lead that stood up at the end.

“I still can’t believe it,” Feng said with the championship trophy at her side afterward.

China is the largest nation in the world. There are 1.3 billion living there. Now there's one major champion there.

With the victory, Feng will vault to No. 5 in the Rolex World Golf Rankings. She began the week No. 10, one of just two Chinese women among the top 400 in the world.

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“I’m the first,” Feng said of her major championship title. “I’m sure there will be a second and third and more. I do want to be a model where all the juniors are trying to beat my stats.”

Feng began playing in China when she was 10 at the urging of her father, Feng Xiong, who worked with a local golf association. Feng won the China Junior Championship, the China Junior Open and three times won the China Women’s Amateur. She ran into Tseng in larger junior events.

“It was hard on Shanshan growing up,” Gilchrist said. “She was always compared to Yani Tseng, but she persevered. I think perseverance is her strength.”

At 17, Feng gained an golf academy scholarship to the United States, where she trained under Gilchrist on Hilton Head Island. Gilchrist caddied for her a year later at Q-School when she became the first Chinese player to earn LPGA membership. She would go on to win three times on the Japan LPGA Tour and once on the Ladies European Tour.

“I’ve always been chasing Yani,” Feng said. “I’m still chasing her.”

On Sunday, Feng finally passed Tseng on a grand stage.

Feng’s victory, combined with the Olympic movement, is expected to light a fire for the game in China.

“Golf has never been a major sport in China because it’s never been an Olympic sport,” Gilchrist said. “China sports are all about the Olympics, so a lot more people are excited about golf now.”

And excited about Feng.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.