What it means: Since claiming the bronze medal in Rio, Feng’s last six LPGA results look like this: fourth, fourth, second, third, first, first. After winning back-to-back starts on the LPGA’s Asian swing, Feng declared two weeks ago after the Toto Japan Classic: “Shanshan’s back!” Feng, who went winless on the LPGA for just over two years, now finds herself in position to win for the third time in four weeks. That said, five of the Rolex Ranking’s top 12 – Ryu, Jang, Kim, Chun and Yang – are all within two shots on a loaded leaderboard.
Round of the day: Feng was bogey-free Thursday, making the turn in 2 under and closing with four more birdies across her final six holes.
Best of the rest: Ryu made six birdies with a single blemish at the par-4 fourth, while Hull was spotless and did most of her damage in a four-hole stretch, circling Nos. 6-9 to go out in 32. Hull, 20, remains in search of her first LPGA win after racking up four top-10s this season, including a runner-up at the ANA Inspiration.
Biggest disappointment: Last week’s winner Carlota Ciganda made four bogeys and a lone birdie to post 3-over 75. Ciganda, who claimed her first LPGA victory at the Hana Bank last month, nearly won this event two years ago, when she lost a playoff to winner Lydia Ko on the fourth extra hole.
Storyline to follow this week: Ko and Jutanugarn will battle this week for the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the LPGA money title and the season-long $1 million jackpot. Ko needs to win this week to win Player of the Year; otherwise, the title is going to Jutanugarn, who leads Ko by $17,305 in earnings and by 126 points in the Race to the CME Globe. Ko got off to a poor start with a double bogey on No. 2 but rallied with four birdies to card 2-under 70. Jutanugarn traded three birdies and three bogeys in an even-par 72.