DALY CITY, Calif. – Golf needs Shanshan Feng.
The sport needs her “Jenny Money” persona, with her cow-print pants and the best cracks and quips in the women’s game.
The LPGA especially needs her in weeks like this, with so many faces turning grim in the cold wind, and with Lake Merced Golf Club dishing out more bogeys than birdies.
Nobody lightens the mood better than Feng.
“I made three bogeys in a row to finish the round yesterday,” Feng said of Lake Merced’s stern test. “Good thing I only had three holes left. If I had nine holes left, I don’t know what I would have shot.”
Probably something with a story that would entertain her dinner companions.
That’s what Feng does as well as anyone in the game. She entertains with her good humor.
“It can get stressful out here,” fellow Chinese LPGA pro Yu Liu said. “Shanshan is pretty funny and laid back. She’s like our big sister, for all the Chinese players. I know when I get stressed out, it’s nice to have somebody like her pull me out of it.”
Feng pulled herself into contention Friday at the Mediheal Championship, charging up the leaderboard with a 5-under-par 67. She’s in position to make a weekend run at claiming her 10th LPGA title, her first since the Blue Bay LPGA at the end of the 2017 season.
The only lower round than Feng's 67 on Friday was Liu's 66.
Feng, 29, is considered one of the game’s most consistent ball-strikers, and Lake Merced is a ball-striker’s workshop. The scoring average in the first round was 74.08, higher than any round in the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration. Only the third round of the Vic Open (75.73), played in strong winds, has produced a higher scoring average so far this year.
Feng opened the Mediheal Championship with a 73.
“I made some good adjustments,” Feng said. “This is a tight course, and it’s a hilly course, normally with wind. So, I think ball striking is very important. You need to keep the balls in the fairway, to be able to have, maybe, easier second shots. I think my iron game is always one of my strengths.”
Feng broke through to win her first LPGA title at a major, claiming the LPGA Championship in 2012. She was the first Chinese player to win a major.
“She’s an icon to us, just like Se Ri Pak to the South Koreans,” Liu said.
Feng added to her legacy ascending to Rolex world No. 1 at the end of the 2017 season. She held that top spot for 23 consecutive weeks, until April 23 of last year, when Inbee Park regained the top ranking. Now, Feng has slipped to No. 23 in the world with two top 10s in eight starts this year.