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Tour in Korea for LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship
October 15, 2014

Aiming for three: Shanshan Feng knew she needed to make moves to achieve her goal of earning three wins this season. And after leaving the heavy expectations of defending her title and poor performance in her home country of China two weeks ago, Feng felt at ease in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“I think it’s one of the reasons why I did so bad in Beijing,” said Feng. “Well, I played really bad that week, so I know going into Malaysia, I didn’t have any pressure. My goal was Top 10. So I did better than Top 10. I had no pressure, like even the last day, the last few holes, I was so relaxed. I don’t know why but I was so relaxed. I enjoyed it.”

Feng has made it public knowledge that she would consider the 2014 season a success if she added three more wins to her first three on Tour. But time was running out and she had to deliver. Feng’s last win came at the season-ending CME Group Titleholders a year ago and felt it was time to get back in the winner’s circle.

“Well, of course I was really happy, because you know, since the last win, it’s been almost a year, and my goal was to win three times this year,” said Feng. “And when I had five to go, I had no win. I actually had an interview early in Malaysia and they asked me about it, and I was like, well, if I want to achieve my goal, I have to make something happen. So I got 1 down and four to go tournaments.”

Feng seems relaxed heading into the third leg of the Asian swing in Korea but has not played well at SKY 72 Golf Club in her first three appearances at the event. Her past finishes include T39 (2012), T13 (2011) and T38 (2008). But it seems like when she’s not expecting much is just when she delivers.

“I mean, kind of took it easy Monday and Tuesday on the back nine. Went shopping and went to the city yesterday,” said Feng. “The thing is I’ve never played well in Korea before, never Top 10. So I have no pressure at all.”

Eyeing the $1 million prize: With her victory in Malaysia, Shanshan Feng jumped four spots from No. 9 to No. 5 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings putting her in an elite group, trailing only No. 1 Stacy Lewis, No. 2 Inbee Park, No. 3 Lydia Ko and No. 4 Suzann Pettersen. It’s high status that any player would cherish but it’s not the ranking that Feng has her eye on. She’s more concerned with securing her spot for the 2016 Olympics in Rio and giving herself a chance to win the inaugural Race to the CME Globe.

“I’m not thinking about the World Ranking,” said Feng. “All I need to make sure is I can play the Olympics. But then actually I’m more curious about the CME, the Race to the CME Globe, because I was never in Top 10 I think the whole year. I was out of Top 10 and then now I’m in top nine.”

Feng earned 500 points in the Race to the CME Globe and put herself inside the top-9 for the first time all season. She moved from 14th to 8th in the standings. The top-9 players in points after the Lorena Ochoa Invitational will have a mathematical chance at winning the $1 million prize given out on Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship. And Feng just so happens to be defending her third LPGA title at Tiburon Golf Club that week.

“I know that I like the course last year, so I’m really looking forward to it,” said Feng.

Below are the current top-10 standings in the Race to the CME Globe after the Sime Darby Malaysia:

Rank Last Wk  Player Events Points Wins Points Behind
1 Lewis, Stacy* 24 4483 3 0
2 2 Park, Inbee 19 3277 2 1206
3 3 Ko, Lydia 21 2991 2 1492
4 4 Wie, Michelle 16 2588  2 1895
5 5 Nordqvist, Anna 21 2375 2 2108
6 6 Ryu, So Yeon 21 2371 1 2112
7 Webb, Karrie* 17 2146 2 2337
8 14 Feng, Shanshan 19 2122 1 2361
9 9 Munoz, Azahara 22 1972 0 2511
10 13 Choi, Chella 26  1956  0 2527
*Not in the field this week

Lewis' absence opens the door: Stacy Lewis hates taking time off, but the No. 1 ranked player in the world hit a point that she needed a break. Lewis has played in 24 of the 26 events so far this season and hasn’t missed a cut in 68 consecutive tournaments (not considering her WD from the 2013 CN Canadian Women’s Open). Chella Choi is the only player on Tour to have played more rounds in 2014 than Lewis, who will be missing this week’s KEB-HanaBank Championship and next week in China at the Blue Bay LPGA.

With the fight for No. 1 heating up at this point in the season, Lewis’ absence creates a great opportunity for both No. 2 Inbee Park and No. 3 Lydia Ko. Fresh off her wedding in Seoul on Monday, Park may just be planning quite the honeymoon this week to reclaim the top spot in front of her home country.

Here are the scenarios:

A three way tie for third or better and Park takes over No. 1 as long as Ko doesn’t win.

Park would go to No. 1 if:
• With a win, she will move to No. 1.
• With a second, as long as Lydia doesn’t win, she will take over No. 1.
• If Inbee finishes in a three way tie for third, she will move to No. 1 as long as Lydia doesn’t win.

Ko would go to No. 1 if:
• She can ONLY go to No. 1 with a win and Park finishing in a three-way tie for 2nd or worse.

Wedding bliss: About a dozen LPGA players traveled to Seoul on Monday to celebrate fellow tour member Inbee Park’s wedding to her fiancé and swing coach, Gi Hyeob Nam. Players were pleased with Park’s scheduling of the ceremony so that they would be able to share the special moment with their friend.

Park had four bridesmaids and in addition to her sister, Inah, her three International Crown teammates, So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi and I.K. Kim rounded out the bridal party.

“It was a very important day and I wanted to take part in the special day for her,” said Ryu. “There was a lot of guests who came to congratulate the happy couple and I really believe that the bride and groom are really good people. And I also believe that they are a couple that actually are better when they are together, so I want to congratulate them once again.”

Park has publicly credited Nam with helping her find happiness both in her game and her life and credits him for her resounding success on Tour the past couple years.

Belen Mozo was one of the Tour players in attendance and said the ceremony nearly brought her and fellow Spaniard Azahara Munoz to tears. Mozo was shocked to see the normally emotionless Park with a tearful reaction during the ceremony.

“They looked really good together, a lot of chemistry, and she cried. Oh my God, that was the most I think she was crying,” said Mozo. “That was the most emotional part when he meets her, he hands the flowers to her and she putts the flower into his jacket and they are holding hands and they vow. And I guess the singer came and started singing in front of them and just the music, it led to like a lot of emotions. I want to say she cried.”
By Korean tradition, the bride throws the bouqet to the next girl to get married and that just happened to be Munoz who is currently engaged to fiancé Tim Vickers.

“And then the funny thing was when the bouquet, the flower traditionally in Korea, they say that the girl that is going to get married the next has to get it. So it was only after standing behind Inbee so Inbee through it to Aza and then Aza grabbed it and posed for a picture in between Inbee and Gi Hyeob.”

Social scene: Morgan Pressel was one of many LPGA to indulge in some local fare in Korea. Korean BBQ is a favorite amongst players during the week of the event.

“Was quite the feast last night at Korean BBQ! #wheninrome #koreanbbq #seoul”

-Morgan Pressel via Instagram (@mpressel)


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