Exactly how much did the Olympic Games inspire bronze medalist Shanshan Feng? She hasn’t finished outside the the top four in all six starts since Rio de Janeiro. And for the first time in her career, the Chinese pioneer has gone back to back on the LPGA, claiming titles in Malaysia and Japan the past two two weeks.
Feng edged South Korean spark plug Ha Na Jang by one stroke at the Toto Japan Classic, converting a testy putt for double bogey on the final hole. The delightfully funny Feng birdied Nos. 9-10 to take control of the contest and closed with a 2-under 70 to finish at 13-under 203.
With so many Chinese watching golf for the first time at the Olympics, Feng knew it was important to smile no matter her results. That mindset, she said, brought out her “A” game again.
“I really got my confidence back after that,” said Feng. “I know I’m still Shanshan, and I still can win.”
Feng’s victory in Malaysia last week ended a two-year drought on the LPGA. She now has won six times on tour, including a major championship. The new plan, she said, is to compete for another four years so that she can give the gold medal a shot in 2020 when the Olympics are held in Japan.
“I still have space to actually go up,” said Feng, 27, of her potential.
Feng is projected to move to No. 6 in the Rolex Rankings and sixth on the LPGA money list.
Jang, a three-time winner this season, was quite pleased with her consistent play. She recorded three consecutive 68s, and birdied two of the last three holes on Sunday. When asked if the close call still warranted a dance, Jang didn’t disappoint.
“You want some?” she asked the television reporter. “I show you a little bit.”
Japanese fans were certainly taken with Jang, bringing her chocolates and hand cream after the round.
Feng’s love of Japanese food is well-documented. Part of her motivation entering the week was to make back the money she spent in Japan celebrating her Malaysia victory.
Like so many top players, Feng will skip next week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational and instead fly directly to Orlando, Fla., on Monday to meet with instructor Gary Gilchrist. It’s then an easy drive down to Naples for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, which she won in 2013.
But first, there’s dinner.
“It’s a tough decision,” she said, “because there are so many things that I want to eat.”