Feng ends her season with a (cannon) bang
NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Shanshan Feng of China set a goal to win twice on the LPGA Tour in one season, which she accomplished in her final four starts of the year.
The two wins could not have been any more different.
Her first win was before a hometown crowd in Beijing and required no small amount of luck. Trailing most of the day, she hit a shot on the final hole that she figured was in the water. It barely cleared the hazard, took a weird and wild hop out of the rough, was running fast across the green and struck the pin to settle tap-in distance away for an eagle and a one-shot win over Stacy Lewis.
“I think it was magic,” she said.
Sunday at the LPGA Titleholders was sheer skill.
Starting the final round two shots behind and never thinking it was her tournament to win, the 24-year-old Feng ran off four birdies in six holes to take the lead, missed three birdie putts inside 6 feet that could have put it away, and then held off Gerina Piller with two birdies over the final four holes at Tiburon Golf Club.
Feng closed with a 6-under 66 for a one-shot win over Piller to claim $700,000, the richest prize in women’s golf.
“I actually didn’t think I was going to achieve my goal, but I made it at the last minute at the last tournament in Florida, so I’m really, really happy,” Feng said.
The only trouble she faced was figuring out how to light the cannon that signaled the end of the LPGA Tour season. Feng was given that duty as the winner of the CME Group Titleholders, and once she was shown how, she was shocked at how quickly she heard the boom.
Feng wasn’t the only winner this week along the gulf shores of Florida. Here were the five biggest winners:
FLAWLESS FENG: Feng played the final 31 holes without a bogey to make up ground on a strong leaderboard that included some of the best in women’s golf. She only needed three holes to take the lead, and she came up with two big shots down the stretch. Her 7-iron into the 15th stopped 8 feet away for a birdie to give her a two-shot lead, and then she hit a touch pitch behind the green on the par-5 17th that set up a tap-in birdie.
Those were important, because Piller made birdie on both in the group behind Feng to stay within range.
Feng only wanted to get to 15-under 273, win or lose, and it turned out to be a winner. She is expected to go to No. 4 in the world ranking, and her $700,000 check allowed her to finish the season at No. 4 on the money list.
AMERICAN GIRL: Lewis shot a 63 on Saturday that all but wrapped up the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average. She was in position Sunday to win the tournament until a bogey on the front nine that slowed her momentum, and Lewis never got it back.
Even so, she closed with a 71 to tie for sixth and became the first American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to win the Vare Trophy.
“As Americans, we hear about that all the time — it’s been 18 years or it’s been 20 years or whatever it is,” Lewis said. “I’m just glad to have that kind of checked off the list. We’ve got to get American golf on the map. That’s been the goal and I’m just fortunate I’ve been playing good golf.”
INBEE PARK: Inbee Park closed with a 68 to finish fifth, but she was a winner all week. Park, who won three straight majors among her six wins this year, clinched the LPGA player of the year last week in Mexico. On Friday night at the Ritz-Carlton, she delivered one of the most moving acceptance speeches, including this line, “As soon as happiness became my goal, I achieved more things than ever.”
Park wound up winning the LPGA Tour money title for the second straight year, both times going over $2 million
PILLER’S BEST: Piller just bought a house in Texas and figured the $700,000 would go a long way toward paying that off. She came close. With birdies on the 15th and 17th holes, she stayed within one shot of Feng and at least gave herself a shot at a playoff on the 18th. From behind a small native bush, the wind at her back, she hit 7-iron from 162 yards from 10 feet and narrowly missed the putt. It didn’t go in, but the stroke was not tentative.
Piller finished the year by playing in her first Solheim Cup team, and her runner-up finish at the Titleholders was the best of her career.
LOOKING AHEAD: One of the highlights of the season-ending event was the announcement of the 2014 schedule. In previous years, the schedule was so tenuous that it wasn’t announced until January. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan and his staff put together a 32-event schedule, up nine tournaments from two years ago.
The LPGA returns at the end of January in The Bahamas.