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Feng aims for Shandong turnaround
Last Updated: 2018-07-06 14:43 | Xinhua
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China's Feng Shanshan said Thursday she was happy to be back on home soil this week as hopefully it would mark the start of a strong second half of the year for the former world No. 1.

Speaking in Shandong ahead of the start of tomorrow's Asiana Airlines Open, a co-sponsored event between the China and Korean LPGA Tours, the 28-year-old Feng, now ranked world No. 6, dismissed any talk of a slump in her game.

After winning three times worldwide last year to become the first Chinese to top the Rolex World Rankings she is winless this year. The Guangdong native comes into Weihai Point Golf Resort fresh off an equal 18th finish at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in Illinois, a major where she was never in contention.

“In the first half of year I had some nice top-10 finishes but I won nothing,” said Feng. “From my perspective, the field on the US LPGA Tour is deeper than a couple of years ago. Now you must get under par to make a cut, everyone is great. You must play your best to be in contention.”

After finishing equal fourth in Weihai last year, following runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2016, Feng will have to be at her best this week if she going to contend against a strong group of South Koreans and Thais in the 78-player no-cut field.

“For the past few years I was just one or two shots behind but in a tense golf tournament one or two shots are a big difference. The only thing I can do is to learn from the past. This golf course is a great challenge especially on windy days. You cannot control how other players do and just need to do your best.”

Feng, a winner of 21 tournaments worldwide including the 2012 Women's PGA Championship, admitted that holding the world No. 1 ranking had put added pressure on her. She said her goal this year was to win another major and added that current world No. 1 Inbee Park was able to regain the top ranking as the South Korean was playing better than everyone else.

“Everyone thinks the No. 1 ranked player should win every event she enters. It could not be like that. We all are human. We all had ups and downs. You could injure yourself and feel bad about your body. You can play great on some golf courses but not on other courses. You couldn't dominate forever. This definitely shows that I am an average person as everyone out there.”

With the prize money for the Asian Airlines Open increased to 700 million won (RMB4.15 million) this year, Feng will have to be above average this week against a a strong field in the 54-hole tournament.

Shi Yuting, winner of the Le Coq Sportif Beijing Ladies Classic in May, and Sui Xiang, number four on CLPGA Tour Order of Merit, will help Feng bolster the domestic charge. They are joined by money leader Saranporn Langkulgasettrin, a winner of five CLPGA Tour events over the past two seasons, who heads a 15-strong group of Thais.

All of the CLPGA Tour regulars face a monumental task in overcoming the South Koreans who have dominated the tournament since its 2013 debut.

This year's South Korean juggernaut includes eight of the top-10 money leaders on the KLPGA Tour, as well as defending champion Park Bo-mi who won in 2017 when she beat compatriot Lee Ji-hoo in a first-hole playoff.

Choi Hye-jin, the world No. 11, is the highest-ranked South Korean in the field. The Busan teenager sits second on the KLPGA Tour money list this season on the strength of two titles, including her win at last month's BC Card-Kankyung Ladies Cup.

“This is my first full season on the KLPGA Tour. I am so satisfied with two incredible wins but you cannot rest on your laurels, you need to keep stepping on the gas,” said the 18-year-old Choi.

“My priority is rookie-of-the-year since it's my only chance to do it. I will make all efforts to do more than what I had now. I believe I can also have other awards (such as money list winner and player-of-the-year) at the end of the year if I achieved it.

“This is my first year here. I heard a lot about this course. Everyone said the fairways were a great challenge, which made me shiver. No matter what other top players do I just want to adjust myself to this golf course as soon as possible and play to the best standard I had. My ball-striking is solid. I believe the third win is possible with a hotter putter.”

Others top South Koreans teeing it up in Weihai include veteran Oh Ji-hyun, the current KLPGA Tour money leader, Lee Jeong-eun, the world No. 29 who won four times last season, and Jang Ha-na, the four-time winner on the US LPGA Tour who memorably rescinded her playing card stateside last year to play at home full time. This year, she sits third on the KLPGA Tour money list with two wins.

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