Shanshan Feng posted a final-round 4-under-par 68 on Sunday to capture her second straight TOTO Japan Classic title.
Feng, 28, becomes the season’s first player to successfully defend a 2016 LPGA title, and the eighth player this year with multiple victories.
“That was my goal, before I started the week, to defend my title. My caddie told me: ‘This week, you’re going to be first. Two weeks ago, you finished third. Last week, you finished second, so you know what comes after that… first.’ I was like, OK, let’s go for it,” said Feng. “Here I am, and I’m really happy.”
Feng got off to a sluggish start on Sunday, bogeying two of the first three holes at Taiheiyo Club’s Minori Course.
But the Chinese star settled down nicely, and went bogey free over her final 15 holes, highlighted by five birdies to finish at 19 under, two shots clear of runner-up Ai Suzuki.
“Her ball striking is so good. She left herself so many birdie chances and I was freaked out,” Feng said of Suzuki. “Before I started the round, I told myself to not look at the other scores and just go to 21-under par. I played very well. I’m very honored and happy to play well in Asia, as an Asian.”
Afterwards, she joked, “Can we just keep playing here? Can we move the CME Group Tour Championship here? Can we move the U.S. Open here? Can we move everything over to Asia? As an Asian, I’m very honored and happy to play well in Asia. I love coming back to see all the fans, and of course all the Asian food and culture. I’m really happy.”
Suzuki (68) finished solo second at 17 under, but made a valiant effort down the stretch.
The young Japanese star found herself down three after 13 holes, but caught fire with birdies on 14, 16 and 17 to cut the lead to just one shot, heading to No. 18.
A par by Feng, coupled with a Suzuki bogey, ended the drama, but the appreciative Japanese golf fans stood on their feet for both the champ and the hometown hero.
“It was good three days, that I was able to keep my motivation high. Shanshan made some good putt, where she has to make. But I never gave up until the last hole,” said Suzuki. “Mentally and technically I really learned lots this week. I need more putting practice for three more tournament that I am going to play here in Japan.”
Anna Nordqvist fired a 6-under-par 66, highlighted by a hole-in-one on the par-3 3rd, to finish solo third at 15 under. Along with her two victories in 2017, this marks the Swede’s sixth top-10 finish.
Lizette Salas signed for a 4-under 68 and finished alone in fourth at 13 under. The suddenly-hot American now has four top-5 results in her last five starts.
A group of seven golfers finished at 12 under par and T5, headlined by former No. 1 Lydia Ko, who recorded her fourth top-5 in her last seven events.
FENG’S FINAL-ROUND SCORECARD
FINAL TOP 10
1 Shanshan Feng -19
2 Ai Suzuki -17
3 Anna Nordqvist -15
4 Lizette Salas -13
5 Mi Hyang Lee -12
5 Moriya Jutanugarn -12
5 Sarah Jane Smith -12
5 Minjee Lee -12
5 Mamiko Higa -12
5 Lydia Ko -12
5 Ayaka Watanabe -12
WIRE TO WIRE FOR FENG
- Round 1: 66 (-6), T1
- Round 2: 63 (-15), 1
- Round 3: 68 (-19), 1
COVERAGE: OPENING ROUNDS
- Round 1: Suzuki Leads Logjam of Players Tied in Japan
- Round 2: TOTO Japan Classic: Feng Takes Two-Shot Lead
FINAL ROUND HIGHLIGHTS
— #CMEFinalStretch ? (@LPGA) November 5, 2017
QUOTABLE: TOTO JAPAN CLASSIC
“In my heart, I was trying to win this week. And I’ve done it.”
–Shanshan Feng, 2016 & 2017 TOTO Japan Classic Champion
FINAL SCORES: TOTO JAPAN CLASSIC
|5||Sarah Jane Smith||-12|
|5||Mi Hyang Lee||-12|
|12||Sei Young Kim||-11|
|15||In Gee Chun||-10|
|28||Jeong Eun Lee||-8|
|33||Jodi Ewart Shadoff||-7|
|33||So Yeon Ryu||-7|
|42||Brooke M. Henderson||-6|
|64||Hyo Joo Kim||-2|
|72||Mi Jung Hur||3|
Credit: LPGA Communications, Getty Images