China’s Shanshan Feng defended an LPGA title for the first time when she secured a two-shot victory at the TOTO Japan Classic on Sunday.
Feng rolled in a 20-foot birdie at the penultimate hole to preserve her lead and made a tap-in par at the last to hold off Japan’s Ai Suzuki at the Taiheiyo Club Minori.
“I’ve played here twice and won twice,” and excited Feng said after carding 68 to finish at 19-under-par 197. Her third round of 63 was the key to victory.
“I shot a very low score yesterday and that really helped me win the tournament today,” Feng said after claiming her eighth LPGA victory, and her second this year on the US-based circuit.
Suzuki (68) had to settle for second place, much to the disappointment of the large gallery enjoying a crisp, cloudless day in the pretty countryside nearly 100 kilometers north-east of Tokyo. Swede Anna Nordqvist (66) was two shots further back in third place.
Feng’s victory was certainly no stroll in the park. The pivotal moment came at the par-five 17th, where her tenuous one-stroke advantage looked likely to evaporate.
With Suzuki having a tap-in birdie, Feng had to hole her 20-footer to preserve her lead, and her putt catching the left edge of the hole, circling the cup and dropping in.
Runner-up Suzuki, who subsequently bogeyed the last, enjoyed a consolation of sorts, her performance lifting the 23-year-old to the top of the Japan LPGA money list.
Feng acknowledged Suzuki’s quality at the tournament jointly sanctioned by the LPGA and the JLPGA. “Normally I say my ball-striking is pretty good but today her ball-striking was much better,” Feng said.
“It gave me a lot of pressure but I tried to ignore it and play my own game.”