Shanshan Feng Leads at Reignwood LPGA Classic


Maybe it was the famous Beijing duck dinner or maybe it was the Beijing beer accompanied by Chinese cheers, or maybe Shanshan Feng got comfortable with being treated like a star by her gallery.   Or, it could have been a combination of all three that turned her game loose in the 3rd round at the Reignwood LPGA Classic.  Feng moved her ball steadily down the fairway, stayed out of the bunkers, got to the greens in regulation, gave back no strokes, shaved another putt off her round, carded 64, 9 shots under par, and edged ahead of Stacy Lewis by 1 shot for the top spot on the leaderboard.  She’ll go in to the final round Sunday at -21.   Can Feng sustain that 3rd round momentum for the final 18 holes?

Stacy Lewis played her 3rd consecutive bogey-free round on Saturday and carded 65, one shot more than Feng.  But that’s not the entire story.  Lewis averaged drives that were 20 yards longer than Feng’s and they were slightly more accurate, and Lewis used 22 putts compared to Feng’s 26.  Feng got to more greens faster, however, and fired one more birdie than Lewis.  So, when she went to the clubhouse, Lewis was -20 and chasing Feng.

The Beijing duck and Beijing beer seems to have worked a bit of magic for Inbee Park too.  Now at -16 for the tournament and in a solid 3rd place, even with 2 bogeys, Park’s 3rd round was the best she’s played at the Reignwood LPGA Classic.  With 9 birdies on her 3rd round card, Park may have finally blown some fire back into her flat stick.  She’s trailing Feng’s lead by 5 shots going in to the final round Sunday, a lead that could be difficult to catch unless Feng makes a mistake or two and Park’s ball rolls true on 18 holes.  But it’s golf, so that sort of turn-around can and does happen.

Karrie Webb has the course under control.  Webb shot a bogey-free 66 on Saturday, her best round of the tournament.  Her drives got longer and stayed accurate and she shaved 5 putts off her 2nd round stats.  Webb goes into the final round Sunday at -14, and that puts her in the 4th spot on the board, 2 strokes behind Inbee Park and 7 strokes off Shanshan Feng’s lead.

Jessica Korda, who set the pace at the Reignwood LPGA Classic during the 1st and 2nd rounds, struggled and failed to shoot even par on Saturday.  Three birdies just weren’t enough to balance out the 4 bogey-and-a-double deficit on her scorecard.  Korda went to the clubhouse Saturday with a disappointing 76 and is going into the final round at -11, which puts her in 6th place.

There’s a pattern emerging at the top of the leaderboard at the Reignwood.  There are 3 players waving China’s flag, Xiyu Lin, at -10 and Liying Ye, at -8, in addition to Shanshan Feng.  Tournament organizers hoped the Reignwood LPGA Classic would provide a venue for showcasing some of China’s emerging competitive golfers.  Lin and Ye wasted no time grabbing the opportunity.  We’ll probably start seeing more of them in the future.

Stacy Lewis and Jessica Korda are the only Americans going into the final round in the top-10 tier.  Brittany Lang, Mo Martin, Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie, while all sub-par for the tournament, are languishing in the middle ranks.

Inbee Park is leading a contingent of 4 South Koreans in the top-10.  Na Yeon Choi, at -12, is closest to the top but 9 shots off the lead going into the final round.  A bit further down the board, So Yeon Ryu will start Sunday at -9 and Chella Choi will start at -8.  They’re probably playing for a top-10 spot.

Karrie Webb (Australia), Pornanong Phatlum (Thailand), Sandra Gal (Germany), Christel Boeljon (Netherlands) and Caroline Hedwall (Norway) round out the list of players ranked in the top-10 slots on the board, providing European and Southeast Asian representation on the leaderboard for this inaugural China venture.

The Golf Channel will provide a delayed replay of the Saturday round highlights from 3-6pm today and provide coverage of the Sunday, final round highlights from 3-6pm tomorrow, all times ET.  And I’ll provide a tournament wrap-up as well, and a small peek at next weekend’s Malaysian event.