MIAMI, Florida: World number one Feng Shanshan of China, who won twice in the final five weeks of the 2017 campaign, remains the woman to beat when the 2018 LPGA season opens Thursday.
The 28-year-old from Guangzhou became the first golfer from China, man or woman, to reach the world number one spot, doing so last November after winning the Japan Classic and Blue Bay LPGA title in China in back-to-back weeks.
“When I finally see the Chinese flag on top of the ranking, I feel all the efforts over the past 18 years on golf is worth it,” Feng said. “I really enjoyed the moment and hopefully this could encourage a younger generation in China to go for the sport.”
It also figures to encourage a number of top rivals to try and dethrone Feng starting with Thursday’s opening round of the Bahamas LPGA Classic, when the Asian star makes her Bahamas debut alongside fourth-ranked Lexi Thompson and US teen Nelly Korda.
South Korea’s Park Sung-Hyun, the reigning US Women’s Open champion, is ranked second and her compatriot Ryu So-Yeon, the reigning ANA Inspiration champion, is third with Thompson fourth and South Korean Kim In-Kyung, last year’s Women’s British Open winner, rounding out the top five.
Thompson lost a playoff to US compatriot Brittany Lincicome to drop last year’s Bahamas season opener, one of three playoffs in which she was beaten in 2017, including at the ANA Inspiration, the season’s first major tournament.
Rule changes have ended the chance for the controversy that derailed Thompson’s bid for a second career major win, when a television viewer saw a violation and a day-later penalty of four strokes was imposed with six holes to play Sunday.
As much as Thompson wants to add another major to her trophy case, this could be the third consecutive season in which the five women’s major titles are won by five different players.