Shanshan Feng from China won the largest first prize ever awarded in LPGA Tour history. She earned $700,000 for her win at the season-ending CME Titleholders held this week at Tiburon in Naples, Fla.
Feng had started the final round trailing Natalie Gulbis, Gerina Pillar and Pornanong Phatlum, who were tied for first place at 11-under par. She birdied four of her first six holes and posted a front-nine 32. She added two more birdies at Nos. 15 and 17 to post two-under par 34 on the back side for her six-under par 66.
Pillar still had a chance to tie Feng on the 72nd hole. She nailed a seven-iron from 158 yards to within nine feet of the hole and just missed the birdie putt to force the playoff. Her final round 69 left her just one shot short of a chance for the big check.
Pillar gained a ton of confidence from her appearance on the American Solheim Cup team and collected $139,713 for solo second.
Pillar’s missed putt on No. 18 on Sunday cost her $560,287. I’ll bet that will keep her up tonight.
Feng is ranked No. 7 on the Rolex Rankings and this was her second LPGA Tour win this year. She won the Reignwood LPGA Classic in her native country just last month.
The first-place check from the CME Titleholders gets her to $1.7 million for the year and she finishes No.4 on the LPGA Tour money list.
Phatlum posted a final round two-under par 70 and earned $101,352 for solo third place. Gulbis has struggled to regain her form after contracting malaria early in the year. She carded a ten-over par 82 on Sunday and finished T-29.
Moriya Jutanugarn finished at T-33, but earned enough points to jump over Caroline Masson for the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year award by a single point.
Toledo-born Stacy Lewis fired a final round of 71 and finished at T-6. Her four rounds of 71-73-63-71 were good enough to maintain a slim margin over Suzann Pettersen for the Vare award. With 19 top-10 finishes in 2013 Lewis averaged 69.48 strokes per round.
Feng is the first Chinese woman to become a member of the LPGA Tour and the first to win an LPGA Tour event. With the emphasis being placed on the growth of golf in China by the PGA, European and LPGA Tours, it won’t be long before we see a legion of talented Chinese golfers littering leaderboards around the world.
Se Ri Pak started a golfing revolution in South Korea and we have seen Korean women dominate the LPGA Tour over the past few years.
Feng could start the same type of snowball in China.
Millions of enthusiastic young golfers, in a country of 1.4 billion, just watched one of their own countrymen win a huge prize on one of golf’s biggest stages.
Golf will explode in China.