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          Refreshed Feng focused on going with the flow

          By ALYWIN CHEW in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-17 09:59
          Feng Shanshan hits her drive on the fourth hole during the second round of the Indy Women In Tech Championship Driven by Group 1001 held at the Brickyard Crossing Golf Club on Sept 27, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. [Photo/VCG]

          Chinese ace 'just happy to be home' as she prepares for Shanghai challenge

          It's easy to get caught up in the hype, but Feng Shanshan is keeping expectations of a home victory in check at this week's Buick LPGA Shanghai tournament-even though China's No 1 is on a hot streak.

          The world No 21 claimed her 10th tour title at July's Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic in Wisconsin and finished second at last month's Japan LPGA Championship Konica Minolta Cup.

          However, thoughts of lifting the trophy at Qizhong Garden Golf Club on Sunday were not exactly at the forefront of Feng's mind as she addressed a Tuesday media conference ahead of Thursday's tee-off.

          "I don't have a goal for the Shanghai tournament; I'm just so happy to be back in China playing tournaments," she said.

          "My family is here. A lot of friends are here. I just want to play one shot at a time and enjoy myself at this tournament."

          This is the second time Qizhong Garden is hosting the tournament, which marks the start of the LPGA Tour's Asia swing.

          Other tournaments will take place in South Korea, Chinese Taipei and Japan over the coming months.

          Feng's triumph at Thornberry Creek ended a lengthy winless streak dating back to her triumph at the Blue Bay LPGA on Hainan Island in November 2017.

          The Guangzhou native attributed her dip in performance to a shakeup in her training approach and playing style-necessitated, she said, by the evolution of the modern game.

          "The courses are now set up for long-hitters. In the past, courses were tough because they were narrow and had a lot of rough, so we really had to manage our game well. Now you just need to hit it long and try to make birdies," she said.

          "It was in 2017 that I realized there were many young players who could out-drive me by 20 to 30 yards. They had very good short games, too. I knew that I had to change the way I played.

          "I spoke to my coach and we decided to adjust our training. I also changed my drivers and irons. I managed to gain distance but the trade-off was a loss of control. I struggled to find consistency until Thornberry."

          That victory affirmed Feng's hard work was not in vain and that she still has what it takes to be a champion. Her next big goal is to improve on the bronze medal she won at the 2016 Rio Olympics by bagging gold at next year's Tokyo Games.

          Beyond 2020, the 30-year-old's future remains unclear.

          "After earning my LPGA card when I was 18, I set a goal of playing pro for 10 years. Then the Rio Olympics happened and that extended my run," Feng said.

          "At the moment, all I know is that I will play until next year. I'll decide what to do after that."

          Whatever she decides, Feng's status as China's most successful professional golfer remains intact for now.

          In 2008, she became the first Chinese to join the LPGA Tour and, in 2017, the first Chinese golfer to top the world rankings.

          And while a major has eluded Feng, over $11 million in career earnings points to a commendable degree of consistency over the years.

          When asked who she thinks could one day assume her mantle, she singled out 23-year-old Liu Yu.

          Liu impressed in her rookie year on the LPGA Tour, making 21 cuts in 27 events and registering three top-10 finishes. She is also the third Chinese golfer to win on the LPGA's second-tier Symetra Tour.

          "I'm not sure if Liu Yu will become world number one someday, but I am certain that she'll win a few tournaments in the LPGA," said Feng.

          "She's only been in the LPGA for two years, but I can see she's constantly improving and looking more comfortable. She just found a caddie she really likes this year so that's helped her a lot too."

          With regard to the current state of talent development in China, Feng believes that "things are on the right track", referring to the growing number of amateur Chinese golfers in global tournaments and how their performances at the likes of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship have been encouraging.

          She noted that while young golfers from South Korea, Japan, India and Thailand used to regularly outdo their Chinese counterparts, the tables have now turned, with Chinese golfers frequently finishing in the top 10 in prestigious tournaments.

          Feng also offered some words of wisdom for aspiring young talent: "If I can become the world number one, I think the young Chinese golfers of today can too.

          "What they have in terms of development avenues is much better than what I had when I started.

          "The young golfers today also have very strong support from their parents and coaches. They simply need to follow the instructions and execute-but therein also lies a problem.

          "I find that the girls today simply listen and do what they're told without ever asking why they have to do it.

          "This is a bad thing. They must make sure that they don't become too reliant on others. They also have to decide what they want to do with their lives.

          "They cannot be robots and just do what their parents want them to do."

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