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Feng Shanshan set to defend her major crown

(China Daily)

08:01, June 08, 2013

Feng Shanshan of China hits a tee shot on the eighth hole during the final round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic golf tournament in Galloway Township, New Jersey on Sunday. (Photo/Xinhua)

World No 7 says China still has a great chance to promote the sport

Feng Shanshan, who became China's first major golf champion by capturing last year's LPGA Championship, returns to defend her title at the $2.25 million event starting on Thursday.

Seventh-ranked Feng and the rest of the world's top 50 players will take aim at a $337,500 top prize at Locust Hill Country Club, where Feng fired the best round of last year's event, a 5-under 67, on Sunday to win by two shots.

"My life hasn't been really changed," Feng said. "People didn't know much about golf in China, so we had a great chance to promote it."

Golf's profile is also growing in China thanks to schoolboy Guan Tianlang, who became the youngest starter in Masters history last April at age 14 and was low amateur this year at Augusta National.

"He's fantastic," Feng said. "Maybe 2020 or in the future, I think China will become one of the most competitive countries in golf."

Asians already dominate women's golf, with the past eight major titles going to Asian-born players. American Stacy Lewis, world No 2, was the last non-Asian to win a women's major - the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

"When we started like 15 years ago, we had very positive images for the LPGA wins," said South Korean Shin Jiyai, the British Women's Open champion.

"I was watching Se Ri Pak's win in the 1998 US Women's Open. So that's my biggest dream, be like her. That's why I get better and work harder in training and practice."

Feng's fame in her homeland has been less than that enjoyed by former world No 1 Tseng Yani or Ai Miyazato in their countries.

"Yani's like a rock star in Taiwan. It's like Ai Miyazato in Japan," Feng said. "Me, in China, well, I think I still can have a hamburger in my hand and a Coke in my hand and eat on the street and nobody would recognize me."

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