China's Shanshan Feng takes advantage of early tee time to grab 3-shot lead at ShopRite LPGA Classic
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Shanshan Feng couldn't wait to tee off in the second round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic on Saturday morning.
She might have been a lot less eager if she teed off in the afternoon.
The 23-year-old from China teed off at 8:32 a.m. and put herself in position to win her second LPGA event with a 4-under-par 67 on the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club.
Her 36-hole total of 6-under 136 is three shots better than Haeji Kang (70-69) of South Korea and Moriya Jutanugarn (66-73) of Thailand.
The wind gusted off Reeds' Bay in the afternoon, making the par-71, 6,155-yard Bay Course play maybe the toughest it has been in the history of the tournament.
Defending champion Stacy Lewis teed off shortly before 1 p.m. and shot a 9-over-par 80.
She is tied for 49th - 11 shots out of the lead.
Feng planned to treat today's final round like it's nothing special. She never looks at leader boards.
"If I'm leading, then yeah, I'm leading, whatever," she said. "I'm just checking it out from my mind. I'm just focusing on every shot, and (today) is just a normal day."
Lewis wasn't the only player to struggle in the afternoon. Michelle Wie and first-round co-leader Amanda Blumenherst also had their struggles.
Wie shot a 2-over 73, while Blumenherst shot a 4-over 75 after losing a ball on her final hole.
"The wind was crazy," Blumenherst said. "It even made putting difficult."
Only 18 players broke par, and all but one of them played in the morning. Seventy-four players shot 6-over-par 148 or better to make the cut for today's final round. The cut score is the highest on the tour in relation to par this year.
LPGA standouts Natalie Gulbis (73-76-149); Morgan Pressel (77-73-150); Lexi Thompson (72-78-150) and Suzann Pettersen (76-76-152) missed the cut.
Feng came into Saturday's round with plenty of momentum. She played the first three holes in Friday's first round in 3-over par but then played the remaining 15 holes in 5-under for a 2-under-par 69.
Feng took advantage of Saturday morning's calm conditions. She began her round on the 10th hole and birdied holes 14-17.
"It wasn't as windy in the morning," Feng said, "so that's why I made four birdies in a row. On (her) back nine, the wind started to pick up a little bit, and it was harder to get the balls close to the pins."
But Feng then got a bit carried away with herself.
"After four birdies, I was like, 'Oh, maybe I'm doing well right now,' and I started thinking. And then I started to make a couple of bogeys."
It was a good thing she played in the morning because she has had plenty of other distractions to overcome recently.
Feng is using new clubs for the first time in competition this week. The clubs she previously used were old and she had problems putting enough spin on the ball to stop it on the green. She also had to deal with visa problems that prevented her from playing in last week's Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic.
But she didn't let those issues affect her.
"I'm always a positive person," she said.
Feng has played well recently, with two top-10 finishes in her last three events. She burst onto the LPGA scene last year when she won the Wegmans LPGA Championship in Rochester, N.Y. She is the first male or female player from China to ever win a major championship.
South Korea's Se Ri Pak - the 1999 ShopRite Classic champion - won an LPGA major in 1998. Her victories sparked a growth in golf in South Korea that has resulted in players from that country now dominating the tour.
Feng said her victory hasn't had that effect in China. Her country is more focused on Olympic sports.
"People didn't know a lot about golf," Feng said. "They didn't know what it means to win a major. Golf is in the 2016 Olympics, and if somebody from China can do well, I'm sure it's going to change everybody. "
Feng and the rest of the leaders will tee off this afternoon. That might not be a good thing.
If the weather today is the same as Saturday's, the winner might be someone who tees off in the morning.
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