Defending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters champion Shanshan Feng said she turned around her fortunes after a very poor start to the year just by being herself.
The Olympic Games bronze medalist – she prefers calling it ‘rose gold medal’ though – has been in sensational form ever since her podium finish in Rio. In her last seven starts, she has won twice and never finished outside the top-10.
Before Rio, the world No4 played 14 tournaments on the LPGA Tour, finishing top-10 in just three of them, with her best finish being a fifth place.
“Playing with all these young players make me feel old. I’m trying to get used to it because even on the LPGA Tour now, I mean, you look at Lydia [Ko], Brooke [Henderson] and Ariya [Jutanugarn], they are all below 21,” explained the 27-year-old, who is the most successful player in the history of the tournament, having won it three times [2012, ’14 and last year].
“They are so, so young, and they are actually able to hit the ball so far away. Five years ago, I was actually kind of a long player on the Tour, but not anymore. It’s like all the girls are like 20, 30 yards past me and I’m always the first one to hit and that just makes me feel old.
“I would say this first half of the year, I was struggling because I was trying to compete with all the girls. I was like, I have to keep up the distance with them and I have to try to compete with them. I put myself under too much pressure and I forgot how to be Shanshan.
“The Olympics was a very good breakthrough point; that actually picked up my confidence again, and taught me I’m still Shanshan. I’m still a good player. I’m still able to win on the Tour.
“Now, I’m not trying to hit the ball as far as the girls do, but I know that I’m actually more accurate. And being the first one to hit on every hole, if I hit the balls really close to the pins, it will put other girls under a lot of pressure. I just stick to my gameplan now.”
Feng, though, blamed the Olympics for the fact that she could not play the mandatory six events needed to qualify for the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit. She could have secured the rankings crown as she is second behind leader Beth Allen in just four starts.
“Last year I knew that I had a very good chance to win the Order of Merit. So I actually pushed myself to play a couple more LET events last year. But this year was different, because this year was the Olympic year. So because of the Olympics, actually I had to skip a lot of tournaments, even on the LPGA,” Feng said.
“On the LPGA, I think I only played 21 events this year. Compared to the other girls, I actually didn’t play quite enough. I would say it would be hard for me to add more on the LET this year, but yeah, if I have chances in the future, I think I’ll try to reach the six if I can for sure.”