Feng ready for defense of LPGA Championship

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Feng Shanshan won accolades when she returned home after becoming China's first winner on the LPGA Tour, and now she returns to Locust Hill to defend her LPGA Championship, the second major of the season.

The 23-year-old Feng, coming off a runner-up finish in last week's ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey, will be trying to extend a streak of eight consecutive LPGA majors won by Asian players.

Her LPGA Championship triumph in Pittsford, New York, thrust Feng into the spotlight.

She held a news conference at the airport upon her return to China, another one in Beijing and another in her hometown of Guangzhou and topping her list of "coolest things about being a major champion" came at a special awards ceremony in January.

"I was named best non-Olympic athlete in China," Feng told reporters ahead of the opening round yesterday.

"I was sitting with so many of the Olympic players in China and I was the first golfer to be nominated. I think the government is paying more attention to golf."

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."

Feng's fame in her homeland has been less than that enjoyed by former world No. 1 Tseng Ya-ni or Ai Miyazato.

"Ya-ni'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."

Feng has not won since her breakthrough triumph but has posted four top-10s from eight events this year and feels a switch to different clubs helped her to the runner-up finish last weekend and boosted her confidence.

"I'm really excited about this week because last week I had a good finish, and I think I'm ready for this week," the world No. 7 said.

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