Feng takes five-shot lead at Omega DLM

Joy Chakravarty 19:25 11/12/2015
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In command: Shanshan Feng.

Even as Shanshan Feng applied hard brakes while motoring along nicely during the third round of Omega Dubai Ladies Masters Friday and Thidapa Suwannapura went on an overdrive, the Chinese world No6 managed to increase her lead on top.

Cruising along at 16-under par after 11 holes, it was almost as if somebody reminded Feng not to be too selfish. Bogey-free for the first 47 holes, the Guangzhou girl made two in back-to-back holes and could not make any birdie on the three par-5s of Majlis’ back nine.

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By the time she made her first bogey following a pulled tee shot on the 12th hole, Feng had opened up a massive 10-shot lead on the field. She finally closed with a third straight five-under par 67 to be on course to win the Ladies European Tour’s season-ending tournament for the third time in last four years.

It took exceptional golf from Suwannapura, another LPGA Tour regular, to cut down Feng’s lead to five shots at the end of the day. The 23-year-old Bangkok player made light of a constant stream of pain shooting down her right hip and leg and closed with six birdies in the last six holes for a round of 65 – the lowest of the tournament so far.

The extent of Feng’s domination, and Suwannapura’s brilliance, can be gauged by the fact that France’s Jade Schaeffer (70), alone in third position, was nine shots behind the leader, while Melissa Reid and Caroline Masson were tied fourth ten shots adrift.

Feng seemed unstoppable early in her round despite a stiff wind making the golf course play difficult. She birdied the second and third, and then added three on the trot from the sixth onwards. On the back nine, she did not take advantage of the par-5 10th, but poured in a 14-feet putt on the 11th to be six-under par for the day.

Then came the uncharacteristic lapse of concentration. She made bogeys on the 12th and 14th, the second one coming after she hit her second shot from the fairway into the greenside bunker and missed her up-and-down.

“I think the front nine was really good. I had many birdie chances and a lot of them were really close. The back nine, well, I made a couple bogeys there. I think it just happens,” said Feng, who won in 2012 with a score of 21-under par and last year at 19-under.

“It’s normal because the day was a little bit more windy. So we are human beings, we’re going to make mistakes. I was okay with that.

“I was maybe not as confident on the putting after that. I think I was still making good strokes, but just maybe speed-wise, I was missing by a little bit. But they were still pretty close. Yeah, should be fine tomorrow.”

When asked if she had a score in mind that would safely win her the title, Feng said: “I’m not really thinking about it. On the course, I’m just focusing shot by shot. Tomorrow, I’m just going to do the same thing as the past three days.”

Suwannapura, who has been troubled with muscle issues in her glutes and hips and experiences pain radiating down her right leg, limped around the course and needed to take support of her caddie in between her shots. She started with a bogey and was just one-under par after 12 holes, when her birdie run started. She regularly made putts of 15-20 feet in her last six holes and was in such discomfort after the round, she gave her post-match interview sitting on the grass.

When asked what changed for her, Suwannapura said: “I don’t know what happened. Today, I just saw the line and my caddie, Matt, he could also see the same thing as me. I was like ‘just knock it’, and it kept going in.

“I was really not expecting anything. I was just hitting the balls and trying to knock it on the green. Just to get pars was fine for me.

“Can I catch Shanshan? No, I don’t think so. I know she’s pretty good and she hits it a hundred percent. I’m just going to have fun tomorrow and try to finish my round again.”

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