Feng Shanshan brings star cast as LPGA debuts in China
The LPGA Tour breaks new ground in China today with five of the world's top 10 women golfers competing in the inaugural Reignwood LPGA Classic in Beijing.
Led by world number one Park In-bee, the event will be worth US$1.8 million and the first of a five-tournament Asia swing by the LPGA. Eighty-one players from the LPGA Tour and the China equivalent will tee it up at the Pine Valley Golf Club on the outskirts of the capital chasing the US$270,000 first prize.
The event highlights the role of homegrown star Feng Shanshan in bringing the world's best players to the mainland. Feng, the world number nine, won the LPGA Championship last year to become China's first major champion.
"I think we just need to say thank you to Shanshan because we're here this week because of her. It's really cool to come play in her country and her winning the LPGA Championship last summer certainly spurred this on a little bit," said third-ranked American Stacy Lewis.
The other stars are No4 ranked Ryu So-yeon of South Korea, No7 Choi Na-yeon of South Korea, former No1 Tseng Ya-ni of Taiwan and American Michelle Wie.
Park swept the first three major championships of the season, and has added three other US LPGA Tour wins this year. However, she finished well out of contention at the British Open and last month's Evian Championship, failing in her attempt to become the first golfer - male or female - to win four majors in a year.
"I'm from Asia and I just feel very comfortable playing here," said Park, who tops the LPGA money list this year with US$2,186,601 in winnings.
Lewis will also be looking for a strong tournament after giving up her number two ranking to Norway's Suzann Pettersen at the rain-shortened Evian Championship in France last month.