Zika won’t stop me: Chinese number one Feng Shanshan excited for Olympic bow despite virus concerns

The Chinese ace is not allowing concerns over the Zika virus to affect her preparation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 June, 2016, 12:24pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 June, 2016, 10:53pm

China number one Feng Shanshan said on Thursday that she was looking forward to participating in the upcoming Rio Olympics, despite concerns about the Zika virus that has caused many of the top men’s players to drop out of the Brazil Games.

Speaking in Shandong province where she will tee off at the Kumho Tyre Ladies Open on Friday, the world No 12 said as she had no plans of having a baby in the next two or three years it was important to support golf’s return to the Olympics after a 112-year absence.

“This is my first Olympic Games and might be my last, so this is my only chance. I would not skip this chance for such a thing (Zika virus). Furthermore, I think China golf needs this Olympic Games. As a Chinese golfer I must take part,” said the Guangdong native, a winner of 16 tournaments worldwide, including a major title at the 2012 LPGA Championship.

“As for Zika virus, I believe in our science and technology.”

The Weihai event could prove pivotal for Hong Kong golfer Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching, who is all but assured of her spot in Rio if she makes the cut in Shandong.

With such players as world number one Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Lee-Anne Pace, among others, announcing that they would not play in Rio de Janeiro on concerns of the Zika virus, the 26-year-old Feng said they had decided on their own and their decisions must be respected.

“It might affect the International Olympic Committee’s vote next year to decide if golf stays longer than 2020. But we can’t do anything. As a player, I need to do my business in the Olympic Games.

China's Feng Shanshan ends season on a high note

Hopefully, we can have a medal between the four Chinese players (two men and two women).”

South Africa’s Pace became the first woman golfer to withdraw from the Rio event earlier this week when she revealed she will not play in Brazil because of her fears over Zika.

“I was very much looking forward to the opportunity,” said Pace, her nation’s top-ranked woman golfer at 38 in the world.

“However, over recent months my team has been monitoring the situation regarding the Zika Virus and finding out as much information as possible.

“After weighing up all the options and discussing it with my family and team, I have decided that due to the health concerns surrounding the Zika virus, I will not be participating.”

With one victory this year at the Buick Championship last month when she beat Korean star Choi Na-yeon in a play-off, Feng will attempt to get her first Kumho Tire Ladies Open victory in her third attempt.

Holding on by a whisker: Hong Kong’s Tiffany Chan still in the frame for Rio Olympic berth

Last year, she finished runner-up to Korean Kim Hyo-joo in the 500,000,000 won (HK$3.37 million) tournament, a co-sponsored event between the China LPGA Tour and the LPGA Tour of Korea.

In 2014, she finished equal seventh at Weihai Point, a rocky 6,146-yard, par-72 layout that juts out into Bohai Bay.

“The result is not my priority now. But for the past two years I had two high finishes. This golf course is tricky and Korean players are deep. But those players from China LPGA are also good and had some nice finishes recently. I don’t want to pay much attention to my finish, I just want to enjoy this week.”

With her best result on the US LPGA Tour this year being a fifth-place finish at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout in April, Feng acknowledged that she hadn’t had a great start to her season but felt her game was coming around after switching to new clubs earlier this year.

“I changed my Honma clubs at the very beginning. It took a while before I controlled them. But I am better now than earlier this year,” she said. “Generally, I play 30 events a year. It means 30 weeks at the office. I am not a robot and unable to play at my best level week in and week out. Golf is a fluctuant game and we must take it as that.”

With the US Women’s Open in California next week, Feng said she would use the Weihai event as warm-up for the year’s third major. Last year, she missed the cut at the US Women’s Open in Pennsylvania.

“I don’t know if it had rained before we came, but today I found the fairways were soft during my practice round. The greens were the same with a lot of rolls. The conditions were good as always. The landscape was amazing as always.”

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse