NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Shanshan Feng of China seized control early and was flawless in the final round of the LPGA Tour season, closing with a 6-under 66 to win the LPGA Titleholders and claim the richest prize in women’s golf Sunday.
Feng opened with four birdies in six holes to go from two shots down to the outright lead, and she never gave it up the rest of the way at Tiburon Golf Club.
Gerina Piller stayed within one shot and had a 10-foot birdie attempt on the final hole that would have forced a playoff. It narrowly missed, and Piller had to settle for a 69 and her best finish on the LPGA Tour.
Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand had a 70 and finished alone in third.
“Before I started, I never thought I was going to win,” Feng said. “I knew I was only two behind. But I thought all the people in the last group were really strong competitors.”
No one was stronger than Feng, who played the final 31 holes without a bogey.
Natalie Gulbis, tied for the 54-hole lead with Pornanong and Piller, wasn’t up to the task. Going for her first win in six years, Gulbis didn’t make a birdie until the 14th hole, and by then she couldn’t stop a spectacular slide. Gulbis closed with an 82.
Stacy Lewis had to settle for only one prize. The Women’s British Open champion became the first American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to win the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average. She had to win to capture the money list, but after an early birdie, Lewis never regained any momentum. She closed with a 71 and tied for sixth.
Inbee Park, who clinched player of the year last week in Mexico, had a 68 to finish fifth. She won the LPGA Tour money title.
The only other award at stake Sunday was rookie of the year. That went to Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand, who closed with a 72. She won by one point over Caroline Masson of Germany.
Feng stole the show on the final day of the season, however.
The leaderboard was packed with some of the best names in women’s golf separated by four shots — Gulbis and Lewis, Park and even Michelle Wie, who faltered on the back nine and was never a factor.
Feng birdied three of the opening four holes, including a long putt on No. 3, added a fourth birdie at No. 6 and she was on her way.
Piller made her earn. She stuffed her approach on No. 15 to within 4 feet for birdie to pull within one shot. Feng was in the group ahead and went over the green on her second shot into the par-5 17th, and then hit a chip that settled within tap-in range to reach 15-under. Piller matched her birdie at the 17th with a solid up-and-down from a collection area, but she couldn’t get that last birdie to force a playoff.
“I was happy with the way I hit the putt,” Piller said. “I just didn’t read enough break.”
Feng won for the third time this year, and second time in the last two months. She also won in her native China with a stroke of luck, her ball bouncing wildly out of the rough and slamming into the pin for a tap-in eagle to beat Lewis.
“I’m really happy because I set a goal early this year. I said I want to win twice,” Feng said. “Before China, I didn’t have any wins. Finally, I got it at the last minutes. Maybe it means I can take more time off in the offseason.”
The win should take Feng to No. 4 in the world.
Park, who went into a minor slump after winning her third straight major at the U.S. Women’s Open, closed out her LPGA season with two top 10s. She still has one event left in Taiwan before taking a long winter’s break, with plans to go to Australia to prepare for next season.
She won the money title for the second straight season.
“I played better this year,” Park said. “There is definitely room to improve for next year and I probably have a little more pressure on me next year, but I think I have a lot of pressure this year, anyways. A little bit more doesn’t really make a difference for me.”
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