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Shanshan Feng relinquished a golden opportunity - an opportunity she didn't know existed.
After starting yesterday's final round of the Farr Classic eight strokes off the lead, Feng found herself down just one after 12 holes. This was unfamiliar territory for Feng, who has missed 11 cuts in this, her rookie season, and has never been a serious threat during a final round.
It could be assumed the pressure got the best of the Chinese rookie, who won't turn 19 until next month. But in truth, Feng was oblivious to her surroundings, not having a clue how close it was before her name replaced Paula Creamer's atop the leaderboard.
"I didn't pay attention to what Paula was doing," Feng said. "I just thought, do my best."
And that she did. Feng carded a total of 69-70-64-69 to finish fourth - easily her best finish of the season. Her others include a 39th, a couple of 58s, and a 66. She missed the cut at the U.S. Open in June after posting a 77 and 78.
"It's my first time to play in the second to last group on Sunday," Feng said. "It's my best finish, and as a rookie I think that's very good."
Feng more than tripled her previous season earnings by pocketing $66,000. Not immediately knowing how much she had earned, Feng said she would consider buying a car for her father, who called his daughter from China on Saturday night advising her to relax and not concern herself with competitors' scores. Feng qualified for the British Open on Saturday when she won a three-way tiebreaker.
"I'm improving," Feng said. "I just made my first top 10, so I'm on the way."
Feng's performance will certainly resonate in her native land where she is the first Chinese player to earn exempted status on the tour. Feng was flattered when on the 10th hole a group of Chinese offered words of encouragement that translates to: "C'mon, Shanshan!" At that time, Feng was 14-under and three strokes behind Creamer. Feng picked up a birdie on No. 11 and parred No. 12 while Creamer made bogey on the same hole. But after a par on No. 13, Feng lost a stroke on each of the next three holes, a downward spiral that she attributed to fatigue.
"I can feel like my energy's not enough," Feng said. "I was a little tired, that's why I wasn't hitting the ball very well. I feel I need to [become more fit] so I'm ready for four-day tournaments."
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