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‘Old rookie’ Shanshan Feng fires 67 in first LPGA round in 16 months at ANA

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – It’s as if Shanshan Feng by no means left.

Feng returned to the LPGA Tour with a flourish on Thursday, carding a bogey-free, 67 to vault close to the highest of the leaderboard on Day 1 of the ANA Inspiration. It was her first aggressive begin in 16 months, for the reason that 2019 CME Group Tour Championship.

Feng’s round was made extra spectacular given she mentioned she didn’t decide up a single membership throughout her 12 months away from the tour. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the previous world No. 1 remained at her house in China, fairly than compete on tour.

“Last year was a difficult year for everybody, and I just made a decision at the middle of the year to go back to China and maybe take some time off with my friends and family at home,” Feng mentioned. “And I really enjoyed the whole time over there, but of course I missed play.”

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The spotlight of her Round 1 return got here at the par-3 17th, the place she chipped in for birdie.

“I did have some luck on the course today,” Feng mentioned about her chip. “On that 17th [hole], I didn’t really have a very good chip but actually went in, hit the pin. So, it’s been very nice on me for my first round coming back.”

Throughout the day, she relied closely on the person she affectionately refers to as her boss, also called Mercer Leftwich, her longtime caddie. The pair first started working collectively in 2011 and Leftwich has performed a important function in her success. During their time collectively, Feng has received 10 occasions, together with the 2012 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. She additionally captured the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 with him on the bag. Thursday, she as soon as once more leaned on Leftwich to assist navigate her in her return to competitors.

“I didn’t know how I would do on the course,” Feng mentioned Thursday. “I was kind of nervous last night, but I said to myself, I said, ‘Hey, it’s OK. Think about, you’re just an old rookie. Everything is new for you here and just have no expectation.’”

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Feng’s return is nice for the ladies’s sport. She’s one of the vital entertaining characters. Feng typically wears pants with espresso and donuts or others that appear to be a noticed cow. She enjoys karaoke and jokes about her love of meals. She doesn’t take herself, or her golf, too critically.

“[I] always try to find positive sides about my game, and I think my boss, Mercer, and also my family, manager, team, everybody supporting me,” Feng mentioned, “so, I just didn’t have much pressure on the course.”

And that straightforward going demeanor has served Feng effectively in main championships. She has 15 prime 10s in addition to her victory in 2012. Thursday, she reminded {the golfing} world, as soon as once more, why she’s been a fixture with regards to acting on the largest phases in the ladies’s sport.

It’s as if she by no means left.

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