China's Feng aiming for a happy birthday at Tokyo 2020
China’s Shanshan Feng has described her bronze medal from Rio 2016 as the “most important” achievement of her illustrious career as she looks to put the icing on the cake in what could be her Olympic Games swansong at Tokyo 2020.
The 10-time LPGA Tour winner and former World No. 1 will tee up alongside compatriot Xiyu Lin at Kasumigaseki Country Club starting on Wednesday where defending gold medal winner Inbee Park of Korea, New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, the silver medallist in Rio, and current World No. 1 Nelly Korda of the United States will start as early favourites for podium finishes in the women’s golf competition.
A medal in Tokyo would also be the perfect way to celebrate her birthday as Feng turns 32 on Thursday.
With China being one of the traditional powerhouses at the Olympics, Feng said being on the podium in Rio ranks as her career highlight that she has kept the bronze medal in safe at her home in Guangzhou.
“Out of all of my achievements, I would say a medal at the Olympics is very special because even though I have been a major winner, but like think about it, we have five majors every year, we have in four years we have 20 chances to win a major. So I would say it's much harder to get a medal at the Olympics. It was like the most important or memorized moment in my career, I would say that,” said Feng.
She has previously hinted about retirement, which comes some nine years after her first LPGA Tour title and maiden major victory at the 2012 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. The achievement made her the first Chinese golfer to win a major. And with three top-five finishes from eight starts this season, Feng is quietly confident of contending at Kasumigaseki’s East course.
“I'm not as nervous as last time. I was really nervous like on that first tee (in Rio) and it was like I didn't remember anything. I realized I was already walking down the fairway on the first hole, so I didn't remember about the tee shot,” said Feng.
“I wouldn't say I'm in the best shape in my career, but I was very happy to come back this year as starting at a major, getting a top-three finish and a couple more top-five finishes after that. So I'm very confident about my game, I just really want to enjoy and relax the whole day and the whole week. I'm pretty sure this is my last Olympic Games. I don't think I will play in another Olympics, So I better enjoy it.”
In what will on one of the marquee groupings, Feng will play the opening two rounds alongside Park and Ko at 8.41am on Wednesday. Nelly Korda, World No. 2 Jin Young Ko of Korea and World No. 11 Nasa Hataoka of host country Japan will also attract plenty of attention when they begin their Olympic quests at 8.14am.
“We played together at the U.S. Open this year and that was our first time in the same group in a tournament after Rio. It was very fun, I really enjoyed it and I believe that the first round, all three of us, we are going to enjoy our time and hopefully all of us can bring our A-games,” said Feng.
Her compatriot Lin hopes to better her tie for 38th at the Rio Games by putting on a strong showing in Tokyo. “I was very ready last year, but unfortunately COVID happened, but I think there's one thing I got out of COVID is when I was locked down in Orlando, I have a lot of free time to think about my whole career, kind of look back a little bit but I had some serious talks to myself and I definitely had my mind more clear,” said Lin, who made an ace in Rio in 2016.
“I'm very glad I ended up making the team because in 2017, I lost my Tour card. It's probably the biggest event ever in my career.”