Omega Dubai Ladies Masters: Defending champion Shanshan Feng has modest opening round

Shanshan Feng plays a shot on the 12th hole during the first round of the Dubai Ladies Masters golf tournament, in Dubai on December 8, 2016. Kamran Jebreili / AP
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DUBAI // Such has been Shanshan Feng’s recent dominance of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, it was put to the defending champion on Thursday that her tame opening round might have even been construed as intentional.

A level-par start to her latest defence is not exactly the stuff of a three-time winner, who has spent the best part of the past four years at Emirates Golf Club setting records and new standards, to boot.

Feng was somewhat short of that for her first round, though, posting an up-and-down 72 that contained three birdies but as many bogeys. In fact, it was the Chinese star’s worst competitive round on the Majlis in 12 attempts.

So, considering her usual superiority, was she simply giving the rest of the field a chance?

“That’s not the case,” Feng said with a laugh. “I mean, when I was on the course, I actually gave my 100 per cent today. Even par is not a great score, but I still feel like at least I tried my best.”

Most probably, Feng will need something close to her best to get back into contention. The tournament has been cut to 54 holes after the death of caddie Maximillian Zechmann on Wednesday, so Feng has two rounds to turn around her game, or specifically her putting, which she attributed Thursday’s slow start to.

At present, Feng lies five shots off leader Florentyna Parker, with a bunch of players between. But if she has proved anything in Dubai, it is that she can throw up some rather exceptional golf.

Feng can take heart, too, from the last time she failed to break par in the event, back in the first round, when she rebounded from a 76 to finish fifth. And for a golfer who only ever aims for that mark anyway, it means there is no reason to panic.

“I’m always going for top five, so even though it wasn’t a super good round, I still have two more days,” she said. “So why not? I have so many good memories here. And most times, I’m a player who starts slow then gets better and better.”

​jmcauley@thenational.ae

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