China's Shanshan Feng won the Toto Japan Classic for the second year in a row, marking the first time in the 2017 season that an LPGA player defended a title. Feng finished the tournament at 19-under 197, a score in relation to par made all the more impressive given it came in one of the tour's few three-day tournaments. Leading up to this event, it felt like it was only a matter of time before Feng won. In her last six starts, she had had five top-10s, including two top-three finishes in the two events preceding the Toto Japan Classic.
“That was my goal, before I started the week, to defend my title,” Feng said. “My caddie told me: ‘This week, you’re going to be first. Two weeks ago, you finished third. Last week, you finished second, so you know what comes after that … first.’ I was like, OK, let’s go for it. Here I am, and I’m really happy.”
Feng, who’s the No. 4 player in the world, shot rounds of 66, 63, and 68 at the Minori Course at Taiheiyo Club to win wire-to-wire for the first time in her career. The victory is the eighth overall of career and second this season. Her first win came in May at the LPGA Volvik Championship.
“Can we just keep playing here?” Feng joked. “Can we move the CME Group Tour Championship here? Can we move the U.S. Open here?”
Feng’s 19 under bested the next competitor, Ai Suzuki, by two strokes. This was Suzuki's eighth start in an LPGA event. The 23-year-old from Japan plays on the Japanese LPGA Tour, where she’s ranked second and has two wins this season. Anna Nordqvist, who had taken about five weeks off before coming to Asia in order to fully recover from mono, finished alone in third at 15 under.
Lexi Thompson had a mathematical chance to become the No. 1 player in the world if she had won in Japan, but she finished T-33. Though she isn’t atop that ranking, she’s still the points leader for the CME Group Tour Championship with one more tournament to play in China this next week. Any player in the top five entering the year-end championship who wins the even will automatically clinch the $1 million bonus.