For someone with a record the envy of almost all pro golfers, Shanshan Feng is almost invisible – and that’s exactly how she likes it.
The Guangzhou golfer is very much a ground-breaker on the LPGA Tour and, at the ripe old age of 25, a veteran on the global circuit for the past eight seasons, in six of which she was the only Chinese representative.
Her impact on the game in her homeland cannot be understated with two rookies on the US-based circuit both this year and last – meaning she has almost become the tip of giant golfing iceberg having been the first Chinese player to reach the tour back in 2008.
Yet despite an incredible eight top-10 finishes in her past 13 major championships – including victory in the 2012 US LPGA Championship – Feng remains almost anonymous in her homeland or the United States.
“Not many people watch me or recognise me, so I am just like normal people,” she said today as she prepares for her first tournament of the new season.
“I go out with my friends, have McDonalds in my hand and nobody will recognise me and eat it on street and nobody will pay attention.
“I know a lot of famous people who can’t go to public places … but I still have my freedom, which is great.”
It’s not a bad position for the world No.4, who’s torn between promoting the game wholeheartedly in her homeland and maintaining that life balance.
“I would say half and half – I’ll be happy if I become famous in China because it means golf is getting more popular, but the bad thing is that then I’ll lose my freedom.”
Expect Feng to be prominent this week, despite playing on Melbourne’s Sandbelt – and the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open – for the first time. She’s rarely far from the mark these days.
“(My caddie and I knew) it was a links-style course, but we didn’t understand why the winning score was so (high) last time (this event was at Royal Melbourne in 2012).
“But then my caddie now says he understands because the course is very difficult, the greens are tough and firm, the course is really slopey and it’s really challenging,” Feng said before embarking on her first practice round.
“(To look at), it reminds me of a British Open. Before last year maybe I would struggle a little because I’d never played well at a British Open before. But last year I almost won (T2) at Royal Birkdale, so I played really well and kind of know how to play on a links course.”
Feng said she’d play more bump shots around the greens – and would be happy to pass any such tips on to her younger Chinese colleagues on tour this year.
“The four all under 20, so it makes me feel old now,” she joked.
“But in my first six years on tour I was the only Chinese. But now after two years I’m just one of five, so I’m really happy.
“I hope to see 20 Chinese on tour in five years.”