Feng makes her case in battle for a new No. 1 in women’s golf

The possibility is remote, but China’s Shanshan Feng – in a tie for 54th place at the start of Saturday’s third round of the 64th KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – could still win the title on Sunday and regain her place as the No. 1-ranked player in women’s golf.

Feng demonstrated on Saturday what one good round can do for a player in the third of the five major annual championships on the Ladies PGA Tour. She shot a 5-under-par 67 and was in a tie for ninth place after she turned in her scorecard.

“I just had a very good day,’’ said Feng, who has spent time in the No. 1 spot in the Rolex World Rankings but was No. 4 before a ball was hit at Kemper Lakes.

Feng was two strokes inside the cutline after the first two rounds, which meant a fairly early tee time on Saturday. That turned out to be a big advantage in her pairing with Australian veteran Karrie Webb, winner of the last U.S. Women’s Open played in the Chicago area – at Merit Club in Libertyville 18 years ago.

“We were lucky because we got the front nine done without all the heat,’’ said Feng. “After we made the turn it was horrible. It was so hot, and the breeze was hot. My caddie felt so bad that he actually had another caddie walking outside of the ropes with us. He thought maybe he would pass out, but he didn’t.’’

The backup bag-toter, identified by Feng as “Cheeseburger Chad,’’ didn’t need to pick up her bag as Feng – 2-over-par after 36 holes – got to 3-under 213 for 54 holes.

A travel dilemma

Nelly Korda didn’t know what to do after finishing a disappointing first 36 holes on Friday morning. Missing the cut seeming a distinct possibility.

“I guessed I’d be going to look at flights to get back home (Florida),’’ she said. “I’m glad we didn’t, but it was a bit nerve wracking.’’

The third round, which lasted over 13 hours, finally ended after 8 p.m. with the last players needing over five hours to complete their 18 holes. Korda had to wait until all of them were finished to be assured she had survived the cut right on the number – 3-over-par 147. The wait was worth it, as Korda drew one of the first tee times on Saturday and shot 68 when conditions – in her words — “weren’t as tough.’’

“There were some low scores out there, and I’m just happy that I got it done,’’ she said. Her playing partner, pregnant American star Stacy Lewis, benefitted, too. She shot a 70 to get into a tie for 36th when she finished.

A new No. 1?

Inbee Park’s failure to survive the 36-hole cut at Kemper Lakes means that there will be a new No. 1-ranked player in the Rolex World Rankings after the last putt drops on Sunday.

No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn, No. 3 Lexi Thompson, Feng and No. 5 So Yeon Ryu all have a chance at being No. 1 by late Sunday afternoon. Jutanugarn, Thompson and Feng would all get the top spot with a win.

Thompson could get it with a runner-up finish if Jutanugarn finishes third or worse. Feng must win to move up and Ryu could be No. 1 by winning if Jutanugarn finishes third or worse.

Jutanugarn, Feng and Ryu have all been No. 1 at some point. Jutanugarn held the top spot for two weeks last year. Feng owned it for 23 weeks between November, 2013, and April of this year. Ryu was No. 1 for 19 weeks in 2017. Thompson has been as high as No. 2 but has yet to claim the top spot.

Baltusrol lands 2023 tourney

The PGA of America announced Saturday that Baltusrol, in New Jersey, will host the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in 2023. The event goes to Hazeltine, in Minnesota, next year and to Aronimink, in the Philadelphia area, in 2020. No sites have been assigned for 2021 or 2022.

Baltusrol also landed the men’s PGA Championship in 2029. The club’s Lower Course has hosted one previous women’s major championship – the 1961 U.S. Women’s Open, which was won by Mickey Wright. It has hosted the men’s PGA twice – in 2005 when Phil Mickelson won the title and in 2016 when Jimmy Walker was the winner.

The next men’s PGA, the 100th playing of the championship, will be at Bellerive in St. Louis in August. It’ll be the last time the tournament is held in the fall. The PGA of America will move it to May in 2019.