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Relaxed Shanshan Feng leads US Women’s Open

Shanshan Feng of China watches her shot on

Shanshan Feng of China watches her shot on the 14th green during the U.S. Women's Open round one on July 13, 2017 at Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, New Jersey. Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

BEDMINSTER, N.J.—For almost everyone involved with this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, the past week has been one of intense preparation and high tension.

Not for Shanshan Feng, though. She flew in from China, slept as much as she could and laughed as much as she wanted. She also shot 6-under par 66 to take the first-round lead.

“I mean, I like to be happy all the time,” she said after going around Trump National Golf Club without having made a bogey. “Golf is just part of our lives. It’s not everything.”

Don’t they know it at this championship. In the weeks and days leading up to the first shots, the edgy focus has been on whether President Donald Trump will appear at the course he owns (no official word yet, although the golfers were given security instructions) and whether the U.S. Golf Association should have its major women’s event here (the organization UltraViolet reported having collected 100,000 signatures on a petition saying “No”).

The opening round turned out quiet, with Trump in France and no protests evident. Most people were talking about the muggy weather, which produced a late-afternoon thunderstorm delay, and the array of solid golf. Feng led that effort, finishing her spirited round one shot ahead of Amy Yang and two in front of Lydia Ko and women’s world No. 1 So Yeon Ryu.

Feng said she was not the least bit jet-lagged despite having returned for a week to her home country to play in the Kumho Tires Ladies Championship. “Well, it was my sponsor’s tournament and I felt it was my responsibility to actually go support my sponsor,” she said, adding that she had not been back among family and friends in Guangzhou since March.

She was fine with having played poorly in China (“I felt happy because I made all the bad putts and bad shots on the same week and now only the good ones are left,” she said). Nor did she complain when her flight from Weihai to Beijing Sunday night was delayed six hours to 3 a.m. Feng flew overnight to Newark, rested Monday and got two good nights’ sleep.

If one word describes Feng, it is “adaptable.” She moved to the U.S., alone, at 17 to study with golf teacher Gary Gilchrist who once admitted to her he originally thought she was “an idiot” because she professed that her natural ball flight was straight rather than a draw or fade. She recalled that story on Thursday, with a laugh.

Life and seven tour victories have put her in a long-term good mood. “I would say I love America. I love American food. I love steak, maybe buffalo wings,” she said. “I think that’s maybe one of the reasons why I have been doing well: I love the food and I can sleep well and I forget bad things quickly.”

Ko called Feng “one of the most consistent players on tour. Her swing, her putting, everything, there’s not a lot that can go wrong with it.”

The 27-year-old is not afraid to stand out, either. On Thursday she wore her signature outfit, with a black-and-white pattern like the one on a Holstein cow. “I like wearing the cow pants because people can spot me from really far away,” she said. “Maybe because of more people supporting me, maybe that makes me feel more excited and maybe play better.”

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