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December 8, 2015

Shanshan Feng

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

BETHAN CUTLER: This lady needs no introduction, the defending champion having won here last year and you also won in 2012. So Shanshan Feng, how confident are you to get your third win here in Dubai?

SHANSHAN FENG: I would say first, I'm really happy to come back this year. It's my fourth time here and I've had a very good record here so far. This year coming back as defending champion, I don't feel as nervous as I was on 2013. Because last time, I know I was defending champion, I think maybe I still had a little bit of pressure, so I didn't perform as well as I thought I would.

Then this year coming back, I just want to relax and enjoy the tournament. I know I love this golf course and it suits my game. So just going to give my best, and I think my goal is just Top 10.

BETHAN CUTLER: And why do you love this golf course?

SHANSHAN FENG: I think because my iron game is usually my strong part, so that allows me to have a lot of birdie chances on this golf course. If my putting is good, then I can shoot really low numbers here, and I think that's why I won twice here, yeah. So I think this week, I'm going to maybe practice a little more putting.

Q. Welcome back to Dubai. Last time when you were here, you said top five was your aim. This time, you're saying Top 10. Why are you lowering your own expectations?
SHANSHAN FENG: Did I say top five? Okay, I'll say top five then. (Laughter).

It's not really like something that I'm like, I have to make this top five or I have to make this Top 10. It's just kind of like a goal coming into this tournament. It's usually a goal that I feel comfortable and confident to reach.

So it doesn't really matter. I could say top five, yeah. (Laughing).

Q. Why do you think like that? There are players who are of your ability on the men's tour and on the women's tour who just say that if you ask them at the start of the year, they would say we are here to win it. You never seem to say that. Are you just giving yourself that much of a buffer space, or what is the mind set when you say that?
SHANSHAN FENG: Well, my coach always tells me, like when you're practicing on the golf course, you always prepare like you're going to win the tournament. But I think that is right for sure, that's how I prepare to play in the tournament. But also, I think saying that I want to win this tournament this week, I have to win, I think that's going to give me pressure.

Like for me, I'm a person that I know the pressure from the other people and from the fans, it's already enough. So I don't want to give myself like extra pressure. So for myself, I try to do everything that can relieve the pressure. So I think that is one of the ways I do it. So I don't say it. I just try my best. If it's mine, it's mine.

Q. But this year must be even more easier for you, given that you already also wrapped up the Order of Merit. How is that as a feeling, winning the Order of Merit, as well, and then after winning the Order of Merit, coming into a tournament where really there's not much pressure on you, except for the fact that you're the highest ranked player and everyone thinks you should win.
SHANSHAN FENG: I would say, I'm really happy to come back here every year, come back to Dubai, because this is my lucky place, and also it's my sponsor's tournament. So I would say I know I already won the Order of Merit, but it doesn't really matter about how I'm going to perform this week.

I think this week is just like every other week that I try my best and do the same thing, stay on my routine and just bring out my A Game.

Q. I know you said that it's just any other week, but can you describe what it's like to come back to a tournament where you've got all these good memories? Must give you such an advantage over the rest of the field. Do you feel that way?
SHANSHAN FENG: Not really. I mean, for example, like I played in Beijing twice, and the first year I won, the second year I was defending champion the first year I was 26 under and I won. The second year when I went back, I was defending champion and I didn't play very well. I believe I was like 2 over total. So that was like almost like a 30 shot difference on the same course.

I would say everything can happen because this is golf, so I'm not trying to expect myself to do the same thing like as well as maybe last year or three years ago. But also, I might have a chance to play even better, so I'm not really thinking about the past. I'm just focusing on right now.

Q. Are there still any little bits that you do take from your wins here? Is there little things that you think of or that come to memory as soon as you arrive here at the golf course?
SHANSHAN FENG: Yeah, of course. I think people recognize me here. I would say yesterday I played nine holes practice round, and like from certain on certain holes, I knew I learned from the past. I was like, maybe I need to adjust a little bit on my targets or maybe my game plan.

So I think that's the only advantage I would take from the past years. Yesterday was a little different because it was really windy and kind of chilly, so that's different weather compared to the past. I don't know how the weather is going to be like the rest of the week, but every year it's new.

Q. How does that impact your game if the weather is a little bit different than what you've had recently?
SHANSHAN FENG: I don't mind if it's windy. Because I think windy condition is actually good for me because I usually hit the balls really solid, so it doesn't really matter for me. Also, I think it's fair to everybody, even though if it's windy or if it's raining or if well, maybe it won't rain here, or doesn't matter if it's really hot. But as long as it's fair, I think it's good.

Q. Just wanted to ask you, you said this is your lucky course, your lucky place. Is there anywhere else that you feel that kind of connection to on the circuit, any other country, any other course?
SHANSHAN FENG: Yeah, I would say, I think I've had the best record so far here. I think the second best is Malaysia, because in the past three years, I went second, first and second. And it's so funny, it doesn't matter like how my condition was, but then if I'm going to Malaysia, then my game will be good. I always bring out my A Game. Everybody says that golf course suits me, too. I don't know why but people say that, yeah.

Q. What do you do whilst you're here to take the pressure off yourself? Because you're obviously talking a lot about pressure and he escaping that. What do you do just to wind down and get away from expectation?
SHANSHAN FENG: Like me, like if I'm out of the course, I don't think about or talk about anything like on the course. And also, I really like to play like games and watch like soap operas on my iPad, and maybe some funny movies or funny TV shows. Also, I hang out with my friends and sleep a lot. I think that's very important to me. Yeah, so I think just rest well, be well rested and that's it.

BETHAN CUTLER: So you've basically wrapped up the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit. What will it mean to you this weekend to be the first player from China to win the LET Order of Merit?

SHANSHAN FENG: Well, I would say I'm really proud of myself to be able to earn that honor. And also, I need to think thanks to the European Tour because I think the European Tour is a great tour. Even though I didn't have many chances to play on this tour, but every time I come, I think you guys are really professional. It's great and I just hope that I can actually have more chances to play.

And also, I have a lot of friends on the European Tour, and I do see the players, that there are more younger players coming now from the European Tour. I'm really happy that I won this Order of Merit. Well, maybe now I'm the first Chinese, but I'm hoping maybe in the future, there will be more Chinese that actually can win this Order of Merit.

BETHAN CUTLER: Are you happy with your season overall?

SHANSHAN FENG: Yeah, I would say I've had a very consistent year this year so far. Even though I only won once on the European, didn't have any wins on the LPGA, but I got really close a few times. I finished like 12 times in the Top 10 out of 21 tournaments on the LPGA.

I would still think it was a good year. A little bit, if I have to say, maybe a little bit disappointed because I didn't win on the LPGA, but hopefully this is my last tournament this year and I'll have a good finish and be a good wrap up of the year.

BETHAN CUTLER: And next year is very important for you with the Olympic Games, as well.

SHANSHAN FENG: Yeah, sure. I think now, I think I'm in at least and I think my playing partner is Xi Yu. She also won this year on the European Tour and she's a really good player. So I think the two of us will have a chance to maybe make something happen next year.

Q. Laura Davies was saying it would be better if the Order of Merit was devised by a points system instead of money, so that if you go and win the Evian, you don't just go and win the Order of Merit. Do you agree with that? Do you think it should be a points system, as opposed to dollars or whatever it's in, Euros?
SHANSHAN FENG: I do think Order of Merit is usually about prize money, right. I would say maybe it's more about the the points system is maybe more Player of the Year. That's the same thing on the LPGA because Order of Merit, it's the order of how much you made. That's what I understand.

And I do think that you can separate it, because now I think Player of the Year, we are voting for that, right. So I think if we have the points system for the Player of the Year, I think that makes sense. That's the same as other tours.

Q. Can I just ask you, you're ranked sixth in the world right now. You've been around that figure for the last two, three years. You've been playing very solid golf but you've been around that number in the last two or three years. What are your aspirations regarding being world No. 1, and can you just tell us how difficult it is right now, given how well you are playing to become that No. 1 and what you have to do for that?
SHANSHAN FENG: Well, I would say for me, I never really aimed for the world No. 1. For me, I didn't like to set any goals, like maybe on numbers. It's like maybe I'm like, oh, my next goal is to get passed somebody.

So actually, I have a target but it's usually a person. So I'm like, I try to catch you, and then after I catch you, then I set another goal, I aim at another person and I'm trying to catch you. But it's not like we're not friendly off the course. It's just like some kind of target that makes me want to move forward.

So I never really thought about the No. 1 thing. Well, of course, Lydia is playing really, really well, and she is the world No. 1 right now, right. And even though she's young, but she's got everything. She's got a very good mental game. Distance is not bad, she's above average. And also iron game, I think she's the No. 1 on the Tour, and her putting is really well, also.

She's like a whole package. It's not like she doesn't have anything that's really weak and so that's why she's up there. And she doesn't act like an 18 year old girl off the course. Well, off the course she does. Off the course she is 18 years old, you can tell. Like she calls everybody like, ah, big sister, and she's really friendly. Everybody love her. Everybody loves her. She's such a great person, also. But off the course, she is maybe I would say she's only 18. She's not at her highest point yet. So I think if other girls want to catch her, catch up with her, we need to maybe try even harder.

And I would say Inbee is right now the closest to her. And like for me, I would say I'm usually a consistent player, but for me, depends on my putting, because my putting is my weak part. If I putt well, I do have chances to win, but if my putting is not as struggling, then I still can make a Top 10 but it's hard for me to be in the winning circle. So I think that's been my problem like since I started my career, but I do think that it's getting better and better, and I will just keep continue working on that. I think every other part of my game is not good enough.

BETHAN CUTLER: I'd like to find out more about what you do for children in China. I believe you are working to help develop the sport. Can you expand and tell us about that?

SHANSHAN FENG: Yeah, I started my own well, it's not an academy yet. I will call it a studio maybe. So I started it last year maybe on October, so it's been a year now. And what we do is I actually found a few coaches that were actually growing up with me together, and we were all in the junior team at Guangzhou, and that's how I knew them because they started when they were juniors.

I think letting them to teach the juniors, they have more to talk about. So we two do parts well, we do three parts. First part is we go to different primary schools to provide free lessons, free golf lessons for the students. So it can be like for a certain class or like you can sign up for that, another class and a special class or whatever. And also, like in one school, we are teaching the whole grade. So it's like 300 kids in that one school.

Then I think in the first semester, we were giving more than 600 kids free golf lessons, and we were trying to, because they didn't have any ranges or anything there. We were trying just to set it up as good as possible. And they were usually maybe hitting towards the nets or we will try to find some interesting ways for the kids to learn. And then that's the first part we do.

And then second part is if the kids want to get better, they can come to our studio and buy lessons, but the price to have lessons from our studio is maybe just half compared to the market price. So it's really not expensive at all because I think a lot of the people, like the reason why I stopped a lot of people away from golf is because it's really expensive but they think it's really expensive. But now I've actually lowered the price, so that allowed a lot more people actually to have a chance to start playing golf.

So we've had quite a few kids that they wouldn't think they would play golf, but actually now they want to at least keep practicing golf until they see if they can just go to a good college or even turning pro. So I'm really happy to see that change.

And also, we do like all the junior clinics, like maybe once every season. It's all free. All the kids can come if they sign up. They all can come and also they can come with the families, and we do have all the different games for the parents and the kids to actually play together. So they can actually have a chance to see, oh, golf is actually fun, maybe I want to start it.

So we do different things to promote golf in China. After a year now, I do think that it's improved a lot. But it's only based in my home city. I'm not able to make it really huge right now, but I do think that I just go from like step by step. If I do it really well, like in Guangzhou, and then maybe can go maybe Nationwide later.

BETHAN CUTLER: So why are you doing this and what do you hope your legacy will be in the future.

SHANSHAN FENG: Well, why I'm doing it is like I said because a lot of people think it's so expensive. And even though like some people think it's not a sport, so I need to at least first, I need to introduce golf to you. I need to tell you, golf is a good sport. It's not only a sport but it's a very great sport. It's in the Olympics.

And also, I would actually like to see more kids to start playing golf, because right now, I think in China, we only have maybe less than I don't know the exact number, but I think we only have like less than maybe 300 or 400 professional players, so I think that's not enough. And also, a lot of the professional players, they started playing golf when they were maybe in 20s.

So now, they are like in 40s, so they are getting a little bit older, but we need more younger, good players. So I do think doing like going to schools and provide lessons, this is very important.

Q. Can I just ask you, do you follow football?

Q. Yeah.
SHANSHAN FENG: American football or

Q. No, soccer. Soccer.

Q. Okay. You know your home city beat our football team?
SHANSHAN FENG: I know. Yeah.

Q. Did you follow that match and what did you think of it? I'm happy that there's no Dubai player over here, otherwise they would have tried very hard to beat you.
SHANSHAN FENG: Well, I would say the Guangzhou team is really lucky to actually find such a big sponsor for it. Well, even though I'm not in Guangzhou that often, but it's everywhere. Everywhere in Guangzhou, you can see the billboards. You can see everywhere they make water, they make everything.

So I would say even though I'm not in China that much, but of course I do know about it. I don't follow it like I follow every event. I was really happy that like Guangzhou team, it won twice, this year and two years ago, right? So I'm really happy to see that because soccer has been one of the biggest sports in China and I'm really happy to see it's growing up.

BETHAN CUTLER: Thank you very much for your time. Good luck in the tournament.

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