Feng set to show 'real Shanshan' in Volvik title defense

Shanshan Feng of China wathes her tee shot on the 14th hole during round one of the Hugel-JTBC Championship at the Wilshire Country Club on April 19, 2018 in Los Angeles, California

Feng Shanshan defends her title at the LPGA Volvik Championship hoping she can again kickstart her season at Travis Pointe in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Feng's victory last year marked the earliest in a season that the Chinese star had ever posted an LPGA victory, and she's come to see the benefit of getting the ball rolling earlier in the year.

"I think last year before I played the Volvik Championship, I wasn't doing very well and I think that was like a breaking point for me last year," she said.

"And because I won here, I finally started to feel more confidence and comfortable, and then that actually gave me extra confidence because before that I just won two times in the US.

"So all of my nine wins on the LPGA, I win most of them in Asia, so I really want to prove that I can win in the US, too. So last year the victory here was very important to me."

Last year Feng fired four straight rounds in the 60s, including a third-round 66, to win her seventh LPGA title at Travis Pointe.

She added victories in the Japan Classic and the Blue Bay LPGA on the Chinese island of Hainan in November to become the first Chinese golfer, male or female, to reach number one in the world.

But Feng hasn't won since then.

She boasts four top-10 finishes in 2018, but in April slipped to second in the world behind South Korean Park In-bee.

She admitted that she felt the stress of the number one ranking.

"I did feel a little pressure when I was number one because every week people remind you, like, 'Oh, you're number one. What's your goal this week? Are you going to win this week? What are you going to do?'" Feng said.

It wasn't a kind of pressure the normally laid-back Feng was used to.

"I think because of that, I think maybe sometimes I started to feel like having more pressure on the course and then started to actually feel a little bit nervous when I have chances to win.

"So, I'm actually pretty happy that now I'm not number one. I'm number two -- I'm the one that is chasing the others again.

"So now I'm feeling more confident and more comfortable, and I think I can bring out the real Shanshan now."