Reuters is reporting that unusual circumstances led to two LPGA players withdrawing from this week’s event in Taiwan. According to the report, someone “high up” in China told Shanshan Feng and Yu Liu, the only Chinese players in the event’s field, to skip it.
The Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship starts in Taipei on Thursday. As late as Monday, Feng and Liu were both featured in promotional material on the tournament’s website and their names were listed in the event’s final field. By Tuesday, that was gone.
The alleged exchange happened at last week’s tournament in Shanghai.
Reuters reached out for comment from both players and from the involved associations. “They said I can’t respond regarding the issue of withdrawing from the competition,” Liu, an LPGA rookie, told Reuters via social media platform Weibo. But she added that the WD was “not for personal reasons.”
Ruby Chen, who serves as agent for both Feng and Liu, denied that the player withdrew due to pressure. He declined to expand on their decision. The Chinese Golf Association did not return calls on the matter. An LPGA official said it had no plans to fine the players for a late WD “given the circumstances.”
It is unclear who told Feng and Liu to withdraw. Feng, the ninth-ranked player in the world, has played events in Taiwan the last four years. She finished T3 last year and runner-up the year before.
Just last year, Feng skipped an event sponsored by South Korean company Lotte due to diplomatic tensions between China and South Korea over a missile defense system.
Taiwan is a self-ruled province of China that has repeatedly pushed for independent sovereignty. Tensions have ramped up between Taiwan and China in recent years, particularly since the 2016 election of a new president, Tsai Ing-wen, who hails from the Democratic Progressive Party.
Ing-wen’s recent trip to the United States drew the ire of Chinese government officials, who oppose anyone with diplomatic ties to China having “official contacts” with Taiwan.
The U.S. has ramped up its activity in the Taiwan Strait despite opposition from China. On Monday, two U.S. warships went up the Strait, the second such operation this year.
You can read the complete report from Reuters here.