Taipei, Taiwan: England's Jodi Ewart Shadoff shot a sparkling seven-under-par 65 to lead the LPGA Taiwan Championship by two shots on Thursday, raising hopes of her first victory on the tour.
Nelly Korda of America and South Korea's Kang Hae-ji were tied for second at the par-72 Ta Shee Golf and Country Club in Taoyuan.
No players from China are at the tournament after Feng Shanshan and Liu Yu pulled out without explanation, raising the possibility that tensions with Beijing may have spilled over into the sporting arena.
Organisers from the LPGA Taiwan confirmed the players "withdrew their registration" but did not say when or why they made the request.
Relations have deteriorated since President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan's independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office two years ago. Beijing regards the self-ruled island as a renegade province.
In July, Taiwan was stripped of hosting rights for the 2019 East Asian Youth Games, a move which sports officials blamed on Beijing's anger over calls for a referendum to compete at the Olympics as 'Taiwan', rather than the Beijing-mandated 'Chinese Taipei'.