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Aug 08

Yani Tseng is Still Here

Tseng Still Appearing on Leader Boards, Despite Not Winning

It’s time to drag out the old psychologist’s couch again. It’s not for Tiger, Rory, or any number of male golfing mysteries this time. It’s for Yani Tseng, who until a few years ago was the Queen of everything available for such a title in women’s golf. The Taiwanese superstar conquered just about everything instantly, winning five majors in a short time, and drawing to within four points of the Hall of Fame, well before the age of thirty. Tseng is still under the age of thirty, but it’s a lot closer now. The reason we even speak of her at all is that her truncated reign of success is so puzzling, the reason for it is so unapparent, and because she still shoots sub-par golf in tournaments from time to time. As an example, she came in at six under at the Ricoh Women’s British Open last week

We can begin to understand what happened to Tiger Woods, at least in a general way. He lost his mojo about the time he hurt himself. He is a big strong player with a Ferrari engine who ended up in the shop. Yani Tseng’s case is different, save one similarity. She’s also a big strong player, regardless of actual height and weight. Tseng was cruising into the 2012 season when, like Tiger, it just stopped…all of it. A world number one for months and months, she plummeted far down the rankings, and fell off the earnings mountain. By 2014, all the statistics had grown far worse, as she languished near the bottom of the first 100 ranked golfers. After winning five majors and screeching to a halt just a hair’s breadth from lasting fame, she has won nothing since, major or otherwise. It is now 2017, and we’re still waiting for her to tip it over into the Hall of Fame, but Tseng remains in a holding pattern.
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To go down the list of possibilities, she doesn’t appear to be hurt. Her confidence level is certainly good enough to shoot sub-par golf. Some say she has lost interest, but I’m not truly convinced of that. Did she get eclipsed by a new generation of great golfers? She did not. I feel sure of it. The Thompsons, Kos, Hulls, Jutanugarns, the Parks, and the Hendersons are as good as they come, to be sure. But, I do not believe that golf evolution got ratcheted up an entire notch in just a few short years, and neither did technology. Yani Tseng should still be a major deal in this business, and we don’t know why she isn’t.

Last on the list of reasons is, heaven forbid, her swing? Is that possible after all the dominant wins? I watched Simon Holmes dissect the Yani Tseng swing, and after watching the whole thing, I couldn’t see anything wrong. It was smooth, strong, and gorgeous. That, however, is just another reason why  I am not a professional teaching pro. According to Holmes, Tseng grew up in windy conditions. Needing strength, she comes in very steep from the top of her backswing, with her hands far ahead of the impact. That and other factors make her a big hitter. However, according to Holmes, that same habit makes hitting an accurate wedge very difficult, and he claims that Tseng has trouble feeling distances in the 120 yard variety. That means a big hitter with a mediocre short game, and therefore an anonymous face on the leaderboard in the LPGA tournaments. Presumably, Tseng is working on that wedge, at a level most of us would not understand. If she succeeds, she should be right back in that amazing top group, and often. Remember, she’s not even thirty yet, and if Holmes is correct, Yani Tseng may not be so far away from a big return.
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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.