Tseng Makes First Move in a Long Time
Tuning into the Yokohama Tire Classic to see how the LPGA is doing won’t do you a bit of good today. It rained, and almost forty players didn’t get to finish. There was also lightning in the area, but not all of it belonged to Mother Nature. A lot of it was personally provided by Yani Tseng. She’s been threatening to do this for a little while, surreptitiously appearing in the upper reaches of the leaderboard for the first time in two or three years.
I think it’s safe to take a breath where Tseng is concerned, whether she wins this weekend or not. She appears to be back, but only a long-term sampling of her work will tell. The season has a few tournaments left, and that should offer us some insight.
Stacy Lewis played with her in the second round, in which Tseng took the lead by one after a cool and confident 64. According to Lewis, it was a pretty nifty two-person round, as they traded birdies through the day. It was a round with two former number ones, and both were playing without much “former” to their games. Noting an upsurge in Tseng’s confidence, Lewis suggested that she hits high irons, and was habitually attacking flags that, in Lewis’ words, were deeply “tucked in.” That takes guts on any level, weekend or tour. According to Tseng herself, a lot of potential success comes down to driving. It’s a course that likes long-hitters, and Tseng is happy to oblige. Put it in the right place, and few are going to match her from mid-irons down.
Not even the weather delays seemed to get in her way. It was as if the climate gods were trying to upset everyone’s rhythm, the way football teams “ice” kickers before a game-changing field goal. Tseng, however, would have none of it, sinking the important putts, and coming back with the important approaches, including a six-iron to the 8th that dropped four feet from the hole. Tseng almost nonchalantly sank the putt, finishing the round with eagle and birdie.
Tseng was, in many ways, a mirror image of Tiger Wood’s domination some years ago. She very early qualified for the World Golf Hall of Fame not too long after being old enough to drive (a car). She was ranked as the number one player in the world for 109 weeks, which is roughly 26 months. And then it all fell out, and no one knows why, including Tseng. There was talk of burnout, a desire for more life diversity, more zen and tranquility. Those, however, are not necessarily detrimental to good golf, which goes hand in hand with zen. Some are natural born people-to-people competitors, while some compete with themselves and the game – works either way, depending on who you are. Lewis likes mortal combat, Tseng likes becoming one with the game.
Still, something was wrong. Tseng had slipped to as low as 75th in the world, and has been winless in 85 events. This year, the most dominant player through 2013 made one top ten finish. She hired a new swing coach, a new trainer, and a mental coach who seems to have done a spectacular job. Confidence is at an all-time high, expressed in a joy at coming out to do it again – “I can’t wait to come out tomorrow – it’s a brand new day.” The patience required for tour wins also seems to be in a good place. By her own words, she wants to win, just like everyone else does, but she’ll let it happen “this week, next week, or next year.”
Regardless, Tseng sounds content being back, and the desire for a zen life remains. When asked about her goals, she replied “I just want to keep playing as happy Yani.” You can’t knock that, and I hope it goes well.