Taiwan’s Yani Tseng (曾雅妮) swept to the No. 1 world ranking after a brilliant four-shot victory in the A$500,000 (US$500,000) Australian Ladies Masters at Royal Pines yesterday.
The 22-year-old will officially overtake South Korea’s Shin Ji-yai this week after completing the second leg of an Australian double following her seven-stroke win in the Australian Open in Melbourne last weekend.
“I never expected this to come true,” Tseng said. “Everything is feeling so good, winning, being world No. 1.”
The Taiwanese star carded a final-round, four-under-par 68 to finish the tournament at 24-under 264.
A three-time major winner and 2008 LPGA Rookie of the Year, Tseng will be feted as a hero when she returns to Taiwan, which has not had a world-class performer in the sport since T.C Chen in the 1980s.
“Hopefully, the first page of the newspaper,” she said, when asked how her rise to the top ranking would be received back home. “I think it is going to be huge.”
Eight months Shin’s junior, Tseng is the youngest No. 1 since the official world rankings were introduced in 2006 when Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam ruled women’s golf.
“I don’t want to be No. 1 for one week or two weeks, I want to still be there at the end of the year,” said Tseng, who had 26 birdies and an eagle in her 72 holes at the Australian Masters.
Her win dominated leading news bulletins nationwide, where her performance takes on a special significance as the nation is short of world-class athletes.
“You won the title at the Australian Ladies Masters and have become the world’s No. 1 women golfer. You have become the pride of Taiwan and deserve special praise,” President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) told her in a congratulatory message.
Tseng was four shots clear of Australian Nikki Campbell and American Stacy Lewis, both on 20-under 268. American Ryann O’Toole was outright fourth on 270.
Tseng was tentative early in the final round as many of her rivals found birdies easy to come by on a day of low scoring.
At one stage, Tseng’s lead was reduced to just two by Lewis and Campbell after her bogey at the par-four 334m seventh.
However, after she birdied the par-five ninth and grabbed another at the long 501m par-five 12th, the contest was as good as over.
Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) and Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) also sent congratulatory messages to Tseng yesterday.
Golf will be included in the 2016 Olympic Games. The Sports Affairs Council has put forward plans to develop the potential of athletes in tennis, golf and other professional sports in an effort to cultivate more “small Tsengs,” the council said.
Additional reporting by CNA