Sun, Feb 05, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Yani Tseng ready to begin encore to 12-win season

AP, ORLANDO, FLORIDA

Taiwan’s Yani Tseng poses with the Player of the Year trophy at the LPGA Rolex Awards Reception on Nov. 17 last year in Orlando, Florida.

Photo: AFP

Taiwan’s Yani Tseng has a tradition during the Lunar New Year — to give her house a thorough cleaning. She decided to start with the trophy cabinet, which was no small project. A photograph she posted on Facebook shows a cabinet crowded with crystal.

The 23-year-old has already won five majors, more than any other golfer at that age.

She is coming off a blockbuster season in which she won 12 times around the world, including the first four tournaments she played. She earned almost US$3 million on the LPGA Tour last year, more than the next two players combined. And she is No. 1 in the world by a large margin that only Tiger Woods could ever appreciate.

Tseng left her home at Lake Nona on Friday for what figures to be a tough encore.

“If I do the things I’m doing now, I think I will get better,” Tseng said. “I’ve been working on my swing, the physical side, I work on my English, everything. I think it’s going to help a lot. I need to do the mental and prepare, and not put too much pressure on myself. It’s hard to do again. Twelve wins. Wow.”

Wow, indeed.

Tseng will be defending her title when the LPGA Tour season gets under way next week with the Women’s Australian Open, to be played at Royal Melbourne, just three months after the Presidents Cup.

Only two other women have won more in one season — Annika Sorenstam in 2002, who won 11 times on the LPGA Tour and twice in Europe; and Mickey Wright in 1963, who won 13 times on the LPGA Tour.

About the only thing Tseng lacks is attention.

In voting by sports editors for The Associated Press female athlete of the year, Tseng finished a distant fourth behind US soccer players Abby Wambach and Hope Solo, and University of Connecticut basketball star Maya Moore.

Golf magazine made US Open champion Rory McIlroy its player of the year, prompting LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan to write a mild rebuke to the magazine, pointing out Tseng’s accomplishments last year and suggesting that if her record had belonged to a male golfer, it would have been an easy choice. The magazine published his letter.

However, women’s golf has long struggled to get attention. Even after Sorenstam won 13 times in 2002, it took her playing in the Colonial — the first woman in 58 years to play on the PGA Tour — before she became a one-name star.

Tseng is coming off a year that attracted that kind of attention. The Puerto Rico Open on the PGA Tour offered her an exemption, but Tseng turned it down. She won’t rule out a shot on the PGA Tour, though she has more she wants to achieve.

“She hits it like a guy,” Juli Inkster said.

Tseng doesn’t behave like a PGA Tour player, though. At the season-ending Titleholders in November last year in Orlando, she invited the media to her home for a party, which she organized herself.

“I just feel I want to give something back,” Tseng said. “The media is working hard to promote the LPGA. And I’m from Asia; I’m not American. Sometimes it’s very tough for you guys. It’s not easy. I just feel like everyone is working hard and we should have a party to celebrate the end of the year. Just have fun.”

At one point during the party, when the conversation turned to Universal Studios, Tseng went to her room and returned wearing a Harry Potter costume.

The attention she receives at home is entirely different.

Whan was in Taiwan last year for the LPGA Taiwan Championship at Sunrise, a course near where Tseng grew up. The gallery was enormous, filling up space on every hole. The pressure was as intense as it had been all year, even when Tseng won the Women’s British Open at Carnoustie or the LPGA Championship, her two majors.

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