Taiwanese golf sensation Yani Tseng admitted she would almost be glad to be toppled from the “very lonely” spot of world No. 1 and expressed sympathy for her besieged men’s counterpart Rory McIlroy.
Tseng watched on Sunday as her two closest rivals in the rankings, Choi Na-yeon and Stacy Lewis, finished second and first respectively at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore, slashing her lead to just 0.68 average points.
But Tseng, 24, who tossed her ball into a lake in disgust as she wound up tied for 28th, said she simply did not care about being world No. 1 any more after two increasingly difficult years at the top.
“I don’t care if I lose [the world No. 1 spot]. I don’t really care about world No. 1 now — I just want to have fun,” she said.
“World No. 1, I know it’s good and people like it, but I want to care about myself more and I just want to enjoy [myself]. If I lose [it], I’ll get back one day too,” she said.
Tseng’s candid comments come after McIlroy, under pressure after performing poorly following a lucrative switch to Nike clubs, walked off the course during a second-round blow-out at the Honda Classic in Florida.
McIlroy later blamed toothache for his sudden withdrawal, but the issue was clouded by reported comments that he was “not in a good place mentally” as he left the venue.
Tseng backed the 23-year-old Northern Irishman to bounce back, pointing out that he faced difficulties last year before winning his second major title and topping both the US and European money lists.
“Last year he struggled in the middle of the season too, but he finished strong and [returned to] world No. 1. He will be back soon,” she said.
Tseng was reduced to tears last year as pressure built after a string of missed cuts, and after winning seven titles in 2011 she is now searching for her first victory in a year.
The Taiwanese, who has sought advice from former long-time women’s No. 1 Annika Sorenstam, said few people could understand the difficulty of being at the top of a sport.
“It’s tough and it’s very lonely,” Tseng said. “No one knows how it feels. Everybody wants to be in your shoes, but no one knows how tough it is.”
“Not many people have been there before, so I don’t have many people to ask what should I do. You just need to find your way to stay on top as long as you can because everybody is different,” she said.
“Annika has a different way, Tiger [Woods], Rory, everybody has a different way to stay on top, but you need to find your way. Now I’m looking for how can I be on top for as long [as possible], but sometimes I even feel maybe No. 2 is good,” Tseng said.
She added: “The first year when I was world No. 1 I felt good, I enjoyed it. But then every year, every month everybody kept building that expectation on me and I think that’s a lot of pressure.”
“I want to play golf like a child, I don’t want to play golf with pressure, because if I don’t play well people say bad things about me, and I don’t want that. I want to focus on myself more and to ignore bad things,” she said.
Tseng’s struggles at No. 1 have been noted by Lewis, who rose to third in the rankings by winning in Singapore and hopes to complete her ascent to the top spot in a matter of weeks.
“I know No. 1 is a hard place to be,” Lewis, 28, said. “But ... I don’t feel like I’m doing a lot of stuff different, and right now, I don’t think No. 1 is going to be any different.”