New Year could bring in the old Yani
created on : 16th Jan 2013


You might think that Christmas and the New Year would have added up to a relaxing time all round for the top women professionals.




It may well have been that for some but, for Yani Tseng, whose No.1 spot on the world rankings is under threat, alarm bells as no less than Christmas bells would have been ringing in her ears.

Tseng, who has clung valiantly to her position at the top for well over 100 weeks, would have had her fingers firmly crossed that the New Year would usher in the old Yani. The Yani who won as many as 14 times in 2011 and was so far ahead of such as Na Yeon Choi, Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park and Shanshan Feng that she never had to think twice about them.


It was over the 2011-2012 festive break that the magic disappeared. True, she won three titles in January and February of 2012 but she was soon missing cuts and woefully short of belief as her rivals drew ever closer.


At last year's HSBC Women's Champions at Tanah Merah, for example, she finished fifth as Angela Stanford won a four-way play-off from Choi, Feng and Jenny Shin.


In many ways it would have been easier for the 23-year-old Tseng - she will be 24 later this month - had she been toppled from her top slot before the end of last year. That way, she would have been able to burst on to the 2013 scene in chasing mode instead of having the braying pack at her heels.


Tseng, of course, is not the first person to have found it tough at the top. Lee Westwood, who was the No 1 on the European Tour in 2000, had a wretched time of it as he tumbled down the rankings the following year. (For the record, he finished outside the leading 50 in 2001.) Where Yani is different from Westwood is in having talked so vividly of the downside of being at the helm. It was during last year's Evian, the event which will become the LPGA's fifth major, that she unburdened herself on her growing concerns...


"This is my second year as No. 1 and no-one knows how hard it is," she began. "It's not just about playing good golf, it's about everything else you have to handle, from media and sponsor requests to the way the fans see things.


"Sometimes, if I have a poor finish,  people will say, 'What's happened to you...You had better go to the practice ground and do some work or you'll lose your No. 1 spot.'


"Everyone," she continued, "expects me to be perfect but even last year, when I won 14 times, I missed a cut. What people say gets through to me and it hurts. Now, I'm trying to see myself as the other players see me. They don't think that I'm a bad player just because I haven't done well in the last couple of months." She talked, then, about trying to have more fun on the course but there were plenty of moments in that French week when her body-language suggested that she was some way removed from that happy state.

Hopefully, her handful of top five finishes at the end of last season will have armed her with the positive thoughts she needs as she prepares for the HSBC Women's Champions at its exciting new venue, the Serapong Course at Sentosa. Dave Stockton, the coach who has worked with Rory McIlroy on the mental side of the game, is just one to sense that everything could soon come right for the player. "Yani's way too good a golfer not to return to where she was," he suggests. Tseng's many Singaporean fans will be thinking along the same lines. When it comes to the HSBC week, they will follow her almost on tip-toe as they wait for the string of birdies and smiles which will tell them that all is well.

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