Yani Tseng: in a slump and out of answers

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Five months without a top 10. Sixteen consecutive rounds without breaking 70. An average final round of 74.3 since April. The numbers add to a player mired in a dreadful slump, and it’s even more shocking when they belong to the No. 1 player in the world.

Yani Tseng doesn’t seem to have any answers.

“I think this is just part of real life when you go out and you have to go down and maybe you go up again,” Tseng said Monday in South Korea, where she is the defending champion in the LPGA HanaBank Championship. “I can always be stronger and tougher when I’m coming back.”

The last No. 1 player to turn in such pedestrian scores was Tiger Woods in 2010, though he was coming off a humiliating crisis in his personal life and spent the better part of three months without a swing coach.

Tseng started this year looking very much like the most dominant player of any tour. She won three times in five starts and finished in the top 10 in all eight of her LPGA Tour events through the Match Play Championship. Now, that seems a lifetime ago.

Not only has she gone 11 straight LPGA events without a top 10, the difference between the two halves of her season is simply staggering.

She earned $976,876 in her first eight tournaments and $115,320 in her last 11 tournaments. Her scoring average in the first eight tournaments was 69.5, and it was 72.8 over her last 11 tournaments. Tseng had 15 of 28 rounds in the 60s through the Hawaii tournament. Only four of her last 36 rounds have been in the 60s.

It didn’t help that she fired her caddie with hopes of changing her luck. When she went to hire him back, he had already agreed to work for U.S. Women’s Open champion Na Yeon Choi.

About the only thing that hasn’t changed is her No. 1 ranking, and she’s not likely to lose that by the end of the year.

“Last three months, I have been learning a lot from everything,” Tseng said. “It’s kind of very tough because when you play best and you kind of struggle for three, four months, it’s very difficult. But now I feel like I just want to enjoy my life and enjoy every part of my golf because this is a game I love since when I was young. This couple months, I’ve been feeling so much better on the golf course.

“I feel I’m happier and enjoy life more instead of trying to worry about world No. 1 or winning the tournament,” she said. “I just want to go out there and have fun with everybody else and try to make birdie every hole, and if not, go to the next tournament and try to play well. We still have more tournaments and next year to come.”

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KIWI SURPRISE: Michael Campbell described it as “a long time between drinks” and he wasn’t talking about a trip to the bar. The former U.S. Open champion had four rounds in the 60s and finished third in the Portugal Masters, two shots behind Shane Lowry.

It was his highest finish since he tied for third in the British Masters on Sept. 28, 2008.

As much attention as David Duval gets for a slump that has endured for a decade, Campbell’s downturn ranks right up there. During that four-year span, he missed the cut 69 times in 90 official starts. He earned $181,742 on Sunday in Portugal, which is more than he had earned in 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined on the European Tour.

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