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Tseng Hopes to Return to Good Play in LPGA Season Finale
Yani Tseng had an uncharacteristically bad tournament last week. The LPGA's back-to-back Player of the Year struggled in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, carding rounds of 76, 69, 74 and 72 to finish in a tie for 19th at 3-over 291 at Guadalajara Country Club in Mexico.
But one of the reasons for the Taiwanese player's success is her ability to ignore bad rounds and look ahead. "If I have something bad, I just forget about it, forget about that," the 22-year-old said Wednesday.
"Always looking for the happiest one, and I just learn from that. So I don't really remember. I got a couple bad tournaments. I missed the cut in Mobile, and the next week the media was asking me why were you winning a lot and why did you miss the cut? Why are you playing so bad? I said, no, I didn't even go to Mobile. I just forget about it because I missed cut. I was really happy to learn from that. You always get some up and down, and that's why life is good."
Tseng is in Orlando for this week's CME Group Titleholders, the final event on the 2011 LPGA schedule. The 66-player field is comprised of women who've had top-three finishes this year. It teed off Thursday morning at Grand Cypress Resort, with Tseng shooting a 2-under 70.
On Wednesday, Tseng met with reporters and discussed her stellar year, which includes seven victories. Tseng talked about her season as well as her chances for an eighth win which, if she call pull it off, will result in a $500,000 payday. Here's what Tseng told reporters on the eve of the tournament.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng into the interview room. Thank you for joining us today. It's been quite the year for you, 11 wins worldwide, seven already on the LPGA Tour. We're now entering the final event of the season. Have you had any time to kind of reflect back on this year and everything that you've accomplished so far?
YANI TSENG: You know, I've really enjoyed this year. I'm always really happy to get back here and stay home. It's only 40 minutes away. I've had a great year, been learning a lot this year, been really enjoying and learning a lot from the mistakes the last few years. I was very happy and proud of myself how much I've improved, my mental, my attitude this year, and I'm looking for my 12th win this week.
MODERATOR: This week we're having the Rolex reception, and you'll be honored for the second straight year with the Rolex Player of the Year. What does it mean to capture that award in back-to-back years?
YANI TSENG: That's always been a very special thing, that award tomorrow, and I'm still working on my speech and I'm a little nervous about that. I mean, for me to win the Player of the Year was unbelievable because I would never expect to win an award this big, until last year I won it. So that was one of my goals this year, to win the Player of the Year, and then it was really nice, the LPGA and Rolex sending out this award. All the players have something in front of you that you can achieve and you can work hard to get this award. I just focus on every tournament, and really happy I get this award two years in a row, and really it's my big honor.
MODERATOR: I know you mentioned it, but being able to stay at home this week, how different is it to be able to be at a tournament and sleep in your own bed and enjoy the comforts of home?
YANI TSENG: It was great. I have my mom, my brother is here, my two cousins. It was a little too noisy in the morning. I woke up too early because they were running around, everybody. It was like party every day at my house. So it was fun. I played some pool with my brother last few days, and it was just -- finally found one I can challenge with on pool. A lot of fun, just really nice to have my family here with me, and my brother, it's his first time to come to the States, and he's very enjoying it.
Q. What has been the highest point of the year for you, the thing that made you the happiest this year, and what was the low point this year, the thing that was most disappointing?
YANI TSENG: The happy point I would say was in Taiwan. That was unbelievable. That was one of the best memories of my life because my grandmother was there, she's 92 years old, and it's the first time she came out to the golf course to watch me play, and I was really happy that I won the tournament. I can share this trophy, this honor to all my friends in Taiwan and to my family and let the people see all the high class -- like the biggest stage, an LPGA superstar in Taiwan playing golf. Everyone in Taiwan was so happy. They were thinking next year to have all the LPGA players to come into my hometown to play again.
My lowest, I don't know, I just forget about that. If I have something bad, I just forget about it, forget about that. Always looking for the happiest one, and I just learn from that. So I don't really remember. I got a couple bad tournaments. I missed the cut in Mobile, and the next week the media was asking me why were you winning a lot and why did you miss the cut? Why are you playing so bad? I said, no, I didn't even go to Mobile. I just forget about it because I missed cut. I was really happy to learn from that. You always get some up and down, and that's why life is good.
Q. The type of golf you're playing is some of the best ever played on the LPGA in the 60 years or so. Are you surprised at what you have done by such a young age? Could you talk about just how quickly you've done so much out here?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I was a little surprised, but I was really happy because last year everybody was so close to becoming world No. 1, and I was happy that I didn't because that's why I have so many things I can work on in the off-season to setting up my goal, Player of the Year this year, to become world No. 1 and try to win tournaments. I've been really working hard in the off-season, and all the hard work is paying off and all the great players on the Tour, they all give me lots of motivation to become a better player. We all push each other to get better, get better skill and better mental because you have to play so good to win a tournament. I just feel like really improve a lot.
Q. You mentioned you're competitive with your brother in pool. Have you been competitive with him in any other sports growing up?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, sure, playing basketball, playing pool, playing tennis, ping-pong, everything. I love to play sports and just play for dinner or play for a drink. That always makes you feel it's lots of fun. It's like golf. You always have a challenge even in the little things or bad things. It's always been fun.
Q. I know every player starts every year with great expectations. Did you surprise yourself even with what you did this year, even after the great year you had last year? This year just, boom, it goes?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I was trying to win more tournaments than last year, but not 11, so this is way too much than I thought. It was so much fun to win those tournaments, and especially we were working on -- after the 17th hole, today on the 18th hole I see my picture holding the trophy, and it was all smiles. It's pretty fun.
Q. You've worked very hard not only on your game but to take care of the demands of being a star golfer, star sportswoman. How proud are you of how well you've learned English? Obviously you speak the language very well now.
YANI TSENG: Thank you. I've been working on my English, same as my golf. I try to speak more. I remember four years ago even sitting here probably saying nothing, but now I can talk more, tell me of my story, my goal, how can I improve this year. I just feel like I share more stories, more things to the media, to the fans. I mean, it's not just good for me, it's good for everybody, too. I can speak better with my coach and my caddie, and now we can fight. Before when we fought I always lost, but now with my English I can fight with them. I can tell what's my side. I can tell them what I'm thinking. So it was really good. But this year I was thinking about maybe try to go back again. It's always something fun I can improve on, and my grammar I think is getting better. I speak better and looking better, writing is better, too. Just really happy I went to school last year in the off-season. I talk a lot now.
Q. Taiwan was a big week for you, a lot of pressure, a lot of fans, and then you went to China the next week and you were able to keep your energy up and win there. Can you just kind of talk about following up your win in Taiwan and then just maybe what the atmosphere was like in China, and do you feel like there were more people than you expected?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, there was lots of people in China, too, but after Taiwan I was really tired, where all the attention is. But when we were in China I told my caddie, I was like, I feel tired, and she was setting up a vehicle for me on this weekend, so I had a bet with my caddie, so all the number was 12-under, so if I played better I get $20 and two more shots I get $40 and if I lost I would pay him. So I think that's kind of that goal, for me to try to win $20, $40 that day, and that's why I can keep my focus on that golf course, on that tournament, instead of thinking the other things.
Q. You talked about working hard, and we think about you working hard down at the tee and on the putting green and we think about you working hard on your English, but how else do you work hard? Where else? Is it a training program? Is it a thinking program? Where else?
YANI TSENG: I'm working hard to have fun. I try to work hard on my physical, too. It's very hard for me. I mean, English and practice, and I mean, we don't have too much time -- even when we have a week off, we still have to practice. I try to make that balance, to have fun, to go watch movies, to hang out with my friends and try to enjoy everything. Now I'm 22, so I start tasting the good wine. So it's just something that I can do to get through life.
Q. So you're not lifting weights, you're lifting wine bottles?
YANI TSENG: I try lifting weights, but I don't want to hurt myself.
Q. Have you noticed a change in your popularity here in the United States as this year has gone on? We all saw the images of how popular you are back in Taiwan. How has your popularity changed here in the States?
YANI TSENG: I think it's getting better. When I'm on the golf course, the people are following me and watching me play, and then people knows my name. They saw my face, they know I'm Yani. So I was really happy that on the course you always have some people to follow you, play with and watch you play, everybody say, oh, you're so nice. I was just really happy to hear about that. I think it was fun. And now even at the airports, some of the golfers was -- amateurs would recognize me, so that was really good.
Q. The 11 wins, and maybe 12 after this week, you talked about having more this year than last year. Is it possible to even think or dream of next year or another year in the future where you could win more than that?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I was thinking about that last week. I want to set that for my goal next year because I wish I could win more than this year. But it's not easy. Winning 11 tournaments in a year and then try to win 10 tournaments on the LPGA is not easy. But I think I was still setting that goal and try to play my best and try to win as more tournaments as I can.
Q. I'm wondering if -- Annika Sorenstam is a friend of yours and she had an 11-win year not all that long ago, and Lorena has had some multiple-win seasons. Have you had a chance to talk to either one of those about their seasons and maybe how to manage expectations when you get to those high numbers?
YANI TSENG: Thanks, I think I will now. I think maybe December or January, I'll be in Orlando all month, so I think I will ask Annika about this question, about after ten wins on the Tour what's her goal next year, because I think this will be very helpful for me.
Q. Also, how do you manage your own expectations when I'm sure you go out to win every week, but when it gets to a point where you expect to win because you have won so much?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I know. I mean, last three tournaments I've been expecting to win like every tournament. I feel it's great pressure for me because golf is not easy, and there's so many great players on the Tour. Everybody has a chance to win, and you just need to play your best and should try not thinking who else is playing, the better score. The only thing you can do is focus on yourself. If you think too much, it's just going to mess with you all the tournament. But no, just try to enjoy that pressure and try to be thinking more positive, and then those pressure give me motivation. I want to play better, I want to play better to show all the fans to see what I can do better. So it's just try to enjoy that.
Q. You described yourself as the No. 1 superstar in Taiwan. What is it like for you to realize you are a superstar; you are in the upper echelon of athletes and transcending your sport in a lot of ways. Is that a weird feeling for you? Do you feel different at all?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, actually before Taiwan I don't think I'm that famous in Taiwan until I see that so many people come out and watch on the golf course, because golf is not really popular like career in Japan. We have our own Tour but only five, six tournaments. But now it's like things change a lot. It was unbelievable to see so many fans on the Tour, on the course, and was just really different, and I'm enjoying that. Before the tournament I was feeling so many pressure, but on the first day I was teeing off on the first tee, and I feel like all the pressure is gone because I just want to enjoy this big crowd all over the fairways. The only thing you can do is hit it straight. If I hit it to the left or to the right, it's going to bounce back. It was so much fun. Now I know what Tiger feels because every time he hits it wide, it always gets a good lie. It was so much fun to have people watching.
Q. Can you give us a sense of how many young players are coming up in Taiwan who will follow you to the U.S. and play golf?
YANI TSENG: I don't know. I think it's less than 10 now. Not everyone really wants to come here. But it's lots of young people there starting playing golf, and they're starting looking at golf and watching golf, and golf is in their family, and I think that's a very big change for Taiwan.
MODERATOR: Yani, thank you very much. Best of luck this week.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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