Tseng Seeks Sixth Major

Yani Tseng is proving to be virtually unbeatable. The 23-year-old from Taiwan has won three of the five events - including last week's Kia Classic by six shots - so far this LPGA season, bringing her to 10 tour titles since February 2011 and 15 since June 2008. She's primed to earn her sixth major win in this week's Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA's first major of the year.

Tseng is as dominant as Tiger Woods in his heydays. After winning Player of the Year honors for the past two years, Tseng already has nearly twice as many points in the women's world rankings as No. 2 Na Yeon Choi, and has earned $792,186, more than the total of the next two players.

If Tseng pulls off another win this week, she'll be just two points shy of being eligible for the LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame, becoming, by far, the youngest player to ever qualify for such an honor.

Morgan Pressel is among those blown away by Tseng's consistency and high level of performance. "I think it's really impressive," Pressel said Tuesday from the site of the Kraft Nabisco, Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. "I think it's hard for anybody in golf not to watch her performance and think about how impressive it is and how golf just seems easier for her than for everybody else.

"Any time you have a player like that, whether it's an Annika (Sorenstam) or a Lorena (Ochoa) or a Yani our past three really contenders have been, it raises the bar for everyone else," Pressel added. "Right now Yani doesn't have as much competition as maybe she even wants, so we all need to practice a little bit harder and we need to go out there and challenge her more often because right now she's beating us pretty badly. So we need to step up our games. So I think that it's good for competition and good for women's golf."

"What she's done is phenomenal," seconded Suzann Pettersen. "She's won five majors, she's 23 years old. She's a very consistent contender every week." But the 30-year-old Norwegian isn't ready to just step aside and not compete against Tseng. "I still think it's possible to play better than her, and that's what I believe. I believe in my own game. I know what I've done in the past, and I know what I'm capable of doing.

"That's where I'm kind of keeping my focus. I don't try to compare myself to other players. I'm trying to build my own game and believe in what I do. I know if I can finish what I've started, I think I can be pretty good."

On Tuesday, Tseng met with reporters to discuss her season and chances at the Kraft Nabisco, which starts Thursday. Here's what she told reporters.

MODERATOR: Yani, welcome. You're on quite an impressive run right now. Last week you won your 15th LPGA tournament. You became the second youngest person to accomplish that feat behind only Nancy Lopez, who's here today. You won your third event in five total this year, and you won your sixth event in the last 12 tournaments you've played. When you hear all those accomplishments, what stands out the most to you?

YANI TSENG: That sounds pretty good. I haven't looked at all the numbers, but after you saying that, that really sounds good, like how much I'm working on it. I'm working hard, and those accomplished goals, that winning, is making it pay off.

MODERATOR: Last week you also earned your 23rd point toward the LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame. You need 27 total. You know there's two points on the line at every major. Is that something that crosses your mind when you come here this week?

YANI TSENG: I mean, we all focus on the majors. Everybody wants to win a major when they come here. But I wasn't focused as much on the points. But Hall of Fame is always my big dream since I was really young. So that's my biggest dream, for me to be a Hall of Famer. I wasn't expecting I'm that close already, just four points away. But I'm still going to try to focus on every tournament, every shot, instead of thinking about the points. But I still would love to win this tournament and try to get into the Hall of Fame.

Q. Two weeks ago you won the R.R. Donnelley Founder's Cup by one stroke. Last week you won the Kia Classic by six strokes. Have you had a chance to celebrate those victories or have you been focused on the Kraft Nabisco?

YANI TSENG: No, we drove from San Diego to here, so I had time to celebrate, and hopefully this week I can have a good week so we can celebrate together.

MODERATOR: Last year you were famously in the final group, touched the trophy on the way in, and you said after the Kia Classic losing here motivated you for the whole year. Talk about why the motivation.

YANI TSENG: I know because last year I was very close and I didn't win, but I think I still won a big experience for me. That experience gave me lots of things that improved myself, last year through this year, and I think that's kind of my career, I think one very important tournament, how much I'm learning from that, because I know my emotional control wasn't very good. I was very stressful after I missed a putt, after I made a bad shot. But after that tournament, I had a little meeting with my team, my trainer, to see how much I can improve on the tournament, and I did after that. I've been playing very well, and I learned how can I win in a tournament when I was leading on Sunday or when I was behind on Sunday, and I know how to play golf better on Sunday instead of just playing Sunday like the first day of a tournament. So that keeps me relaxed and really focused and learning how to play one shot at a time, and I wasn't worried about what other players are doing, and that's how much I'm learning, and I can really do it right now.

Q. You say you're working very hard, yet obviously you're playing very well. It sounds like you're working as hard on your mental game right now as your physical game. Is there anything in your physical game that you're working on right now?

YANI TSENG: I do. I work on everything. My coach, my trainer, my physio was in Orlando with me in the off season for a while month, so I've been working out very hard to work on my fitness to getting stronger a little bit, and my cardio is getting better. I'm very happy with that. And I've been working on my swing a little bit, changed my swing, because the last few years I don't have much time to do it. But in this off season I really wanted to change to improve my swing and to get more consistency, and I did. I've been - my coach, Gary Gilchrist, is doing a very good job on that, and I'm hitting the ball a little further, too, so we've been improving a lot.

Q. You won seven tournaments last year. Are you playing better now?

YANI TSENG: Yeah, if you won seven you always can win eight tournaments. You never know. But I try to play my best every tournament instead of focusing on how many tournaments I can win. I mean, last two weeks - I mean, this week is a new week, so I'm always looking ahead and looking for the new week tournament.

Q. You told us in the off season when we came to you with many requests after your big year that you really wanted to spend a lot of time still focusing on your game because you didn't want last year to be a fluke. You didn't want it to be seven wins and then a falloff this year. Do you think you're successful thus far?

YANI TSENG: Yeah, I think so, too. The beginning of this year me and my caddie, we were talking about if we can try to finish top 10 every week, and that's kind of our goal for every tournament. If we can win we're really happy, but I wasn't thinking too much of that, because last year even I'm winning seven but I have lots of tournaments I finished 30th or 40th. It wasn't very consistent. But this year my goal has been more consistency if I can't win. But if I can't win I'm going to try to build confidence instead of being up and down most of the time.

Q. Do you like the golf course and why?

YANI TSENG: Yeah, I mean, I love this golf course. I think this golf course suits me very well. The first time I played here was in 2007 for Q school, and after that I came here every year and played this golf course, and lots of par 5s I can reach. It's not easy to hit driver every hole here. You have to hit all the different shots, hitting draws, hitting fades. On this golf course you need to be - you need to play good to win in this tournament. You won't get lucky and winning this. Focus on strategy this week is very important for me.

Q. You've heard this story, it may or may not be true, but you have the 2010 Kraft Nabisco trophy in your trophy case, and then I understand that you have an Angry Bird figurine or something that came from last year here as kind of a reminder of last year?

YANI TSENG: Yes, I put an Angry Bird on the Kraft Nabisco trophy, on the trophy, because I think the size fits perfect, and that means I didn't win last year, and I want to try to get this year and try to focus on this year.

Q. Do you think of this every time you walk by and see it? That's kind of a personal -

YANI TSENG: No, I wasn't thinking about much. I just think it's very funny to put it on there. It looks good. Angry Birds was very popular, and that's a gift from my fans, and I think it was pretty cool. But I never saw anything about that.

Q. You've had such great success in the major championships so far. Does your focus change or sharpen if you come into a week like this as opposed to a regular LPGA event?

YANI TSENG: I mean, I'm starting from last year, and my mental coach kind of telling me why I'm always having success in the majors and why normal tournaments I don't play as good as majors, because I figured out every time I play in a major my focus level is going up way higher. So when I play a normal tournament, my focus the first few days is kind of like on and off, relaxed, and I wasn't - like wasn't there as much as like a major. So last year every tournament my goal is focus on every shot, like give 100 percent effort to every shot, focus as much as I can, because it's very hard to focus on five hours a round. So if I count - like if I focus on one shot, if I count 72 shots and I only have to focus on one and a half hours in the day. So that way I can focus more, and instead of trying to focus on five hours, that helps me a lot to focus on the normal tournaments and focus on the big tournaments, because that way I can have the same focus instead of it doesn't matter if it's a big tournament or small tournament.

Q. Looking at the last round last year when you had the two shot lead, how long did it take you to get over that, and what do you think happened? Stacy played well, but what happened?

YANI TSENG: Yeah, Stacy played very well, and like I said, my emotional control wasn't very good. I wasn't in good control of myself. I had been very stressful, hitting a bad shot, hitting a bad putt, and I wasn't being as patient as I am right now, so I'm learning from that week. But it took me a couple weeks to go through that because I was crying after the round, even after a couple days when I think about it. I was crying because I always tell myself, oh, if I don't do that, I can win if I didn't do that. Sometimes it's too late, and you only can learn from that. So I learned from that. I bring it to next few tournaments and I played great, and I think that's very important thing for me. Even I didn't win, but I learned something from it.

Q. This is potentially the last year the LPGA will have four majors as opposed to five, so the chances of winning the Grand Slam are, you would think, your best this year with four. Do you think that much about that? Obviously to do that you'd have to win here.

YANI TSENG: Yeah, I know, of course. I think I wasn't thinking much, but I did think about that because I'm playing great this year. I think I have a chance to do it. But I won this tournament before, so that gives me lots of confidence that I can do it again. Like the British and Wegmans, that's a major I won before, so I feel better. But like for the U.S. Open I think that's the toughest for me because every time I get there I just feel different. It kind of brings me lots of younger kids memory because when I was young I went there to watch my first LPGA tournament, so I still have that thought in my mind. But I still have a ways to go, so I'm prepared for that, and this week I'm prepared to play in front of a crowd. I still focus on every tournament to see how much I can improve and how well I can play on the course.

Q. Were you satisfied with your first jump into Poppies Pond, the way you did it, and have you thought about what you might do differently if you had a second chance?

YANI TSENG: Yeah, I do, because I thought I jumped pretty cool last year - two years ago. But my friends say it wasn't a good jump. So after that I go in my swimming pool and try to jump in a different pose to see what's the best. This year I think maybe if I had a lead on the last hole and I can thinking what's the best pose for me to jump, some little crazy move or - like now there is a very famous, like you jump in the pool but you feel you're relaxed, something like that. I don't know, I will think about it after I'm winning.

Q. This isn't an overly serious question, but last year when you grabbed the trophy at the first hole, people did make a big deal, like you can't do that. Are you a very superstitious person or are you more superstitious now because of that?

YANI TSENG: Yeah, I think both ways, because I do grab the trophy before the Kraft. I've touched the trophy many times, because I know Lorena always do that. You know Lorena always go touch the trophy, always go see the trophy before she plays because she thinks that make her very good luck. So I do that a couple times, try to make it similar like her before winning a tournament, and it works very well, but probably just didn't work last year. But after that I won't touch a trophy again. I will never see it again. Even when I see it I would just pretend I'm not seeing anything. Like Wegmans on No.1 the trophy was there, but I just tried to not look at it and just tried to ignore the trophy and focus on the tee shot.

Q. Was there a point in your career where you realized that you could win every week you played, and if so, what was the cause of that?

YANI TSENG: You know, I think every player comes here expecting to win, and I think me too. I expect to win every week. Every player wants to win in the tournament. We won't come here to finish second. So we're always trying to do our best to play well on every tournament.

Q. (No microphone.)

YANI TSENG: No, I wouldn't feel like that at all. I mean, this couple years I think - I think most of this year, because I've been playing - I already played five tournaments, and I win three. I think maybe like end of last year pretty much.

Q. Was there something that caused that, though, caused you to be that confident?

YANI TSENG: No, no, I don't think so.

Q. Originally you said you would be happy with your caddie that you would be in the top 10, that's your goal. Would you really be happy if you finished fifth 20 times?

YANI TSENG: It depends. I mean, in Singapore I have a good chance to win, but I wasn't thought - because I missed a three foot putt on 17, otherwise I can get into the playoff. So after I watched on TV, I was so sad that I didn't make the putt on 17. But sometimes it's going to happen like that. I mean, that's why golf is so much fun. You cannot win every week, but you can always do your best and try to win. If you don't win this weekend, you try to win next week. If you don't, you can always have lots of chances that you can win. You can learn from mistakes.

Q. I have two questions. First question is you said you want to play with Tiger Woods if you have a chance. What do you want to learn from Tiger Woods if you have a chance?

YANI TSENG: I mean, everything. He's amazing. I watched him play at Torrey Pines when he won a U.S. Open. I mean, even he hit a bad drive, but he can always recover the next shot. It was amazing that he made 20 feet for par, 30 feet for par, it didn't matter. He was trying to do his best on every shot and trying to recover. He really just played in his zone. He don't really care what other players are doing. That's how much he focused on it. And I've been watching him many times, and I think I'm learning a lot from him to try to focus because he always plays in front of huge crowds, so that way it gives lots of focus just on this fairway instead of looking at anything else.

Q. I remember you had a problem with your elbow. Right now it's okay?

YANI TSENG: Yeah, it's getting so much better because last year when I finished I had three weeks off and I didn't play any golf, but after that I played - when I started practicing it was getting really, really bad. I even can't take a backswing. My elbow was really sore, and that's why I had my physio there with me. At the end it was so much better, at the start of the season this year, and every tournament it gets better.

MODERATOR: Yani, congratulations on a great run.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.

Story Options

Print this Story