With seven LPGA wins and four other titles worldwide this year, Tseng has the most victories since Annika Sorenstam won 11 LPGA events in 2002 and two on other tours to match the record 13 by Mickey Wright in 1963. And Tseng just keeps getting better. Since the State Farm Classic in June, she has played a dozen LPGA events and won six, including the Wegmans LPGA Championship and the Ricoh Women's British Open. At the age of 22, she has emerged as the best player in women's golf and already has 20 of the 27 points needed to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame.
Tseng, who has wrapped up her second Rolex Player of the Year Award as well as the money title, is No. 1 in scoring average (69.38), driving distance (267.9 yards), birdies (333), rounds under par (73.9 percent), rounds in the 60s (56.5 percent) and top-10 finishes (65 percent). She's second in greens in regulation (76 percent) and fourth in putts per GIR (1.76)--a pretty deadly combination. She also leads the tour in something not measured by numbers--intimidation. At the LPGA Championship she sent an early message to Cindy LaCrosse in their final-round pairing when she outdrove her by 60 yards on the third hole on her way to a 10-stroke victory. At the Women's British Open she coasted home by four strokes. Her five majors are more than the three Nancy Lopez had in her career, equal the number by Amy Alcott and Se Ri Pak and her next major triumph will tie her with Pat Bradley, Betsy King, Patty Sheehan and Kathy Whitworth. That's pretty heady company.
Sorenstam, who accurately predicted after the 2008 Women's British Open that "four years from now, Yani will be the best player in women's golf," has taken Tseng under her wing. Yani purchased Annika's house in Lake Nona when Sorenstam moved into a bigger place in the Orlando gated community. Annika provides Yani the blueprint when it comes to work ethic, consistency and the desire to constantly improve. "It was easy for me to stay motivated because I had a long-term plan and always worked toward it," Sorenstam told Golf World Monday when asked how a player keeps the fire burning once she has achieved great success, as Tseng is now experiencing. "I wanted to be the best and didn't worry about anyone else. I always thought I could do more. When I won 13 times, I thought I could win 14 or more the next year."
The most noticeable improvement in Tseng's game this year has been consistency. Over the first three years of her LPGA career, Yani would throw in quite a few stinkers--tournaments when she just did not seem mentally ready to play. In those initial seasons, Tseng averaged almost eight tournaments a year in which she was outside the top 20 and nearly five in which she was outside the top 30. This year, she has been outside the top 20 only four times and outside the top 30 just once--a missed cut at the Avnet LPGA Classic in late April. She has knocked 1.28 strokes off her scoring average.
"With Yani's success at such a young age, it will be up to her to push herself toward whatever her goals are," Sorenstam said. "Her biggest challenge will be herself. When we assess 2011 later this year, I will tell her: 'Great playing. Now what are your goals for next year? And the year after that?'" With 12 LPGA wins, five majors and two Player of the Year titles at age 22--Sorenstam didn't get her first tour win until she was 24--Tseng will have to dig deep to find the motivation to keep grinding. That is, unless Yani is like Annika and is constantly in grind mode. As David Letterman likes to joke: "There is no 'OFF' position on the genius switch." That was certainly the case with Sorenstam, and each week it is becoming all the more likely it will be the case with her protégé as well.
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