Week in Review
What Yani Can Learn From Tiger
Yani Tseng is on her way to a record-breaking career, but she's still got a long way to go
It is too soon to know, but not too soon to consider the possibility. Yani Tseng, best ever? Smart money is bullish right now, encouraged by her own growing portfolio of major championships, now numbering five before the age of 23.
The Bear in the room suggests hedging your bet. Tiger Woods similarly was once stalking history, represented by the imposing figure of the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, whose record 18 professional majors has again become elusive.
Last week, Woods announced that he was returning to competitive golf at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational that begins Thursday. He was never a sure bet to overtake Nicklaus. Now he no longer approximates a good bet.
Woods, at 14 majors and holding, is at a crossroads of sorts. If at the Bridgestone or the PGA Championship the following week he encounters another setback in his recovery from an injury to a knee that already has been surgically repaired four times, one would have to conclude that his career is in full retreat and that Nicklaus' record is safe for another generation.
This is the cautionary tale for Tseng, who on Sunday won the Women's British Open for the second straight year and has won seven tournaments this year, four on the LPGA, including two majors.
"She's a little injury prone," said Glen Daugherty, her first American instructor and still a close friend ("she's like a daughter to me"). "She takes it a little shut to open to hit the fade and hits down on the ball. I'm not a kinesiologist, but I think it takes a little toll on her arms. Part of it was hitting balls on mats [at home in Taiwan]. That didn't help. It probably caused some of her wrist and elbow problems. And the clubhead speed she has, she swings so hard, it takes a toll. Look at Tiger. That leg drive takes a toll on her back."
It is OK to ponder Tseng's ability and to calibrate its potential over 20 years or more, but it's best to do so with the requisite caveats, one of which apparently is not the potential for burnout.
"She has enough money now," Daugherty said. "She's really only interested in winning. I don't think drive is going to be a question. That's been her life. She's not [Phil] Mickelson, who has these other things that he'd rather do than play golf. With Yani, it's golf and hanging around with her friends."
Her place in history is likely dependent not only on her health, but also her putting, Daugherty said.
"She used to be a really good putter, but, frankly, now she's kind of streaky. Putting can be a little bit elusive. I don't think she has figured out exactly how she wants to putt. That could be problematic. The sky's the limit for her, but you have to putt well consistently. That's the tool that bails players out."
In the meantime, the Tseng era has arrived and isn't ending anytime soon. However it plays out, the women's game is better for it.
TIGER AT FIRESTONE
Woods' scoring average in 48 rounds at Firestone Country Club is 68.31. As good as that is, it would be more than a half stroke lower were 2010 not part of the equation.
Woods, who has won seven times at Firestone, finished T-78 there last year, playing 72 holes in 18-over par 298.
His ability to contend at Firestone was once a given. This week, it's anyone's guess.
Woods, incidentally, is now 28th in the World Ranking, down from 21st last week and second at the start of the year.
OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE, CLASS OF '83
The two most prominent members of the Oxy Class of '83, for the moment, anyway, are its two most famous golfers, Barack Obama and Olin Browne.
Browne, a journeyman who squeezed three PGA Tour victories from whatever skill he could cobble together from having not taken up the game until he was 19, won the U.S. Senior Open by two strokes.
"When I started playing golf, we'd go to the driving range, a little dumpy par-3 course with a driving range called Arroyo Seco," he said, speaking of his wife Pam, then his girl friend, and the South Pasadena, Calif., facility. "She'd have her books out. She was pre-med and a French major and she was doing her homework. And I'd tell her, 'this is the U.S. Open. What's the shot here?' She would say, 'all right. U.S. Open, 700 yards, par-4.' I said, 'that's not how it works. How about 440, dogleg right?' And then I'd hit a shot. So this goes back a long way for us."
Browne handled the 440 yard par-4s beautifully last week. His more prominent classmate, meanwhile, faced the task of navigating the 700-yard par-4: debt ceiling negotiations and a looming deadline. We'll leave it to others to calculate Obama's score there. Suffice it to say that he gladly would have traded places with Browne on Sunday.
Rory McIlroy's tendency to speak (or write) sans filter makes for great copy, but it does not necessarily help his reputation.
He came across as petulant when he used Twitter to blast television analyst and former European Tour player Jay Townsend for criticizing his course management and his caddie J.P Fitzgerald.
"@JayATownsend shut up.... You're a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing!" he wrote.
This brings to mind the old rejoinder that one needn't be an accomplished chef to know whether a meal is good.