By John Strege
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Two weeks ago, Yani Tseng overslept, an embarrassment that has the potential to do what an alarm was supposed to have done. Could this have been her wake-up call?
Tseng will attempt to restore equilibrium to her career in the Kraft Nabisco Championship that begins here on Thursday. It is a tournament she won in 2010 to begin a reign of dominance, the first of 13 LPGA victories in a two-year span.
The last of them came more than a year ago, at the Kia Classic, and it has been a trying 12 months since, indomitable giving way to inexplicable. "Yani is so good that it's just hard to believe she doesn't by accident fall into a win again," Judy Rankin, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and a Golf Channel analyst, said last week.
Last month, Tseng, 24, surrendered her hold on No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings to Stacy Lewis. On the eve of her first opportunity to work toward returning to the top she overslept, causing her to miss her Kia Classic pro-am tee time, resulting in an automatic disqualification from the tournament itself.
Could it get any worse? Well, actually, yes. "In the wake of the missed tee time, a local weekly speculated in its latest issue that the 24-year-old Taiwanese golfer took to late night partying after gaining fame, which has hurt her game and disrupted her regular routine," Focus Taiwan News Channel wrote last week.
Tseng responded in Chinese on her Facebook page. "Saw a news today, very disappointed and very sad!" she wrote according to a Google translation. "I work very hard every day to practice, to make myself better!"
Rankin's theory is that Tseng was so dominant that it failed to occur to her that it wasn't permanent. "As we all know, particularly with younger people, sometimes when you're rocking and rolling, you're not really thinking about it, and you certainly haven't thought about the fact that it could go the other way," Rankin said.
"She was at a point in time where it almost seemed like it wasn't a contest. And I think even if Yani's game gets to where it should be and where it can be, it is a new day and it's going to be a contest no matter what, and I think she knows that."
Ushering in the new day is Lewis, a gritty competitor who isn't likely to wilt in the heat that accompanies a No. 1 ranking. Two years ago, Lewis, trailing by two and playing with Tseng in the final round of the Kraft Nabisco, thoroughly outplayed her and won by three.
So that's the challenge for Tseng, who cleared the first hurdle on Monday night. "My phone is working, my alarm clock is all set for 10 times from 7-8am. Ready to go to bed for 10:55 proam time," she wrote on Twitter. She made her pro-am tee time.
(Photo by Getty Images)