(Yani Tseng is so money. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.)
The most dominant golfer in the world currently resides on the LPGA Tour, and Yani Tseng's remarkable run through the early stages of 2012 has the history writers reaching for their erasers seemingly every week. With three wins through five tournaments already (she placed fifth and eighth in the two she didn't win), Tseng is well on her way towards a third straight LPGA Player of the Year title and only four points shy of qualifying for the Hall of Fame -- which she can narrow down to two with a victory at this week's Kraft Nabisco Championship. And at age 23, she has over two years to break Kerri Webb's record as the youngest ever to qualify for the LPGA HoF.
Considering the way she's playing, it's almost a given Tseng will reach that by summer, so I've decided to put together a list of the five defining moments that have brought her to the brink of an already Hall of Fame career. With all of the talk about who is the best player on the PGA Tour, there's no question who the No. 1 golfer in the world is.
(Thanks to Stina Sternberg for help compiling this list.)
Yani Tseng's Top Five Career-Defining Moments (So Far):
5. Yani Tseng, at age 15, beats Michelle Wie in the final of the 2004 U.S. Women's Pub Links.
Tseng's "coming out" party, the young amateur took down the defending American star on her own turf. The 15-year-old made it clear she meant business, saying afterward, "I'm really not intimidated by Michelle. I look at myself as a long hitter too. My friends who happened to also play in this tournament watched Michelle play and they told me, 'You're going to do fine and you're just as good.' "
4. Tseng wins her first LPGA title and major at the 2008 LPGA Championship.
At age 19, Tseng became the second-youngest winner of an LPGA Tour major and the youngest to win the Championship, staring down a field that included Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, winning in a sudden-death playoff against Maria Hjorth. Tseng -- on her way to winning Rookie of the Year honors -- became the first rookie to win an LPGA major in 10 years.
3. Tseng becomes the youngest woman ever to win three majors and wins her first Player Of The Year title.
With each career accomplishment, Yani Tseng seems to be adding the title of "youngest ever" to just about every record. In 2010 she won two majors -- the Kraft Nabisco and the Women's British Open -- giving her a career total of three to become the youngest woman ever to reach that goal. She also won another LPGA event and had eight top-10 finishes in 20 tournaments, earning over $1.5million in prize money to win her first LPGA Player of the Year trophy.
"I never thought I would be holding this trophy," Tseng told reporters. "I've been working so hard to chase this."
2. Tseng becomes the No. 1 ranked LPGA golfer on the Rolex World Ranking.
Despite winning two major championships and the LPGA's Rolex Player of the Year award in 2010, Tseng finished the year as the No. 2 ranked player on tour. But after starting the 2011 season with four victories -- one in Taiwan, two on the European Tour, and the Honda LPGA Thailand -- she catapulted to No. 1 before the season's first major, entering the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship as the world's best for the first time.
1. All of 2011.
2011 was the year Yani Tseng started to dominate the LPGA Tour. She won of a total seven LPGA Tour events, including two majors. At age 22, she became the youngest player of either gender to win her fourth major -- the LPGA Championship (by 10 strokes) -- and the youngest of either gender to win her fifth major -- the Women's British Open. Tseng also won five titles on other international tours, giving her a total of 12 for the year. She won her second consecutive Player of the Year award, finishing the season as the world's No. 1 ranked female golfer in the world, a place many see her staying for quite some time.
-- Derek Evers