ROLEX PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Taiwan’s Yani Tseng became the youngest player in LPGA history to win back-to-back Rolex Player of the Year awards when she clinched the title following a victory at the LPGA HanaBank Championship in Korea this season. Tseng, who won her first Rolex Player of the Year title in the final week of 2010, clinched the title this season with five events remaining on the Tour schedule. She is the eighth player in LPGA Tour history to win back-to-back Rolex Player of the Year awards and the 11th player in history to win multiple Player of the Year awards.
In the midst of a dominant season, Tseng became the youngest player – male or female – to win five major championships at the age of 22 when she won her second-consecutive RICOH Women’s British Open. At press time, she had compiled seven LPGA Tour wins with an additional five top-five finishes and more than $2.8 million in earnings.
Tseng’s 12 career LPGA victories, five major championships, two Rolex Player of the Year honors and 2011 Vare Trophy win amount to 20 points (as of Nov. 7) toward the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame. She needs just seven more points – and 10 years as a member of the LPGA – to qualify for what is considered one of the toughest Halls of Fame to enter.
As seasons go, Tseng’s started off with a bang when she won three non-LPGA events leading up to February’s season-opening Honda LPGA Thailand. She won in Thailand on the heels of first- and final-round 66’s, but waited nearly four months to earn her second victory of the season at the LPGA State Farm Classic, where she recorded four-straight rounds in the 60’s. Tseng’s third win of the season came the next week at the Wegmans LPGA Championship where she once again carded first- and final-round 66’s for a 10-shot victory and her fourth-career major win. Despite falling short in her effort to win the Career Grand Slam with a tie for 15th at the U.S. Women’s Open, Tseng continued her dominant play, adding a fifth-career major victory – and second-consecutive RICOH Women’s British Open win – at the famed Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland.
As summer turned to fall, Tseng’s consistent play stayed bright with a playoff victory over Amy Yang at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G and a one-shot win over Na Yeon Choi at the LPGA HanaBank Championship, where she clinched Rolex Player of the Year. She added a seventh win – a five-shot victory at the inaugural Sunrise LPGA Championship in her native Taiwan – in a week where all eyes were on the young star. Tseng rose to the occasion, pleasing the thousands of adoring fans who turned out to see her, and proved that she is a true global ambassador of golf when she donated $100,000 of her winnings towards youth golf in Taiwan.
Tseng currently holds all of the LPGA’s most important statistical positions – Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings No. 1, Rolex Player of the Year, LPGA Official Money List and Vare Trophy – and if this season is any proof, it might be a long time before she decides to hand them over to anyone else.
The Vare Trophy, named for six-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Glenna Collett-Vare, is awarded each year to the LPGA player with the lowest season scoring average. Established in 1953, the Vare Trophy is one of the most prestigious and coveted LPGA honors and carries the added bonus of a valuable point towards entry into the LPGA Hall of Fame. In 2011, Yani Tseng has dominated the race for the Vare Trophy, leading by more than a stroke entering last week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
Last season, the race for the Vare Trophy came down to the final round of the season, with four players –Na Yeon Choi, Cristie Kerr, Jiyai Shin and Suzann Pettersen – chasing the honor. This year, Tseng has proven herself a worthy winner in this and many other scoring categories.
Tseng has carded at least one round in the 60’s in 17 of 20 tournaments played entering last week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational. She has totaled 39 rounds in the 60’s in 2011 including wins at the State Farm Classic (67-66-66-68) and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G (66-67-68). Tseng twice shot a season-low 65 (including the final round of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia where she lost by one stroke to last year’s Vare Trophy winner, Na Yeon Choi) and carded 66 on nine different occasions.
With two LPGA tournaments remaining at press time, Tseng is on pace to break to become just the sixth player to break 70 in the season-long scoring race. She will join Annika Sorenstam (1998, 2001, 2002, 2005), Karrie Webb (1999), Grace Park (2004), Lorena Ochoa (2006, 2007, 2008) and Na Yeon Choi (2010).
The Vare Trophy is an average of a player’s scores over an entire season. The list of former Vare Trophy winners is a testament to the quality of golf that must be played on a weekly basis on the LPGA Tour. Since 1953, 24 different players have captured the Vare Trophy, and 18 of those players are members of the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame.
LPGA Founder Patty Berg took home the first Vare Trophy, while all-time wins leader Kathy Whitworth holds the record for the most Vare Trophy wins with seven. JoAnne Carner won the award six times, and Mickey Wright and Annika Sorenstam each took home the trophy five times. Wright holds the record for most consecutive Vare Trophy wins with five (1960-64).
Sorenstam became the first player to break the 70.00 stroke average barrier in 1998 and followed that up by breaking the 69.00 stroke average barrier in 2002 when she carded a record average of 68.70.
Yani Tseng will enter the season-ending CME Group Titleholders as the No. 1 player in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings for the 39th consecutive week. The 22-year-old overtook Jiyai Shin as Rolex Rankings No. 1 on Feb. 14, 2011 following a victory at the Honda LPGA Thailand – and has not looked back. Tseng’s 11 worldwide victories at press time have extended her lead to more than eight average points over Norway’s Suzann Pettersen.
Rolex Rankings as of Nov. 7, 2011
|Rank||Player||Events||Total Points||Avg. Points|
|4||Na Yeon Choi||53||545.09||10.28|
|5||Sun Ju Ahn||50||435.09||8.70|
Tseng is third all-time in “weeks as No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings” behind Lorena Ochoa (158) and Annika Sorenstam (60). She is only the sixth player to hold the No. 1 position since the Rolex Rankings began in 2006.
Weeks as No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings
Lorena Ochoa/Mexico 158
Annika Sorenstam/Sweden 60
Yani Tseng/Taiwan 38
Jiyai Shin/South Korea 26
Ai Miyazato/Japan 11
Cristie Kerr/U.S. 5
The Rolex Rankings awards points based on field strength and evaluate a player’s performance over a rolling two-year period weighted in favor of the current year, with even more importance placed on the most recent 13 weeks. Points are reduced in 91 equal decrements following week 31 for the remaining 91 weeks of the two year Rolex Ranking period.