Tseng stays positive through slump
For Yani Tseng, a former No. 1-ranked player on the LPGA Tour, her recent backslide has almost been as significant as her quick rise to the top.
From 2010 to the beginning of the 2012 season, the Taiwanese star strung together one of the most impressive stretches the LPGA Tour has seen. Over that stretch, Tseng captured 13 victories including four major championships.
She etched her name in the history books at the 2011 RICOH Women’s British Open when she became the youngest golfer - male or female- to win five majors. That same year, she became the youngest player to win Rolex Player of the Year honors in back-to-back seasons (2010, 2011).
It seemed that Tseng would ride this wave of success forever, however, the balance of retaining her position and all it entailed became too much for the 24-year-old and she started to see the No. 1 ranking slip away.
Since her most recent win at the 2012 Kia Classic, Tseng has been a fraction of her former self. Currently in the midst of the roughest season of her five-year LPGA Tour career, Tseng has tallied just four top-10 finishes and grossed only $395,083, which could result in Tseng failing to cross the million dollar mark in seasonr earnings for the first time in her career. She is now ranked No. 25 in the world; just 33 weeks after American Stacy Lewis took over in March this year.
So, just what happened to the young phenomenon to result in her rapid plunge?
“I did put more pressure on myself when I was in that position, a lot more than I can carry,” said Tseng. “But I think it’s more mental than anything. Mental kind of affects swing and swing kind of affects mental. I mean my swing is kind of struggling a little bit, like sometimes my swing was ready but my mental wasn’t ready. Sometimes my mental was ready but my swing wasn’t. So, I just need to get that back and get my balance back.”
But instead of getting down about her recent slump, Tseng displayed her genial smile and said, “It’s times like this that you learn from mistakes and then you just get stronger from that.
“I go through lots of things, and my life has been really tough, and it's not just about golf and outside of golf. But I feel like everything ‑‑ I've become more mature. I know I didn't have a great result, but as a person I feel like I learned so much with my family and friends and for my life and not just about golf.”
Getting back to where she used to be will be a tough task, however Tseng no longer stresses about that. Instead he realizes she has a long career ahead of her.
“I don’t really worry anymore,” said Tseng. “Before I did because I had so much pressure on myself and now it’s just kind of really easy going. Some days you play good, some days you play bad, sometimes you’re just not yourself.
“So, now I just try to focus on myself and enjoy it out there. I’m just learning to be patient. I know my game is there but I just need to keep trusting my game and believing I can do it. I think one day that will all come together. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, when it comes it comes.”
Tseng found a glimpse of her old self at the Safeway Classic in August this year, when she led by three strokes heading into Sunday’s final round. Faced with the excitement and reminded of the pressure of being in that position, Tseng ultimately fell to a tie for ninth with Norway’s Suzann Pettersen taking the win.
While a win in Portland would have given Tseng the self-assurance she needs to get back into full form, she finds herself more thankful for what she’s already accomplished at such a young age and what’s to come in her long LPGA Tour career.
“Some people try their whole lives and never win a tournament,” said Tseng. “I feel already very lucky enough to already have 15 wins and winning five majors. I know my game, I know I can win more tournaments. I think this is just the beginning of it. I always tell myself, my goal is I want to retire when I'm on top, and I'm not going to retire yet, so there's lots more years to come, just step by step.”
This week, the Tour is in Tseng's hometown of Taoyun, Taiwan for the third staging of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. The tournament has always been a favorite stop for Tseng as she captured the title in its inaugural year and finished third last season.
"I mean Taiwanese fans always give me great motivation," said Tseng. "It’s always pressure to play well in front of your country but sometimes you have to turn that pressure into motivation. Lots of people are asking why I haven’t been playing well, and you know it’s always positive and negative things being said. But I always get lots of positive things from Taiwanese fans. I just want to do the best that I can do."