Perhaps the most perplexing unexplained phenomena in professional golf in recent years is the saga of Yani Tseng.
The former world No. 1 has struggled mightily to regain the form that propelled her to 15 tournament wins – including five majors – two consecutive Rolex Player of the Year Awards (2010-11), a Vare Trophy (2011) and the 2011 money title. Her plight has been well documented by the golf media, who are chief among the group of people in the industry who scratch their heads while trying to figure out what has transpired.
A warm and vibrant person with a game for the ages, Tseng barnstormed her way into the record books after earning Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors in 2008. Those 15 victories accounted for most of Tseng’s now more than $10 million in career earnings, and she dominated the game the way Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam did in her prime, winning seven times and banking more than $2.9 million in 2011 alone.
But something changed after the 2012 season, when Tseng won three times and made 21 of 24 cuts en route to more than $1.4 in season earnings. Her game left her, and Tseng began to doubt herself, as preposterous as that sounds.
She has admitted that the pressure of being the face of the game and standing as the top-ranked woman in the world got to her, and Tseng fell to 38th on the money list after missing six cuts in 2013. She missed another six cuts in 2014 and dropped to 54th on the money list and now is ranked 66th in the world.
It has been tough for other players and everyone in the game who adores Tseng – which is the vast majority of people – to watch the slide progress, but there is hope. Tseng has made just 13 of 22 cuts in 2015, including this week in Malaysia, but her two top 10s have been runner-up finishes.
Tseng finished tied for second at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February and most recently added another tie for second at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala., in late August. That runner-up finish in Alabama gave Tseng a big confidence boost, and she said she feels more at peace with herself and her game than she has in quite some time.
“I just want to keep playing as happy Yani and just enjoy it,” she told the media in Alabama. “I'm really happy to be playing golf, and just I want to win. It doesn't matter. It will come.
“It doesn't matter if it’s this week or next week or next year, I just want to try to be patient as much as I can and stay positive.”
Tseng has toiled tirelessly on her game and feels good about where things are going.
“I've been working on my game forever, like every day. It's just exciting,” she said in Alabama. “We only have probably seven, eight tournaments left, but it’s never too late. Just very happy my game’s really coming back.”
This week, Tseng is in the mix, following an opening-round 5-under 66 with a 3-under 68 on Friday to enter the final 36 holes two shots off the lead. Even if she doesn’t hoist the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia trophy on Sunday, chances are good she will make a nice addition to the $347,686 she has earned so far in 2015.
Every sub-par round from this point on is a positive step in the right direction for Tseng, and maybe, just maybe, the golf world will see her add victory No. 16 to her resume soon. First things first though, and she certainly has the support of virtually everyone associated with the Tour.
That, in and of itself, is a victory that should make Tseng proud.