15 LPGA Tour wins. Five major championship wins. 109 consecutive weeks at No. 1 in the world.
All came before Yani Tseng’s 24th birthday. It was one of the most dominant five-year stretches (2008-2012) in women’s golf history and most impressive runs ever by a young player but hellacious to keep going.
Many players on Tour gladly would have taken Tseng’s results in 2013 and 2014. She finished 38th and 54th, respectively, on the money list but neither season was close to the lofty expectations she had built. She had fallen all the way to No. 83 in the Rolex Rankings to start the 2015 season and had begun questioning herself more and more with each tournament without a victory.
But whatever mojo she seemingly lost in the last two seasons has returned in glimmers in 2015. Tseng last held at least a share of the lead after the first round in 2012, but she’s already done it twice to start 2015. She did it last week at the Honda LPGA Thailand, where she went on to secure a tie for second, tying her best finish in over two years. She kept it rolling this week, too, opening with a 6-under-par 66 at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore to storm into a share of the lead with No. 2 Inbee Park.
“It’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint,” she said. “So I want to play one shot at a time, like today. I don’t know how many birdies I made, so that’s how I need to feel out there. And tomorrow is another new day and very exciting out there and try to not think too much on Sunday.”
Tseng said that’s the key to getting back to the golf she used to play – not thinking about the golf she expects. She just needs to let talent do its thing and not overthink, she says. Too much over the last few years she felt like she lost patience and was too worried about making birdies rather than the process of getting them. The nerves or desire to win aren’t gone, just the expectations she feels.
“Actually I was pretty nervous out there. I feel like I missed the excitement and I’m hitting longer – it’s just so much more fun, golf,” Tseng said. “I’m not thinking about anything out there, or if I’m thinking, it’s very positive. I kind of avoid myself to what pulls me off, so it’s easier for me to self-talk and stay positive.”
Part of staying positive is trusting her game and not questioning every shot. She’s got a new coach and new trainer, but most importantly perhaps, fans now see the old trademark smile they were used to seeing from the Taiwanese star.
“I feel more awareness of myself, how I’m positioned right now. It actually helps me a lot, too,” she said of the changes with her new coaches. “Self-talk is one of the biggest things out there, because like I say, I tried to be patient and if I don’t tell myself to be patient, it’s hard to be patient. I’m very, very happy. I’m happy that I’m playing the golf again. It’s not thinking or I’m working out there.”
Tseng’s recent return to form has made it easier for her family, too. She’s happier and it doesn’t take long to find out how she’s playing.
“Oh, it’s fun. It’s so much fun. Like I tell my friends, my parents, on the web site, they don’t have to scroll down to see my name. They can just see right on top of the first page,” Tseng said with a laugh and smile. “I was very happy with the way I’ve changed, and like you said, back to smiles again and really play golf out there.”