LPGA making debut in Tseng's Taiwanese homeland

By Randall MellOctober 18, 2011, 12:06 am

Who plays with more joy today than Yani Tseng?

You can see it in her face even amid cut-throat competition.

The maddening game frustrates her at times, as it does all players, but nobody shows you how much they love playing it more. Nobody smiles more between shots. Whether she’s sharing a good-natured wisecrack with a fellow competitor, or good-humored bantering with her caddie, Tseng looks happier to be No. 1 than any man or woman since world rankings were conceived.

She carries the burden of being the best so effortlessly.

“Yani’s a very outgoing personality,” says Gary Gilchrist, her coach. “She’s a very happy person. She’s happy off the golf course, and I think it helps her on the course. She enjoys her life.”

It’s just another fact to appreciate in this star’s rocket-like ascent in the game.

The joy sets her apart, because if Tseng betrayed any bitterness, if she showed some exasperation with her lot in sport’s larger picture, you could understand. Though she’s won more majors (5) by age 22 than any man or woman in the history of the game, though she’s been No. 1 in the Rolex rankings for 36 consecutive weeks, though she has won nine times around the world this season and won four of the last eight major championships, she doesn’t get the full measure of attention she deserves.

Tseng doesn’t grace the cover of many magazines, doesn’t lead many TV sports highlight shows, isn’t the featured center piece on many big-time daily newspaper sports sections. She isn’t fully appreciated for the force she’s become.

But that’s what make this week so marvelous for the folks who love Tseng most.

With Taiwan hosting an LPGA event for the first time, Tseng returns to her homeland a triumphant hero.

All the adulation Tseng has been deprived, it comes flooding her way at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship.

“People in Taiwan love Yani,” says Ernie Huang, Tseng’s mentor, friend and quasi-agent. “She’s very popular. She’s like a rock star there.”

The joy Tseng plays with, it’s Taiwan’s joy this week. They’re reveling in the fact that their homeland has nurtured the world’s best.

Tseng will literally tower over the republic Tuesday when she’s featured in a news conference scheduled on the top floor of the Taipei 101 skyscraper in downtown Taipei. It was the tallest building in the world until Khalifa Tower opened in Dubai last year.

Even when she’s sleeping at the Sunrise Golf & Country Club’s resort, Tseng will feel the pampering of her people. She’s the guest of honor in a special 264 square-meter suite renovated specially for her at a cost of $2 million New Taiwan dollars ($65,380 U.S. dollars).

“I’m always happy about going home, but this is going to be very, very special,” Tseng told GolfChannel.com. “We’ve been working for two years to bring an LPGA event to Taiwan. Golf isn’t as popular as it is in Japan or Korea, but we’re seeing more interest in the game now. I’m just hoping it is going to be a great memory for all the LPGA players.”

Tseng, who has a home in Orlando, Fla., grew up in Taiwan 30 minutes away from the Sunrise Golf & Country Club. Though she learned to play at the driving range her father owned, she trained at Sunrise as a teenager.

Her parents, father Mao Hsin and mother Yu-Yun Yang, will be following her this week. She has an older brother and younger sister and lots of other family and friends back home waiting to celebrate her return.

“And my grandmother will finally get to see me play in an LPGA tournament,” Tseng said. “She’s 92 years old, and I believe she will be there to see me play. She’s only been able to watch me on TV, so it’s going to be very special.”

Taiwan’s where Tseng was groomed to be a world champion, but Huang will tell you she had to leave her beloved homeland to learn what it would take to be the world’s best. Huang, a retired research scientist from Taiwan who moved to San Diego almost 40 years ago, met Tseng when she was 12. Huang loved the game and sponsored Taiwan youth looking to come to the United States to compete at the highest levels.

At 13, Tseng made one of those trips to the United States with Huang and won the Callaway Junior World Championship. That summer, Huang took Tseng and other juniors to see the U.S. Women’s Open when Juli Inkster outdueled Annika Sorenstam at Prairie Dunes in Kansas.

“Yani said she thought she was ready to compete against these girls,” Huang said.

The following summer, Huang brought Tseng back to give her a chance in the U.S. Women’s Amateur. As a 14-year-old, Tseng lost in the second round against an older and more seasoned Paula Creamer in a match that went to the final hole at Philadelphia Country Club.

When Tseng left Huang late that summer to return to Taiwan, she made him a special thank you card. Scrawled around her words were two drawings she painstakingly fashioned, a drawing of the U.S. Women’s Amateur trophy and the U.S. Women’s Open trophy.

“She said she was going to win those trophies, and she also said, `I am the world No. 1,’” Huang said. “I still have that card.”

The following summer, Huang watched Tseng at 15 score her biggest triumph to that date, defeating Michelle Wie in the final to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.

Huang marvels at how Tseng’s claimed and embraced the success she craved as a teenager. He’ll be in Taiwan this week eager to see the country’s affection poured out on Tseng.

“There will be some pressure on Yani because all eyes will be upon her,” Huang said. “Everyone’s going to want a piece of her, and it’s going to be a challenge getting her rest, but she’s matured so much, I think she can certainly deal with this.”

Gilchrist believes Tseng understands the big picture the week presents.

“Yani’s priority this week should be to enjoy herself, enjoy playing in front of her home crowd and not be thinking that she has to play well,” Gilchrist said. “If she doesn’t win, she’ll still be No. 1 in the world. She needs to embrace that. She’s going to be very, very distracted the entire week, but these distractions should be a plus. She needs to enjoy the moment, embrace the crowds. Because in Taiwan, they’re going to love her whether she wins or not. She has nothing to prove.”

Tseng is bound to find the joy in that.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''