Yani Tseng is building an advantage that can’t be measured by any statistical category.
At 22, she’s already constructing an asset the game’s great players have enjoyed.
Brick by brick, with every win this year, she’s building an aura, an intimidating presence.
It’s a growing asset with Tseng going for her 12th worldwide title of the year at this week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
If Tseng wins again, it will give her eight LPGA titles this year. That would put her among legends. Only Betsy Rawls, Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam have won more titles in a single season.
“With her physical strength, Yani’s intimidating,” said Hall of Famer Judy Rankin, a Golf Channel analyst who is taking time off from her television duties to care for her husband, Yippy, who’s battling serious health problems. “As her coach, Gary Gilchrist has refined her golf swing. Her weaknesses are less and less, and the icing on the cake is that she apparently has unbelievable confidence going.”
Players feel that.
Cindy LaCrosse said as much after Tseng beat her in their final-round pairing at the Wegmans LPGA Championship in June. Tseng wobbled LaCrosse slamming a tee shot 60 yards past her at the third hole.
“I was like, `Oh man, this is going to be a long day,’” LaCrosse said. “That was kind of embarrassing.”
Tseng wobbled the entire field winning the LPGA Championship in a 10-shot runaway.
Stacy Lewis stood up to Tseng to beat her in a final-round pairing at the Kraft Nabisco in April, but even she acknowledged the advantages Tseng was building after the LPGA Championship rout.
“We’ve got to get better,” Lewis said.
Tseng’s competition isn’t getting better fast enough.
The LPGA Championship runaway was just the beginning of Tseng’s torrid run. She’s winning every other time she tees it up now. She has won six of her last 12 LPGA starts dating back to the LPGA Championship. She has won two of the last four major championships, three of her last four starts worldwide.
In the year’s last major, Tseng’s presence seemed to have a large effect on Caroline Masson, who blew a final-round lead playing in Tseng’s shadow. Tseng’s victory at the Ricoh Women’s British Open gave her five major championship titles in her career, making her the youngest man or woman to win so many.
“When you get increased confidence, there’s a psychological peace that comes with that, with knowing you can perform and win, and other players can feel that in you,” Gilchrist said.
When Tseng first seized the Rolex No. 1 world ranking in February, she wasn’t comfortable with it. She was a bit flummoxed seeing her caddie don the Rolex No. 1 bib for the first time when they teed it up at the Kia Classic.
“The more confidence you have, the more you can handle pressure,” Gilchrist said. “A lot of players, when they get in a position they haven’t been in, with the extreme pressure that comes in a final round, it’s very hard to handle the emotions. There are no short cuts to learning how to handle it. You have to go through it, and you have to embrace it.”
A lot of Gilchrist’s work with Tseng this year has been about embracing her place atop the game and all that comes with it.
The Rolex World Rankings show how much Tseng has relished doing so.
Winning the Ladies European Tour event in China in her last start, No. 1 Tseng built her world rankings point total to double No. 2 Suzann Pettersen. Tseng’s run atop the Rolex rankings is now 39 consecutive weeks. Nobody is going to be catching her for awhile.
“I don’t know if Yani will break all the game’s records, but she’s going to keep breaking more records,” Rankin said.