Tseng On Target

By Randall MellMarch 31, 2011, 3:15 am

2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Yani Tseng faced a formidable test before she even teed off at the Kia Classic last week.

Her swing coach saw the challenge when he first spotted Tseng’s caddie at Industry Hills.

The caddie couldn’t have stood out more if he were wearing a bulls-eye.

“They threw this green bib on him that identifies Yani as the Rolex Women’s No. 1-ranked player,” Gary Gilchrist said. “I think that’s the biggest difference for her this year. It’s that now she’s the No. 1 player in the world, so there are a lot more expectations on her. My biggest goal is for her to feel comfortable and confident with her game in that role.”

Yani Tseng
Yani Tseng is seeking her fourth career major championship title. (Getty Images)
Last week marked the first time the LPGA used a special caddie bib to identify the Rolex No. 1. It’s the LPGA’s version of the Tour de France’s yellow jersey. It’s a good idea, accentuating the focus on the battle for No. 1 in women’s golf, but it can look like a bulls-eye to the rest of the field.

Tseng’s caddie, Jason Hamilton, won’t wear the Rolex No. 1 bib this week. Nobody will. The Kraft Nabisco caddies all wear white bibs, but it doesn’t matter. Players know Tseng’s the player to beat.

The Dinah Shore Tournament Course marks the grandest stage Tseng’s taken since she claimed the No. 1 ranking seven weeks ago.

“I’m feeling more relaxed about it,” said Tseng, who is Taiwanese but makes her home in Orlando, Fla. “I’m enjoying this and having fun with it and not putting too much pressure on myself.”

Tseng plays with a disarming smile. She isn’t an intimidating figure.

At 5 feet 6, she’s sturdy and strong, but she doesn’t look like she could overpower a golf course.

Well, until you see her launch one of her rockets.

Few women who hit the ball as long as Tseng play out of the fairway as consistently as she has this season.

The combination of power and control is a large factor in why Tseng’s already won four times around the world this season and is favored to successfully defend her Kraft Nabisco title.

“Yani is very, very long,” says Karrie Webb, who has won two of the four LPGA events staged this year. “I’ve played with her quite a few rounds already this year, and I think one of the reasons she’s playing so well early is she’s hitting it long and straight. She’s really not hitting too many wild tee shots, which is setting up relatively simple irons shots.

“When she gets her putter going, those are the weeks she really dominates.”

Tseng is becoming a dominant player on the game’s most important stages. She’s won two of the last four majors in women’s golf, three of the last 11.

“She’s done some amazing things at a very young age,” 14-time LPGA winner Cristie Kerr said.

Amazing? Well, consider this: Tseng’s won more majors at 22 than Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods or Bobby Jones did at the same age. And she could make it four major championship triumphs this week, which would be more majors than Nancy Lopez won her entire career.

Tseng’s ability to hit fairways will be key this week.

Can she continue to hit her driver with impunity, shrink the course and keep her power advantage? Tseng was the 10th longest driver on the LPGA last year, averaging 262 yards per drive.

Webb’s observation that Tseng is hitting more fairways while continuing to overpower courses is notable. Gilchrist said Tseng’s developed the ability to drive with power or scale back and drive for control.

“It’s the same swing, she just grips down, and it’s more controlled, where you aren’t looking to hit it a long way,” Gilchrist said. “More like a stinger.”

That swing could prove a valuable weapon at the Dinah Shore course, where the rough’s penal and the firm, fast greens make having a short iron from the fairway a huge advantage.

The confidence of having won here also helps Tseng. She relished seeing her plaque on the Walk of Champions along “Poppie’s Pond” at the 18th, where she took the victor’s plunge last year.

“It was so exciting,” Tseng said of her return. “I love this course.

“I feel really confident right now.”


 

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell
 
Getty Images

Snedeker starts slow in effort to snag Masters invite

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."