Tseng: Would be 'good release' if Lewis takes No. 1

By Randall MellMarch 15, 2013, 10:20 pm

PHOENIX – This feels inevitable now.

You could see it in Yani Tseng’s face here Friday after she slid down near the cutline scraping together an even-par 72 in the second round of the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. You could hear it in her voice after she watched Stacy Lewis mount a charge into contention in a bid to win back-to-back events.

Tseng is resigned to the fact that she is probably going to lose the Rolex world No. 1 ranking, and she’s going to lose it soon. She even sounds as if she will welcome being free of it.

“It’s OK,” Tseng said. “It will be a good release for me.”

Lewis put herself in position Friday to end Tseng’s 109-week run at No. 1 as early as this Sunday. Lewis can take the top spot in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings for the first time if she wins this weekend and Tseng finishes third or worse.

With a 7-under-par 65 Friday, Lewis climbed to third on the leaderboard, four shots behind red-hot Jee Young Lee, who followed a 65 with a 64. Lewis impressively made her charge playing alongside Tseng.

Even Lewis senses Tseng’s weariness under what has become a heavy crown.

“I think Yani has put a lot of pressure on herself,” Lewis said. “I think she has taken the expectations up another level, and I definitely think the state she is at right now with her game, I think if she did lose it, I think she would start to play better. I don’t know if I can ever imagine myself doing that.”

While Tseng, 23, speaks of the burden the No. 1 ranking has become, Lewis, 28, speaks openly of wanting to embrace all that would go with the No. 1 ranking.

“If I ever get to No. 1, I'm going to enjoy it, because I never as a kid dreamed of being in that position,” Lewis said. “I'm not going to take it for granted.”

To be clear, Tseng isn’t quitting on anything. More than anything, she just seems to need a break from all that comes with being No. 1, a chance to shed the weight of it and play free again.

When Tseng won the Kia Classic last March, it marked her 15th worldwide title in 15 months. She hasn’t won anything in the last 51 weeks. Late last spring, Tseng began to lose her edge. She struggled through 12 consecutive rounds in the summer without breaking par, and then she missed back-to-back cuts for the first time in her LPGA career.

Though she had nagging aches and pains, there were no debilitating injuries behind her slip in form. There were no major swing flaws. Mostly, she said, there was internal pressure.

Through it all, Tseng was looking over her shoulder, worrying about her weakening hold on No. 1 and who was closing in on her. She also spent too much time fretting over what media and fans were saying. She confessed all of this just this past winter.

“It just drove me crazy,” Tseng told Golfchannel.com last week.

Rising to dominance, Tseng made an impression with how she played with such joy. World No. 2 Na Yeon Choi once said Tseng’s unwavering smile was unnerving. Tseng lost that last year.

“I kept telling myself to smile more, but I just couldn’t do it,” Tseng said. “It’s the first time I realized how hard it can be to smile. Before I was No. 1, and when I became No. 1, I would tell myself to smile, and I would smile. Last year, it was so hard. I would tell myself to smile, and it looked like a fake smile, like it wasn’t really coming from inside.”

So, before this new season began, Tseng resolved not to worry about the world rankings anymore.

“I just want to play like a child again,” Tseng said. “I lost that enjoyment of playing last year.”

Tseng believes when she finds her smile and the fun in her game, the rest will come back, too.

 “I’m still young,” Tseng said. “I still have so many years I’m going to be on tour. If I lose [No. 1] this week, I can always get it back. I have confidence I can get back to world No. 1.”

Lewis would like nothing better than to relieve Tseng of her burden this weekend.

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm