OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Yani Tseng used to be the giant in women’s golf.
She was the giant talent with the giant’s power and a giant’s invincible aura.
She’s the giant slayer now.
At least that’s the role the former No. 1 so ably filled Thursday in leading Chinese Taipei to a stunning sweep and upset of the Americans in a dramatic finish to Day 1 of the International Crown at Caves Valley Golf Club.
Tseng buried a clutch 13-foot birdie putt at the final hole to help take down the No. 1 seeded Americans.
Tseng and Phoebe Yao defeated Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson, 1 up, in fourballs with the last putt of the day in this inaugural international team event.
“I felt like the old Yani is back,” Tseng said.
Lewis is No. 1 in the Rolex world rankings, Thompson No. 5, which made them the highest ranked tandem in Thursday’s fourballs. Tseng, who reigned at No. 1 for 109 weeks before Lewis took the top spot from her early last year, has fallen to No. 53. Her teammate, Yao, is No. 105.
Tseng, 25, was feeling atop the world again after burying that birdie Thursday.
“I haven’t had this feeling for a long time,” Tseng said. “When I made that birdie putt, my hands were shaking. Last time my hands were shaking like that was when I won at Royal Birkdale.”
That was four years ago, when Tseng won the first of her two Women’s British Opens.
“Hopefully, this is my turning point, for the rest of my life,” Tseng said. “I feel great today, because I didn’t really worry about myself. All I wanted is to play good for my teammates and my country. That’s all I care about.”
Before Tseng’s putt, the Chinese Taipei team of Teresa Lu and Candie Kung routed the American team of Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer, 4 and 3.
The Americans never led in either match.
The combined world ranking of the Americans is 28. The combined world ranking of Chinese Taipei is 320.
The Chinese Taipei team knew what Thursday’s sweep meant back in their homeland.
“I had goose bumps all the way,” Kung said of listening to their national anthem before their first tee shots. “I know life at home, everyone’s watching. I’m sure everybody probably had tears and goosebumps, even though they’re not here.”
Chinese Taipei, also known as Taiwan, leads Pool A after Day 1 with four points, a point better than Spain. Actually, Chinese Taipei leads all eight nations in points. The Americans were the only nation to fail to register at least a point on Thursday. A victory is worth two points and a halved match is worth one point.
“It certainly hurt to lose there on the last hole,” Lewis said.
With the match all square, Tseng hit the fairway at the 18th, leaving her a 5-iron from 186 yards into the wind. She carved the shot to 13 feet.
Tseng said the fact that Yao two-putted for par took some pressure off her knowing she had a free run at the birdie putt.
“My mind was so calm, much calmer than on the first tee,” Tseng said. “I felt good. I’ve been feeling good about my putting all week.”
Tseng came out strong in the match. She birdied the first hole to put Chinese Taipei on top. She made three birdies over the first six holes, but she cooled off in the middle of the round. She missed a 4-footer at the eighth hole, three putting to lose the hole, and it seemed to affect her awhile.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the Yani of old, but she just made putts,” Lewis said. “She didn’t hit it perfect. She hit some bad shots, she hit some good shots, but she just made putts. In best ball, that’s what it comes down to.”
It came down to Tseng feeling her old confidence returning.