Doggone good friends Suzann, Yani confide in each other

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As Suzann Pettersen continues a swift climb to seizing the Rolex world No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career, she offered up encouragement to a struggling former No. 1 whom she calls friend.

With a 1-over-par 73 Saturday giving her a four-shot lead going into the final round of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, Pettersen is poised to win her fourth title this year and her third in her last five starts. With a win, she will be breathing down the neck of No. 1 Inbee Park. She would be just .66 average Rolex world ranking points behind Park.

Pettersen said she has been making the most of a good-luck charm given to her by Yani Tseng at the end of last year. It’s a dog figurine, meant to honor the fact that Pettersen was born in the year of the dog on the Chinese calendar. According to the Chinese Zodiac, a dog is an “auspicious animal” that can bring good fortune when it comes to a house.

“I’ve kept it very close to my heart ever since,” Pettersen said.

Pettersen also has kept close tabs on her friend, Tseng, the former Rolex world No. 1 who made her return home to Taiwan for this year’s event having slipped to No. 25 in the world. Tseng won this event two years ago and tied for third in it last year, but her return this week hasn’t provided the spark she hoped it would. She shot 76 and 78 to open the tournament with a 72 on Saturday. Tseng sits tied for 51st in a field of 78.

“Yani and I have been good friends for a long time,” Pettersen said in her post-round news conference. “She’s a great girl. I’ve pretty much had a great friendship with her from the second she joined the tour. We had a great friendship on and off the course, and I think we have made each other better. We practice together, we play together.”

Tseng sought out Pettersen’s advice this summer in trying to break out of her slump.

“What she’s achieved so far in her career, it’s hard to repeat,” Pettersen said. “She came up to me and asked me what I thought of her game. I said, `Yani, you can’t put the bar to where you expect to win 12 tournaments a year. If you do that, you’re going to be pretty much disappointed every season from now on.'

“Golf, it’s a funny game. Sometimes, you’re on a roll, it feels like you can do whatever you feel like. Other times, it could be very marginal and everything going against you. But she’s way too good to dig herself a big hole and disappear.

“I try to keep supporting her, trying to help her bring her A game back, because I miss our feisty rounds together.”