Tseng flashes old form in taking Safeway lead


Did Yani Tseng find her mojo again?

The former Rolex world No. 1, such a dominant force in her 109-week run atop the world rankings, burst out of her funk and back into the LPGA’s spotlight Saturday with a 9-under-par 63 to take a three-shot lead going into the final round of the Safeway Classic.

Tseng, 24, seems to have found her form almost overnight with the help of an old swing coach and a new one. Tseng said a return to her Taiwanese golf roots has sparked her game as she bids to end a 17-month winless spell.

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After winning 15 times around the world in 15 months, Tseng spiraled into a slump. A two-time Ricoh Women’s British Open champ, Tseng missed the cut in that event at St. Andrews last month, marking her fourth consecutive missed cut. She plummeted to No. 15 in the Rolex Women's World Rankings.

With her management team acknowledging she was searching wide and far for help, Tseng returned to her Taiwanese home for two weeks after leaving St. Andrews. She got back together there with Tony Kao, the coach who helped her develop as a youth. In fact, she brought him back to the United States with her. He’s accompanying her at the Safeway Classic.

“I think that helps a little bit and keeps me relaxed,” Tseng said in her post-round news conference Saturday in Portland. “He teach me since I play golf, ever since I was 5 or 6, until I was 18, when I turned pro, and then he didn’t teach me anymore.” 

Tseng made her rise to No. 1 with Gary Gilchrist as her coach, but she said she’s also working with another new coach in Orlando, Kevin Smeltz. She believes her return to Taiwan helped revitalize her spirit and game.

“I went back to Taiwan for two weeks to play golf with some young LPGA players, and they’re really helping me to be back in this position, to be more excited, to make birdies, to try to beat everybody out here,” Tseng said.

In her first event back from Taiwan, Tseng broke her missed-cut streak, tying for 24th last week at the CN Canadian Women's Open. This week, she has posted three rounds in the 60s at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland.

Tseng believes the difficulties she is working through will help her rebound to be an even better player.

“My swing is much better, my attitude on the course is much better, and I think if one day I come back on top, I’ll be much better than what I used to be,” she said.