There are lessons for Yani Tseng in what’s happening with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods this summer.
That’s what her coach is telling her as she tries to shake her summer swoon this week at the LPGA Safeway Classic.
The Rolex world No. 1 has been the dominating force in all of golf for most of the last three seasons, but she is struggling this summer.
With 20 worldwide titles since 2010, four of them major championships, Tseng built a monster lead in the world rankings. Tseng, however, is looking for her first victory since winning the Kia Classic five months ago. She’s 0 for her last nine starts, her longest winless spell since she ascended to the top of the rankings 79 weeks ago. She is coming off back-to-back missed cuts for the first time in her LPGA career, with three missed cuts in her last four starts.
The struggle comes as a bewildering turn, a head scratcher for even Tseng, who has broken par just once in her last 15 rounds.
Though Tseng had a minor knee problem at the end of last year, and she has battled bouts of tendinitis in her right elbow this year, she doesn’t attribute either malady to be the cause of a drop off in the level of her play. Tseng attributes her lack of form to the pressure she is putting on herself.
Gary Gilchrist, Tseng’s coach, met with her last week at her Lake Nona home outside Orlando to work on her game. He said he liked what he saw.
“I think her game is really solid, and she basically just has to trust her game,” Gilchrist told GolfChannel.com. “I think she is going to be fine, and you can’t get too concerned about missing cuts.”
It happens to the best, Gilchrist told Tseng. He pointed to Rory McIlroy as inspiration.
“Rory McIlroy missed four cuts (in five starts) and then wins the PGA Championship,” Gilchrist said. “Everyone thought his career was coming to an end. Now, he’s No. 1 in the world again, and everything is fine. The game can be tough at times, and it can be for various reasons.”
Tseng’s most noticeable drop off, statistically, is in greens in regulation. She’s 40th this season (68 percent). She was second last year (74 percent). She is ninth in putts per green in regulation, not noticeably off from last year, when she was fifth. She is 11th in scoring average (71.04) this season. She led the tour in scoring last year (69.66).
Gilchrist sees no major issues with Tseng’s swing, nothing that most players don’t endure in a season. He does see a player putting a lot of pressure on herself during tournament weeks. He sees some of the same challenges that Tiger Woods appeared to face in majors this year.
Woods said last weekend that he tried to take a more relaxed approach to Saturday’s round at the PGA, tried to have more fun, a revelation about the internal pressure he must be feeling to regain his major championship form.
“Yani is hitting it good, chipping it good, putting fine,” Gilchrist said. “I think she’s just trying so hard, and the harder you try, the worse it gets, instead of just allowing it to happen.”
Tseng says she thinks her issues are more mental than physical. She parted ways with her former caddie, Jason Hamilton, after struggling at the U.S. Women’s Open last month. She switched to Basil van Rooyen before the Evian Masters, but she will play this week with yet another caddie, Patrick Turley.
“I try everything I can,” Tseng said in her Safeway Classic pre-tournament interview. “I'm working hard. This week, I feel very good. I feel like the old Yani is getting close.”
Her next victory will be as rewarding as any, she said.
“I told myself, if I win again, it's going to be my best trophy I've ever had,” she said. “I will be very, very much more appreciating of how much goes into it, and I know a couple of years looking back on this time, I will probably say this is my best time.”
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