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Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4: Yani Tseng

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So much separates Yani Tseng in the women’s game today, but nothing quite like her smile.

It’s an easy smile, one of the most natural in golf, but it can also be a most disconcerting smile.

If you’re going up against her, it’s a femme fatale’s smile.

It intimidates and confounds in the heat of competition.

Just ask Na Yeon Choi, the fourth-ranked woman in the Rolex world rankings.

“I can see Yani’s confidence in her routine,” Choi said. “She smiles when she walks to the ball, in her setup. It’s scary.”

What’s scary is how Tseng’s 12 worldwide titles this year made some very talented women feel ordinary. Tseng won seven LPGA titles, two of them majors (Wegmans LPGA Championship, Ricoh Women’s British Open).

“It’s been a very nice year,” Suzann Pettersen said of her three worldwide titles and Solheim Cup starring performance. “But when Yani has won seven events, it makes you feel not so great.”

If Stacy Lewis hadn’t stopped her in the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Tseng would have won three of the four majors this year.

Tseng, who turns 23 on Jan. 23, looks like she’s just getting started. When she seized the Rolex No. 1 ranking for the first time on Feb. 14, she ended a musical-chair rotation atop the world rankings. She has emerged as the game’s newest dominant force, successor to the reigns of Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam.

Tseng believes the fact that she didn’t get into the No. 1 mix last year fueled her success this year.

“All the great players on the tour, they all give me lots of motivation to become a better player,” Tseng said. “We all push each Other to get better, get better skill and better mentally, because you have to play so good to win a tournament. I just feel like I really improved a lot. All the hard work is paying off.”

This is Tseng’s 45th consecutive week atop the world ranking, and she doesn’t look like she’ll be yielding it anytime soon. She’s doubled the total world ranking point accumulation of No. 2 Pettersen.

Tseng was the LPGA’s player of the year for a second consecutive season. She won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. She dominated the tour statistically, also finishing as the leading money winner ($2,921,713) and as the longest driver (269.2 yards). She finished second in greens in regulation to Pettersen and fifth in putting.

But here’s what unsettles fellow tour pros most: Unofficially, Tseng led the tour in smiles this year.