RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Yani Tseng is taking major championship preparation to yet another level.
She confessed Tuesday that she has been practicing her Poppie’s Pond leap in her swimming pool back at her Orlando, Fla., home.
The Kraft Nabisco Championship winner’s leap into the pond is among golf’s most popular celebratory traditions.
That kind of preparation may sound presumptuous, but it really wasn’t delivered that way. It came off as classic Yani, a good-natured 23-year-old’s giggling answer to a leading question about whether she was happy with her leap when she won her first and only Kraft Nabisco two seasons ago.
“I thought I jumped pretty cool two years ago,” Tseng said Tuesday. “But my friends said it wasn’t a good jump.”
So she went to work on her diver’s form. That’s classic Yani, too. Never satisfied. Always looking to top herself. And trying to have fun with the whole improvement process.
“Maybe if I have the lead on the last hole, I’ll be thinking about what’s the best pose for me to jump, some crazy move,” she said.
While you might wonder how players in the locker room will react to that, Morgan Pressel can’t blame the world No. 1 for having fun with her quest to win another major. Pressel wondered if Tseng is beginning to find winning too easy.
“Right now, Yani doesn’t have as much competition as maybe she even wants,” said Pressel, who won the Kraft Nabisco five years ago. “So we all need to practice a little harder, and we need to go out there and challenge her more because right now she’s beating us pretty badly.”
It’s hard to believe the Rolex Women’s World Rankings was a musical-chairs proposition a little more than a year ago, with players taking turns trying to succeed Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam as the game’s best. In the 13 months Tseng has reigned as No. 1, she has more than doubled the average point total of No. 2, currently held by Na Yeon Choi.
“She never looks nervous, or as if there’s any pressure on her,” Choi said. “She has a lot of confidence right now. I don’t know who can stop her.”
Tseng has won three of five LPGA starts this year, nine of her last 19. She has won 10 LPGA titles since the start of 2011, 15 worldwide titles in that time.
“It’s almost to where if you can beat Yani, you’ll win,” said David Leadbetter, coach to Suzann Pettersen and Michelle Wie. “Right now, even when her game’s a little off, she's still in winning mode. It’s the Tiger syndrome she’s got going.”
In major championships, Tseng is even tougher to beat. She has won four of the last eight majors. If not for a stumble in the final round of last year’s Kraft Nabisco, that would be five of the last eight. Tseng took a two-shot lead into the final round against Stacy Lewis and lost their head-to-head showing.
The defeat motivated Tseng’s run of titles last year.
She placed an Angry Birds statue in her trophy case where she would have placed the Kraft Nabisco prize.
A glimpse at the birds brought back the angst of losing that final-round lead.
“Stacy played very well, and my emotional control wasn't very good,” Tseng said. “I wasn't in good control of myself. I had been very stressful, hitting a bad shot, hitting a bad putt, and I wasn't being as patient as I am right now. So, I'm learning from that week.
“But it took me a couple weeks to go through that, because I was crying after the round, even after a couple days, when I thought about it. So I learned from that. I brought it to the next few tournaments, and I played great, and I think that's a very important thing for me. I didn't win, but I learned something from it.”
With her victory last week, Tseng moved to 23 LPGA Hall of Fame points, within four of qualifying, though she must be a 10-year LPGA member to be officially inducted. The two points that come with winning a major this week would bump Tseng to within two points. Karrie Webb was 25 when she became the youngestplayer to qualify for the Hall of Fame.
Tseng is reaching heights no player this young has ever reached. At 22, she was the first player to get to five major championships.
“I’ve been watching Yani, because she is the No. 1 player in the world, and I want to see how she plays,” Hall of Famer Pat Bradley said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a past No. 1, or how old you are, you want to see how solid the top player’s game is today. And Yani is solid, in every aspect of her game, including her attitude. I love her attitude. It helps her let go of bad rounds. It makes life easier.”
And a lot tougher for Tseng’s foes.