RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Somebody check the Angry Birds.
They rustling their wings yet?
Yani Tseng stuck them in her trophy case last year after she lost the 54-hole lead at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, placing them where the Dinah Shore Trophy would have gone. If she wins this week, the Angry Birds will fly the coop, having served their motivational purpose in keeping the spot warm.
With a 4-under-par 68 Thursday, Tseng put herself in prime position to win the one that got away.
Tseng’s round of six birdies and two bogeys helped her climb into third place, two shots behind South Korea’s Amy Yang and a shot behind Australia’s Lindsey Wright.
So much is in play right away with that fast start. Tseng is going for her third LPGA title in a row, her fourth in six starts this year, her 10th in her last 20 LPGA starts. She’s going for her third major championship triumph in the last four played, her fifth in the last nine, her sixth overall.
There’s weight in all of that, stress in wanting it so much.
This winning every week ain’t easy, folks.
Tseng, 23, isn’t taking anything for granted.
“Winning two weeks in a row, it takes a lot out of you,” said Gary Gilchrist, Tseng’s swing coach. “So to get yourself up and ready to play in this kind of event, it’s not that easy.”
Tseng didn’t waste time making her move in the first round. She birdied the third hole and had a run of three birdies over four holes on the back nine to get within a shot of the lead. She played the final four holes in 1 over.
“I think for the first round she stayed really patient out there, but in the last few holes you could see she was struggling a little bit with her energy level,” Gilchrist said.
Tseng took Monday off. She played just nine holes on Tuesday. She acknowledged endurance is part of the challenge this week.
“It was kind of very tough,” Tseng said of winning the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup and Kia Classic in back-to-back weeks arriving here. “I don’t feel tired. My mind is always fresh, especially getting to a major. I always have a lot of energy, but it seems like with the last two wins I’m losing energy to come here. The last couple days when I practiced, it’s kind of easy to get tired.”
But Tseng said she felt an energizing boost when Thursday’s round began.
“Once the tournament started, I felt more focused,” she said.
So much so that Tseng wanted more out of her round than a 68.
“I was really disappointed today, because I didn’t hit many good shots, and I didn’t leave myself lots of birdie chances,” Tseng said. “I was kind of upset that I didn’t have good distance control. That’s why I didn’t have many birdie chances.”
Tseng’s mindful of how Gilchrist preaches against the danger of expecting perfection.
“I think I’m learning,” Tseng said.
Tseng’s education is making her one of the most learned winners in tour history.