OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Karrie Webb probably has more insight into Yani Tseng’s struggles with the expectations that came holding the Rolex world No. 1 ranking than any other player in the game today.
Tseng, who was Thursday’s star at the International Crown, beating the Americans with a closing birdie, has fallen to No. 53 in the world. She reigned as No. 1 for 109 weeks before losing it early last year.
While Webb dominated before the Rolex rankings came out, she found herself in a struggle with Annika Sorenstam for major championships and money titles.
Webb, 39, took the mantle from Sorenstam as the game’s top player back in the late ‘90s, with Sorenstam elevating her game and taking it back.
“Fortunately, I probably haven't had the highs and the lows like Yani, but I've had some times in my career where I haven't had a lot of self-confidence out there, even when I really should have,” Webb said. “I can sympathize with where Yani is, because I think when she was No. 1 in the world, she didn't really enjoy that position as much. I think she enjoyed the good golf, but there was a lot of pressure that came along with it and a lot of responsibility. She even made the comment that she was relieved last year to not be No. 1.
“I found myself at one point in my career just wanting to be No. 2. I think when you don't set your sights to be as good as you can be, whatever that is, you're holding yourself back. I think that's when you don't play to the best of your ability, and then the self-confidence and the self-doubt starts to occur.”
Webb, a Hall of Famer, has won 41 LPGA titles, including seven major championships. Tseng, 25, had won five majors by 22, becoming the youngest player, male or female, to win that many majors at that age. She has won 15 LPGA titles, none in more than two years. Her last major championship victory was the Ricoh Women’s British Open three years ago.
Asked by GolfChannnel.com earlier this week to compare her game today to where it was when she was dominating, Tseng said: “I think I just keep putting too much pressure on myself. The result, the score, the ranking, I try to forget about that, but it's just really hard. I try to let it go. It’s easy to say, but it's very hard to do.
“Now I play so good on the practice round and practice range, everything. But when I'm out on the course, it's kind of automatic, I got lots of attention on myself. I don't focus the right way. I just think too much. I kind of doubt myself a lot when I play in the tournament. I just need to trust more, because I'm doing so good on the range, doing so good on the practice round, and I just need to really let it go and forget about everything else, forget about who I am, just play like a kid, play like all the kids out there and enjoy every shot I do.”
Tseng seized the spotlight Thursday at the International Crown, making a clutch 13-foot birdie putt at the last hole to beat the No. 1 seeded Americans in a fourballs match and leading Chinese Taipei to the top of the Pool A standings.
“I felt like the Yani of old,” she said.