Tseng searching for fun and old Yani in 2016

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2016, 5:12 pm

Yani Tseng just wants to feel comfortable on the golf course again.

It used to be her playground, a place she felt free and untethered, where playing with youthful abandon from real worldly cares was the thing.

Some time after she gained the world No. 1 ranking, her playground changed. It became a workplace, a factory where she felt as if she were expected to produce a quota of great shots with late Sunday deadlines always pressing in on her.

Yes, Tseng wants to break out of her nearly four-year LPGA winless spell. She wants to hoist a trophy again. She wants to be Rolex Player of the Year again and make the Hall of Fame, but mostly she wants to feel untethered again, free to enjoy the game the way she did before greatness changed everything.

Tseng, who turns 27 on Saturday, wants her playground back.

That’s what this year is about, what her start in next week’s season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic is all about.

“The most encouraging thing about last year was that I started feeling comfortable,” Tseng told GolfChannel.com about the flashes of form that got her into contention again last season. “That’s my goal this year. I want to get comfortable on the golf course again, comfortable on the driving range again. I was playing afraid before. I want to feel like I’m enjoying the game again.”

When Tseng tees it up at the Ocean Club on Paradise Island next week, she’ll be looking to build on momentum she created late last year, when she finished T-2, 5th and T-2 over a four-tournament run. She started last year having plummeted to No. 90 in the Rolex rankings, but she began climbing back with the new team she built around her. She starts this year No. 37 in the world.

“I’m really happy with the team I have now,” Tseng said. “I feel like I’m ready for 2016.”

After her 109-week reign as Rolex world No. 1 ended early in 2013, Tseng’s slump sent her in a frustrating search for help. She believed a lot of her troubles were in her head. With a personality eager to please, she felt a debilitating burden trying to live up to her status as the first man or woman to win five major championships by the age of 22. She felt guilt disappointing people. And she got lost in her desperate search for something to spark the return of form that made her so dominant, bouncing from one idea to another. She began playing less with the imagination that got her to No. 1 and more with a technical checklist.

Tseng asked Butch Harmon for help with that at the beginning of last year, and he steered her to his son, Claude. Tseng likes the work she has been doing with Claude since they connected 12 months ago.

“The worse players play, the more technical they can become, because they’re working on a lot of different things,” Harmon said. “My job was just uncluttering Yani’s brain. I said, ‘Hey, let’s stick to one game plan for 365 days and not bounce around.’”

There’s something symbiotic about the relationship between a golfer’s swing and confidence. When either one’s suffering, so is the other.

When Tseng won 12 times around the world in 2011, her driver was like Thor’s hammer. She dominated with it, overpowering the opposition with an intimidating, attacking style. “I still like to grip it and rip it,” Tseng said. When she lost confidence in her driver, she lost confidence in her entire game.

As Tseng slumped, she became unpredictably wayward, with her misses becoming more wild, both left and right. Her big misses embarrassed her, with too many shots sailing out of bounds or into hazards. She began piling up uncharacteristically big numbers, and that embarrassed her, too.

“The last couple years my driver has been all over the place,” Tseng said. “I was playing so badly and didn’t feel like I had the confidence to be on the course.”

Even at her best, Tseng never hit a lot of fairways, but she never missed them as wildly as she was in her slump.

“It’s fun to make birdies from the woods, but you’ve got to get your drive in play,” Tseng said. “I feel like hitting the driver well is really important to me. I feel like once my driver gets better, everything else will get better. I’m trying to make my misses smaller.”

Harmon began changing Tseng’s long swing last year. He tightened it up, shortening her backswing, which used to reach well past parallel. He also changed her takeaway. She was pulling the club back outside the line with the face closed. He got her taking it back down the line with her clubface in a more classic, square position.

Taming her driver looms as a key to Tseng’s bid to win her first LPGA title since taking the Kia Classic in March of 2012. That’s improving but remains a work in progress.

“I imagine when she drives the ball well, it bleeds into the rest of her game,” Harmon said. “We’ve tried to give her a little more control and a little more consistency. Distance isn’t an issue for Yani. If she can hit maybe three or four more fairways a round, it will give her more chances with her irons.”

Tseng is trying to play freely again, to attack again within her new swing.

“I’m trying to get my imagination back,” Tseng said. “I feel like if I can see the shot, I can hit it.”

Tseng was the first to say a lot of her woes were psychological. She believes the team she assembled last year is clearing her head to see her playground again. She started working with Harmon at the start of last season, also adding David Donatucci as her trainer, Bob Rotella as her mental coach and Scott Lubin as her caddie, a former caddie for Jack Nicklaus. Her team is all down in the Jupiter area in South Florida, a nearly three-hour drive from Tseng’s home in Lake Nona in Orlando.

“I’m on the Turnpike a lot,” Tseng said.

Like Harmon, Rotella is helping Tseng simplify her focus.

“Yani said she felt like when she was winning everything, she didn’t know a whole lot about golf,” Rotella said. “She was just picturing a shot and ripping it. She was just having fun, and she said: ‘They just kept handing me trophies and checks, and then when everyone started telling me how much potential I had, it started to change everything.’ She said she started getting more serious, trying to do everything perfectly. And then she started feeling pressure, and she got lost.”

With a head full of demon doubts steering her every which way ...

“I got to where I was afraid of hitting the ball in the rough,” Tseng said. “Bob told me being afraid of hitting it in the rough is worse than actually hitting it in the rough. I also got to where I was feeling like I was going to be happy just making the cut. He said if you don’t have a chance to win, who cares if you make the cut. The way he thinks, it helps me a lot. I’m trying to get my confidence back, and he’s helping me with that.”

So is Harmon. They’ve been a tag team working on Tseng’s confidence.

“It doesn’t matter how many tournaments and majors you’ve won, when you play badly, you lose your confidence,” Harmon said. “Confidence is such an important thing for players. You want her to get back to believing what a great player she is. She has to believe she’s getting back there. I want her to get her swagger back, some cockiness, but not in a disrespectful way, just that belief that she can beat everyone in the field when she shows up. Jordan Spieth has that right now. So does Lydia Ko. The best players in the world believe they are the best players in the world.”

They’re trying to get Yani to remember she’s still Yani. She’s at the doorstep of the LPGA Hall of Fame with 23 points, just four short of qualifying.

“She had one of the greatest years ever [in 2011], and I think she got to where she thought she had to hit every shot perfectly to live up to that year,” Rotella said. “She thought that’s what people expected of her. I told her, ‘If that’s what people expect, they don’t understand golf. You have to let go of all that junk. A lot of it is really getting back to believing in yourself, taking the pressure off and playing the game. You made a lot of putts and you got the ball in the hole because you were basically just living in the moment.’

“Yani is a joy to be around. She’s about as open and honest as you can be when we talk about stuff. When you’re like that, you’ve got a chance of making progress. She’s made a lot. I think she has a good, clear picture of what she wants to do. Now it’s just a matter of throwing away the fear and doubt and just going out and playing golf.”

It’s a matter of turning her workplace back into her playground.

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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.

Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.