Tseng's coach: 'Shocked' if she doesn't win this year

By Randall MellMarch 5, 2015, 4:50 pm

Yani Tseng joked that she’s making it easy on family and friends again. 

Four days after tying for second in Thailand, she is atop the leaderboard after the first round of the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore, posting a 6-under-par 66 to share the lead with Inbee Park. 

“My friends and my parents, going to the website, they don’t have to scroll down to see my name,” Tseng said, beaming with a large smile following the round. “They can see [me] right on the top of the first page.” 

For family and friends, seeing Tseng’s smile, hearing her laugh after Thursday’s round, may be just as welcome as seeing her name in contention again. It’s been a long, hard road since she lost the Rolex world No. 1 ranking almost two years ago. 

“It’s fun, it’s so much fun,” Tseng said of being in contention. 

For her new coach back in the United States, Tseng’s reaction to their work is also a welcome sight. Claude Harmon told Tseng there will be bad swings, bad shots and bad days, but her talent will win out. She best serves that talent, he said, simplifying a game that has become all too complicated for her. 

“I’d be shocked if Yani doesn’t win this year,” Harmon told GolfChannel.com. “I told her when we started working, `I can help you get your golf swing back. That’s the easy part.’ You can’t have the talent she has and not get back to the top of the game. She just needs to believe. She needs to believe she can be a great player again.” 

Harmon, son to Butch Harmon, began working with Tseng in January. His work with Tseng has been focused more on removing what’s in Tseng’s head than adding to it. 

“To be quite frank, she’s been kind of lost,” Harmon said. “She’s been searching, and she hasn’t had a lot of confidence.” 

Since losing the No. 1 world ranking in March of 2013, Tseng has been bouncing around in a desperate search to regain her winning form, going from one instructor to another, from one idea to another. Harmon says in her eagerness to excel again, Tseng has filled her head with too many ideas. 

“She’s been trying to make her swing so technical,” Harmon said. “She got into a rut where she was searching. She was listening to a lot of different people, and if something didn’t work, she wouldn’t really give it a chance. She was trying a bunch of different stuff. 

“I’ve learned from my father, if you’re going to play competitive golf at the highest level, you’ve got to make it as simple as possible. A lot of times players, when they struggle, the worse they hit it, the more complicated they try to make things.” 

Simplifying continues to be Harmon’s theme with Tseng. 

“We are making slight technical changes to her golf swing, but I’m just trying to take as much clutter out of her brain as possible,” Harmon said. “Every text message, I tell her, `Turn your brain off and go play golf.’ It’s not supposed to be difficult, but when you struggle, there’s so much information out there to find now, TrackMan and 3D. There is so much technical information that’s become part of the vernacular. 

“I believe you can’t play golf swing. You have to play golf, and Yani has been playing golf swing a couple years now, where she’s out there working on her swing in tournaments.” 

Tseng and Harmon didn’t get off to the most promising start this year. The first time Tseng teed it up in an LPGA event after going to work with Harmon, she shot 79 at the Women’s Australian Open. She followed that up with an 82 and missed the cut, but they kept focused on simplifying. 

This is back-to-back weeks now, though, that Tseng has a share of the first-round lead in an LPGA event. She also shot 66 in the first round in Thailand last week. 

“All she can do is give herself chances,” Harmon said. “I told her, `All you’ve got to try to do is get yourself back in the hunt. There will be times you play well, and you won’t win, and there will be times you won’t play as well, and you will win.’ You’ve just got to be there. She just hasn’t been in the hunt, but she’s going to be fine.” 

Tseng, 26, has won 15 LPGA titles, five of them majors, but she’s looking for her first LPGA title since winning the Kia Classic three years ago. She seemed to lose her winning mojo almost overnight back in 2012, when she won three times in five weeks at year’s start before going winless since. 

At her best, Tseng won seven LPGA titles in 2011, with 14 top-10 finishes. She had just two top-10 finishes last year. 

Harmon has been working with Tseng on her takeaway and position at the top of her backswing. 

“We’ve been trying to get her clubface in a little more neutral position and her posture in a little better position,” Harmon said. “She tends to get a little closed and shut at the top.” 

“But I said to Yani, 'Listen, you can play from a slightly closed position, and as long as you stay aggressive and keep your body moving, you can play quite well.’ I think more of what we are doing is just trying to rebuild her confidence.” 

When Tseng was at her best, her smile was almost unnerving to her competitors. 

“It’s kind of scary,” Na Yeon Choi once said of Tseng’s smile. “She never looks nervous, or as if there’s pressure on her.”

Harmon, like everyone else, watched Tseng lose that. 

“It was very evident she wasn’t having any fun on the golf course,” he said. “She wasn’t having any fun practicing, and she was probably practicing too much. I’ve had real frank conversations with her, just telling her everything’s going to be OK. 

“Like I said, I’d be shocked if she doesn’t win once or twice this year and give herself chances to win.” 

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”