This time last year, Yani Tseng was on her way to one of the most dominating seasons in professional golf and she continued to appear unstoppable when she got off to a sizzling start to her 2012 season. But after three quick wins in five events, as well as eight straight top-10 finishes, Tseng’s victory train came to a complete and mystifying halt for which the 23-year-old with five major championships has no explanation.
''I think this is just part of real life when you go out and you have to go down and maybe you go up again,'' Tseng told reporters Monday, ahead of this weeks LPGA HanaBank Championship in South Korea. ''I can always be stronger and tougher when I'm coming back.''
Since the Match Play Championship in May, the world No. 1 has three missed cuts and no top 10s in 11 tries and enters this week’s LPGA HanaBank Championship after a T49 last week at the LPGA Tour’s Malaysian tourney. Along the way, Tseng has posted only four scores in the 60s in her previous 11 stroke-play events.
As she became increasingly mired in her prolonged slump, Tseng made some questionable decisions, like switching caddies three times in one season. When, according to the Associated Press’ Doug Ferguson, she attempted to rehire her long-time looper, Jason Hamilton, he was already on the bag for U.S. Women’s Open champ Na Yeon Choi.
While Tseng had no answers for her stunning decline, the reigning back-to-back Player of the Year sounded a hopeful note about her chances of defending her HanaBank title.
“I am always very happy to be back here and have so many family here supporting, my mom and my sister are going to be here this week, too, so I feel like I'm ready for my game,” she said. “I was struggling a little last week, but I think I'm kind of back to how I played before. And I love this golf course, and I always play good here, so very looking forward to Friday.”
Perhaps a spontaneous decision to meet face-to-face with her coach, Gary Gilchrist, and hone her psychological approach will be just what Tseng needs to get back in the game.
“We don't work much, just a couple drills and mostly on the mental part,” said Tseng. “Two weeks ago when I was in Taiwan I just called to see if he can be in Malaysia for me, so he came and made me feel very happy and very comfortable that he's there supporting me and watching me, every part of my game. And so I think it helps a lot. I played much better last week, and especially the weekend. I wish it will continue this week.”
If nothing else, Tseng’s spirits appeared to be high after her mental workout with Gilchrist.
“I feel I'm happier and enjoy life more instead of trying to worry about world No. 1 or winning the tournament,'' said Tseng. ''I just want to go out there and have fun with everybody else and try to make birdie every hole, and if not, go to the next tournament and try to play well. We still have more tournaments and next year to come.''