Home cookin’ for Yani, Tiger beats the heat, and Rory needs an air filter

Stanley Chou

With Yani Tseng, Tiger Woods, and Rory McIlroy all in contention after the first rounds of their respective Asian contests, golf’s three superstars are battling various internal and external factors as well as their opponents.

Tseng, who began the defense of her Taiwan Championship on Thursday with a 5-under 67, hopes that home field in her native country will provide enough of an advantage to turn around what has been a mostly dismal season for the world No. 1.

Last week, Tseng looked more like the golfer who last year became the youngest ever to win five major championship. The 23-year-old finished third at the HanaBank Championship -- her first top-10 finish since the Sybase Match Play Championship back in May.

After winning three of the first five LPGA events of the year, the top-ranked player in the world went into a nosedive that started in June and included 11 straight events outside the top 10 as well as three missed cuts.

“I know everybody is talking about the pressure this week,” Tseng told reporters after carding a nearly flawless round, her sole bogey coming on No. 10. “When I see all the fans, I think that pressure is gone because I know it doesn't matter how I play, they're still going to be there to give me 100 percent support.”

Tseng will enter Friday’s second round just two strokes behind Inbee Park.

Woods, playing in the heat and humidity at Kuala Lumpur’s Mines Resort and Golf Club for the first time since winning the team and individual titles at the 1999 World Cup, said the environmental conditions were not the reason he made the turn at even par and was eight shots back. While the 14-time major winner said later he would have loved to “hop in an ice tub,” he also noted that the only way to overcome his lackluster start was to play more aggressively.

''It's a different type of mindset,'' he said after posting a 5-under 66 that put him three shots back of first-round leader Troy Matteson. ''Going out there and shooting even par on that front nine, I just felt like I got run over.''

Woods often mopped the moisture from his face and neck and appeared frustrated when short putts at the eighth and ninth failed to drop, according to the Associated Press. But the second-ranked golfer on the men’s side would not use the weather as an excuse.

“It is what it is. Everyone has got to deal with it,” Woods said. “It's hot, it's humid, and they've got to stay hydrated....I'm just like everyone else here, we're going to lose a few [pounds] this week."

Despite the 91-degree temperatures and stultifying sogginess, Woods put on the afterburners for the back nine and carded five birdies, including a string of three in a row on the 15th, 16th, and 17th holes.

"I missed a couple out there, but also the two putts I hit were good putts at eight and nine," he said. "I really started hitting the ball quite well the end of the front nine, and I just happened to miss two short putts."

Woods believes it will take a score of 20-under or better to win this week, "so I've got to be aggressive and we've got to go get it.''

As for McIlroy, the two-time major champ who hopes to secure the money titles on the PGA and European Tours, blamed the notoriously lousy air quality in Shanghai for a headache he battled on the back nine at the BMW Masters.

''We're not breathing in the cleanest air,'' McIlroy said after posting a 5-under 67 on Thursday. ''A good night's sleep tonight and I should be okay for tomorrow.''

Air pollution or not, McIlroy has work to do to overcome 18-hole leader Jamie Donaldson, who fired a course-record 62 to take four-shot lead into the second round.

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