Yani Tseng, who has struggled mightily with her game of late, hopes that a two-week break and a new caddie, Basil van Rooyen, by her side will help revive her championship form at this week’s Evian Masters.
After a string of poor performances -- including her first missed cut in more than a year, a T59 at the LPGA Championship, and a share of 50th place at the U.S. Women’s Open two weeks ago -- Tseng fired her long-time looper Jason Hamilton. The two had been together for two years and through 16 wins but the world No. 1 obviously believed she needed a change to kick-start the second half of what had started out as such a promising 2012 season.
The Evian event -- which will become the fifth major on the LPGA’s 2013 docket -- will mark van Rooyen’s LPGA debut, according to Mike Scanlan, the LPGA’s director of media communications. A mainstay on the PGA Tour for some 30 years, van Rooyen has handed clubs to John Daly and Mark McNulty, among others, but his stint with Tseng will be his first on the women’s side.
Wednesday, Tseng clarified that she did not blame her former baggage handler for her poor play.
"Jason Hamilton [is] a very good guy and great caddie, too," Tseng told reporters. "But I had a little struggle these couple months, and I just feel like both of us, we need to do take a little break…. I still think he can help me, but I think it's more my problem, because every time I hitting bad I kind of blame on him. I don't like that, so I tell him that we need a little break and see how it's going in the future."
It was unclear whether the Tseng-van Rooyen partnership was an interim solution to whatever ails the five-time major winner or whether the veteran caddie would tote the bag for the two-time reigning Player of the Year for the rest of the season. Whichever way that goes, for sure, Tseng was in need of something to lift her from the uncharacteristic doldrums she has found herself in recently.
Tseng began the season with three quick wins and eight top-10 finishes and appeared to pick up where she left off after a completely dominating 2011 season. While a chronic elbow ailment seemed to dog the Taiwanese superstar, she has complained more about psychological pressures.
“It's more about the mental things, because my coach Gary [Gilchrist] was here with me these couple of weeks [and] said my swing now can win in the tournament,” she told reporters prior to the Women’s Open earlier this month. “Sometimes when I start on tee I still worry about if my ball is going to hit right or left.”
Tseng who, in 2011, became the youngest golfer to win five major titles, did not seem to worry about such issues last year. This time around, though, a drought of seven events without a win has left Tseng with doubts as all aspects of her game have suffered. Tseng's driving accuracy, for example, has dropped from 69 percent last year to 58 percent as her ranking has plummeted from 85th to 142nd.
This week, facing a who’s-who of top women golfers will be another test for the scuffling Tseng. Perhaps the calming waters of Lake Geneva and a new hand on deck in the person of van Rooyen will help steady the nerves of the world’s top golfer.