When Yani Tseng last year became the youngest golfer ever to win five major championships, it appeared as if the world No. 1 would pick up this season where she left off in 2011 -- especially after kicking off the campaign with three wins in her first five events. Tseng followed her early success this year, however, with less-than-stellar play that resulted in a confidence-shattering three missed cuts in her last six tourneys.
This week, a refreshed and energized Tseng hopes to put her inconsistent season behind her by playing her way into the record books once again. A victory at the Women’s British Open, which kicks off on Thursday, would make the 23-year-old from Taiwan the youngest player -- woman or man -- to lift six major trophies. She would also become the first-ever three-time winner of the event.
If that’s not enough of an incentive, a W would also place Tseng in the illustrious company of her mentor, Annika Sorenstam, who is the only player in LPGA history to win the same major contest three straight times. Sorenstam won the LPGA Championship in 2003, 2004, and 2005.
Tseng, who will play the first two rounds with Ai Miyazato and last week’s hard-luck loser of the Kingsmill Championship nine-hole playoff, Paula Creamer, hoped to emulate a certain PGA Tour golfer who had his share of inconsistent play earlier this year before turning on the after-burners.
“I know I was a little struggling the last couple months, but I think it's a good time to be back here and I think it's my turn to start playing well again,” Tseng told reporters on Wednesday, ahead of Thursday’s start to the competition at England’s Royal Liverpool. “I think Rory is very good for me to look at, because Rory McIlroy, he was a little down the last couple months, but after he won the PGA Championship, he won another two.”
Proclaiming herself ready to chalk up her 27th career victory, Tseng said she learned about patience and tuning out distractions from McIlroy. She also picked up a few pointers from Tiger Woods and teen wunderkind Lydia Ko.
“I learn from [McIlroy’s] interviews what he thinks, what he looks at, and when he was struggling...how he enjoys playing on the course and ignoring anyone else out there,” said Tseng, who noted how hard she has been on herself despite knowing that “you cannot win every week.”
“It’s hard to always be on top,” Tseng said.
Tseng even looked to Ko, the 15-year-old top amateur who became the youngest golfer to win an LPGA event when she captured the Canadian Women’s Open in August, for inspiration.
“[Ko] was smiling and you could tell how confident she is, how comfortable she is and like every shot she's hitting, she's very confident, she's not worried about anything,” Tseng said of the teenager from New Zealand. “She doesn't have any pressure and she just wants to go out there and be an LPGA player. I was very impressed.”
Despite all the internal pressures and media attention, Tseng said she had one primary goal this week -- in addition to smashing records in the final major of the 2012 golf season -- and that was to conjure up the fun she has had on the golf course in the past.
“I want to get back and enjoy the game again and smile on the golf course as I used to do,” Tseng said. “I’m ready to rock.”