Yani Tseng poses with the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award for 2008 (November 21, 2008). (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
World number two Yani Tseng will unleash a new ‘grip it and rip it’ approach when she makes her debut at the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore in the first week of March (5th to 8th).
The 20-year-old from Taiwan says the new approach, which can only enhance her reputation for being as entertaining to watch as John ‘Wild Thing’ Daly, has been suggested by her coaches Dave and Ron Stockton to avoid wearing herself down mentally through her sophomore season on the LPGA.
"I'm going to try not to stand on the tee and worry about everything. You don't have to worry about everything… you can just see what happens!" said Tseng, who blasted her way to the top of the women's game by making a Major – the McDonald's LPGA Championship – the first win of her LPGA career last June.
"I really tried so hard last year and found I was taking so much time to play,” she said. “I was very surprised because I'm not usually a slow player. This year I'm going to take less time and just enjoy the golf - even if I miss a putt, I'll try not to care and just enjoy the game, do my job and do what I have to do. Easy to say! It's always easy to say,"
Tseng, a familiar face in Singapore and a friend of many of Lion City's top amateurs, rose to the heady heights of being Lorena Ochoa's chief rival by adding nine top-ten finishes – seven of those being in the "podium" positions – to her LPGA Championship win. To avoid over-thinking or pressing too hard to repeat the success of her Rookie of the Year campaign, together with her coaches Yani has decided not to set herself any goals or targets for the coming season. Instead they have chosen only one simple aim.
"We decided ‘just make birdies’ - just make as many as you can. I just want to make birdies. I want to be a birdie machine!" laughs the young woman who led the LPGA with 388 birdies in 2008. "When I told my friends they said "you're already a birdie machine!" I hope every year I can do that."
The objective of staying goalless all year is unusual on the LPGA, where players will often keep a target for their world ranking, or in some cases, the number of victories. Tseng has worked with the Stocktons on her psychology in the hope of avoiding the mental fatigue that crept over her later in the year.
"They told me a lot of mental things so I'm ready for this year - I won't let myself down with my brain,” she declared, with more of the laughter that signifies how relaxed she is at the start of her year. “The last three months of last year, even though I hit it good, I felt my brain was a little bit tired. This year I want to play better than I did in the last three months. I don't want to keep going down - I want to go up!"
Interestingly, when asked to list the things she worked on during the off-season, Tseng listed ‘speaking’ first, well before getting used to her new Adams clubs: "I didn't speak very good English and some of my sentences… I needed to make them better,” she said. “I hope I can speak to the media more and tell them how I think. Of course when I speak Chinese it's easier, so I've been writing down some of the things I want to say and I've been practising them.”
Tseng also revealed that improving her English was actually part of the Stockton's scheme to help her stay more relaxed this year: "That was my coaches' idea. Sometimes I was worrying about the press conferences or interviews, because I didn’t speak a lot of English. And I do feel it has taken some pressure off me, because now I don't care. I can just play golf. I don't worry that I have to talk to anybody."
Not that it means Yani has become antisocial. When talking about her HSBC Women's Champions debut, the first thing she looks forward to is the chance to play with one of her friends from Singapore: "I'll be able to play with one of my friends, because one of them will qualify and we can compete together," said Tseng, before she discovered that 15-year-old Joey Poh had won the local qualifier. "I always look forward to going back to Singapore, because I played SICC (Singapore Island Country Club Junior Championships) many, many times. It's like my, how would you say in English - a second home? Exactly! It's like my second home! Always!"
Story by Tim Maitland
(China.org.cn Feburary 11, 2009)