After an initial couple of minutes continuing the conversation from her press conference at the RR Donneley LPGA Founders Cup at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort about her taking on the English language, I went right to the heart of the principle interest of this blog, mastery. It runs a little longer than most of my posts, but these are words from a master; surely we can make room for that.
Q. As a player you’ve accomplished something, now you’re at the top of the world, there are sometimes something in the way, something in your mindset that allows you to play with freedom. People who aren’t playing well play with fear. You play with freedom.
Q. Do you know how you do that?
Yeah, one thing [garbled], that’s for sure. But now I feel I know how to enjoy on the golf course. I know how to balance my life. I can have fun off the golf course. I even can have fun on the golf course. I don’t think too much of the score.
If I make bogey I just forget about it. I’m looking for next shot to make birdie again and then I just play one shot at a time and learning from a mistake is always a good thing. So, like my first couple of years I have a missed cut in the tournament but I was really happy because I learned from that. Every time I have a mistake, if I’m learning, it’s a really good mistake. And that’s how I can be so enjoy having fun on the golf course.
Q. Some people don’t realize that failure can be a good thing, right?
Yes, that’s for sure. Yeah, sometimes you just have to face to it. Don’t be afraid. Before I was afraid that if I miss or something. But when you face to it, it’s not a big deal. You’ll be happier if you face to it.
Q. How old were you when you started playing?
When I was five.
Q. How old were you when you started playing tournament golf?
Seven, I think.
Q. Really! [Laughs]
Yeah, that’s pretty early, yes [laughs].
Q. Now, did you play any stuff over here before you came to the LPGA? Did you play any AJGA tournaments?
No, I didn’t play any AJGA. I played USGA. I played Arizona Silver Belle, and then the North and South Championship and Callaway Golf Junior Worlds since I was twelve. So I played tournaments in States. And that was the first time twelve years ago, that’s the first time that I know how big is the world, how hard, how tough is the golf. And that’s the time I know I need to work hard to become world number one. It’s not easy.
Q. Did you get your card through Q-School or through the Futures Tour?
Through Q-School after high school and then I went straight through to Q-School.
Q. Straight in. And you got through the first year.
Yes. Yeah, so I’m pretty lucky.
Q. Nah, I don’t think you’re very lucky, I think you’re very good. And that’s what I’m trying to find out: how are you so good?
Thank you. Thanks.
Q. From the time you got your Tour card, when did you start to realize that you really belonged on the Tour?
Maybe after a year. After one year, because first year you don’t know anything. Just come here and play with all the best golfers in the world. You have no pressure, just kind of [figuring things out]. But after the year I feel like I belong this Tour. I really, really part of it and feel like big family like next time when I’m coming back.
Q. I noticed on the range yesterday that you were working pretty hard with your coach. That kind of surprised me that you would be working that hard on your swing right before the tournament started.
Oh, no. It was just a little drill to make sure my swing is in very good condition because I want to be very consistent too. And then this Tour is not easy. You need to be patient like you don’t know where the ball’s going to bounce to. So I always do some little drill before I go to tournament. Probably like thirty minutes, twenty minutes. But when the tournament starts, I don’t do the drill.
Q. When you play, you’re just thinking about the target?
Yeah, thinking about the target, yardage and then just..
Q. Shot pattern?
Q. Now, can you hold your shot in your mind as you make your swing?
Yes and then try to make it as simple as I can.
Q. How long did it take you before you were able to keep that shot in your mind’s eye as you were making your swing without losing it during the middle of the swing.
Hum. I don’t know, it’s on and off…
…but now it’s more consistent. Yeah, still.
Q. Oh really! [Laughs] That’s good to know. The rest of us have a chance then, right?
Yes, for sure. I think golf is really tough because you want to be very, very consistent and still on and off, but now I working with my coach. I know how to be more consistent now than before. So I would say now [it’s] like 70% and I get something like 30% of something I lose. But before probably like 40% I lose.
Q. It goes away?
Yes, you just want to be more consistent every year
Q. In your swing or holding the shot in your mind’s eye?
Because sometime when you’re thinking you can do it. Sometimes when you can do it but you’re not thinking that way. You’re thinking too much negative things and I couldn’t do it. So you need to match up. So now one of my goals is I want to commit on every shot. When I commit I don’t care where my ball’s going. I just hit it and if I miss, it’s a miss because I already committed and that’s all I want. But sometimes when you don’t commit and miss the shot, you feel terrible because you know you didn’t commit to the shot, to hitting the ball.
Q. But not so much anymore. I saw that bunker shot you hit this morning [to six inches from a tight bunker onto a down slope].
[Laughing] Yeah. Not so much anymore. Yes.
Q. That got everybody very excited.
[Laughing] Yeah, they did. Yes. Very excited [relishing that they were able to have that level of enjoyment for themselves].
Q. Well, listen, I never had a chance to watch you play in person before and it’s very, very impressive.
Thank you. Thank you so much.
What I took away from this, aside from the mastery issues she helped me unearth, is that Yani Tseng is a very dear person.