Could You Ever Have Imagined Yani Tseng in a Slump?

One of the great mysteries of professional golf this year has been the helpless slide of the LPGA Tour’s, World #1, Yani Tseng, into a slump.

Last year, this young woman won 12 world-wide tournaments. And this year she started out like it was all going to happen again. She began with a warmup T8 in February in the Australian Open. Then she won in Thailand, 5th in Singapore, won in Phoenix, won in San Diego, and finished 3rd in the Kraft Nabisco in Palm Springs.

When I interviewed her in Phoenix, I wondered how she was ever going to repeat her 12 wins in 2011…and how many wins it would take for her to be satisfied with her 2012? It came up because she had talked about all the things she had learned in her losses and that the top of the list was to smile more. So coming into Phoenix with that one win in Thailand, if she did all the things she said she wanted to do when she was playing, would she be satisfied with just that one win?

I asked you if you would be satisfied with one win if you were doing all of those other things well. And you said, no, you don’t think so. So how many wins would you be satisfied with knowing what a gigantic accomplishment last year was?

I don’t give myself a number, I just…

Stay in the present.

….yes, I focus on every tournament, I don’t know, but I don’t just want one. That’s all I know.

Okay, so two then? [laughs]

[Laughing] No, more than that.

And then she won Phoenix and the next week in San Diego to get to a total of three wins…and that’s where she stands today, five months later. Worse, she had four weeks of basically top-10 finishes until she hit the LPGA Championship: T59. It’s a major and she finishes T59. So unlike her. And then her last four tournaments made her cry: Cut, T50 in the U.S. Open, Cut and Cut.

And now she’s up in Portland for the Safeway Classic at the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club with a sense of renewal.

Overall I know this last month or so has not been the best stretch of golf for you, coming off three straight missed cuts, what’s your feeling coming into this week about your game, and what have you been kind of doing to kind of get yourself back on track to playing how you were just a year ago?

I try everything I can.  I’m working hard.  I just work on location.  This week, I feel very good, I feel like the old Yani is getting close and I feel like I need to get started on what I’m here for.  This is a sport I love and there is no way I can be more appreciative than anyone else.  I feel that I have a lot of advantage this week and I can do it.  Just enjoy more than anybody on the course this week.

After missing the cut last week, how did you spend your weekend before coming here?  How did you put that behind you?

I had lots of fun the last two days, I played golf with Michelle Wie and played nine holes with caddie and with Jiyai [Shin].  It was so much fun, it felt like a “Cut Party” over there (laughing).  Having dinner with some players.  It’s just a week, it’s not really a big deal.

We always learn more from the losing than the winning.  The last couple months I learned a lot and I told myself, if I win again, it’s going to be my best trophy I’ve ever had.  I will be very, very much more appreciating how much goes into it and I know a couple of years looking back on this time, I know I will probably say this is my best time.

It’s hard to always go up when you go down a little bit more, and then you go up a little more and get back more.

Do you talk to other players about that, too?  Michelle has been to that point, too, where she was up at the top of this tour and has gone through her struggles this year with her game and getting it back on track.  Do you ever talk about that, about what it’s like mentally to be at that spot where you’re the best in the world and then all of a sudden, everybody goes through slumps or spots where you’re probably not playing where you feel like you’re capable?

I know, I think it’s all about mental.  I played a lot of golf with Michelle this year.  She still hits the ball very well.  She still hits it far.  Still making putts.  I think overall, it’s the mind.  I ask her if she’s cried, like a few times this year, and she says, of course. Me too.  A few months, it’s like I try too hard, but I always learn something from it.

Golf is not easy.  I mean, last year, for me play was much easier than now but I still think good things.  Like I say, I’ve been through — dedication and I feel like I’m back and I don’t want to give anybody a chance to beat me again.

With a new caddie on the bag this week, there’s the risk of communication stumbles, him not completely knowing her yardages in all circumstances and basically the same kind of  tentativeness you experience on a first date. It could be awkward.

But if anyone in the field has more talent than her, or more drive, or more commitment, I don’t know who that would be.

So this could be the week she’s able to fight her way back. That would be great because once we see greatness, (1) we can’t imagine that it would ever end and (2) we always clamor for more.

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